The retirement playing field

Alan Spector is the author of five books and is working on books six and seven. His latest is “Body Not Recovered: A Vietnam War/Protest Movement Novel.” Spector also writes the blog “Retirement According to … Alan Spector.”

By Alan Spector

In my most recent Jewish Light blog post, “After the Cheering Stops,” I suggested that one way to think about creating a winning retirement is to reapply the approach athletes use to create a winning game plan. 

One thing athletes do is to get a sense for the playing conditions in which they’ll be competing.  Is the turf soft or hard?  Which way is the wind blowing?  Where are the shadows?  Are there steep hills and sharp turns?  These conditions may become challenges or they may be taken advantage of as opportunities.  

So too should we think about the retirement playing field, those challenges and opportunities that may be in our future.  Here are just a few examples of the challenges that a retiree might face:

  • My personal identity and self-worth was dependent on my role at work.  How will I redefine myself in retirement?
  • I was intellectually stimulated just by showing up at work each day.  How will I stay sharp?
  • I considered many of my work colleagues to by my cadre of friends.  Will they still be my friends when I retire, and if not, how will I create and nurture new friendships?
  • Work provided me with a daily structure that was dictated by meetings, business trips, class schedules, and other scheduled obligations.  Where will my structure come from in retirement?

And here are just a few examples of what opportunities can look like:

  • I didn’t have (or make) the time when I was working to volunteer.  In retirement, I can apply my time, treasure, and talent to make a difference?
  • At work, I sat behind a desk, overate at business dinners, and found (or made) no time to work out.  In retirement, I can tend to my fitness, eat more healthily, and get a decent amount of sleep.
  • I’ve always been fascinated by the game of bridge and enjoyed playing when I could find a spare evening.  In retirement, I can find the time to pursue this passion.
  • The local community college has a catalog of interesting life-long learning courses that I’ve not been able to commit to because of my erratic work schedule.  In retirement, I can sign up for a course to try it out.

In order to increase their odds of winning, athletes can and should be thinking about the playing field’s effect on the game and then adjusting to changing conditions while playing.  The odds of winning in retirement are also enhanced by understanding the retirement playing field with its challenges and opportunities—and then adjusting to changing conditions.