Family and friends deserve to be a major consideration in retirement planning
Posted March 30, 2011
In these times of uncertainty, the decision to work or not work, combined with financial issues, seems to be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to planning for retirement. However, if you stop and think about it, what is constant in most of our lives, especially as we age, is a sense of family, friends, and community. Many of us look to our families for support, whether it is our own immediate and extended family or our family of choice. As you ponder your retirement decision, are you considering the significance that family and friends play in your life?
One of the biggest mistakes people make is not taking into account the proximity to friends and family without a plan to stay connected physically. This is true even though we have access to numerous forms of communication like cell phones, social media, e-mail, and Skype. As human beings, we still need that personal, face-to-face connection. In spite of all the modern ways we stay in touch with loved ones, you can’t take your grandchild once a week when you live hundreds of miles away. You aren’t able to have spontaneous, drop-in visits with friends and family.
This dilemma reminds me of the story about a couple who retired to France after four dream vacations there. They believed that museum hopping, friends and family coming to visit, taking cooking classes, and traveling the countryside would be all that they would ever need. However, within the first year, they really began to miss their family, friends and other activities that they used to enjoy. To summarize, they missed their previous lives. Why is it that these bright, energetic, resourceful, and successful couple flunked this aspect of retirement? They discovered that they weren’t prepared for what they didn’t know and hadn’t thought their plan through. With more awareness about what they valued, they eventually moved back to the States and into a community that gave them more convenient access to family and friends, while satisfying other lifestyle needs and wants.
We all may have romantic notions about what we want our retirements to look like. For some, the plan to retire in France would work beautifully. But for many, it would leave them feeling incomplete.
Is This Too Much Togetherness?
On the other side of the continuum, there are those parents who retire to where their children live. Sometimes this is the choice of retiring parents, and sometimes it is at the request of the adult children. No matter who is initiating this move, it has to be well-thought out so that each family maintains some level of autonomy and healthy boundaries while interacting with and supporting each other. If a retiring couple needs medical support, then being closer to their adult children could bring much more peace of mind for all.
We know the old saying that “it takes a village” when we’re raising children. In today’s world, so many of us are growing up without extended families that offer that kind of built-in support. Our Boomer generation, more than any other, has been called the sandwich generation because many of us are still raising our children while providing caregiving for aging parents. Where is the healthy balance if you are the filling in this sandwich? What is going to be best for you and your family as you make this important decision about your retirement lifestyle? Remember, the new concept of retirement defines this life stage as a Retirement Career. This transition requires the same thoughtful process that you would use if you were relocating to a new job.
Five Steps to Staying Connected with Family and Friends
Consider these steps as your begin your planning conversations with your spouse or partner and family. Having this conversation may prevent some costly mistakes.
- The first relationship to be considered is the one with your partner. Have honest conversations about what you both want and need individually as well as together before you make any major decisions.
- If you are considering relocating, talk to your adult children early in the process and let them know about your plans. Early discussions will allow both of you to know where you stand regarding each of your expectations.
- Determine how much time you want to spend with your grandchildren and other loved ones. This can have a profound impact on defining the parameters for relocating. Our friends who had a second home in Arizona were about to become grandparents. Because they couldn’t bear the thought of not being close enough to be involved grandparents, they sold their second home in Arizona and purchased another second home in Florida to make it easier for both families to see each other during the winter months.
- If you fall into the category of a “sandwich generation” couple, timing and relocation must be considered for all concerned. Long-distance caregiving and monitoring of health issues can become quite a challenge. Talk to siblings who may or may not live close to aging parents so that all of you can clarify expectations for the level of caregiving you anticipate and how much time you can spend.
- If you have an adult child who has life-limiting disabilities or problems, be thoughtful about how the decisions you make will impact their lives, the lives of your other children, and your lifestyle. Long-distance worrying can put a damper on what can be a successful retirement transition. Consider all of the options available to ensure the best care and safety of your loved one.
As your conversations unfold, you will most assuredly think of other issues that might influence your retirement plans as you work to stay connected to those you love. Remember that our relationships reflect who we are, and the deeper those relationships are, the better we can come to know ourselves. Please take this part of your planning to heart and be sure to make the best of your life for the rest of your life.
Dee Cascio is a Licensed Professional Counslor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, helping individuals and couples live healthier lives for 22 years. She is also a Certified Life and Retirement Coach, and enjoys helping people create the life they desire in both the challenges of daily living and in the exciting transition to the retirement of their dreams. Her website is RetirementLifestyleStrategies.com.