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How I Stopped ‘Awfulizing’ Retirement

How I Stopped ‘Awfulizing’ Retirement

By Jonathan Look, Next Avenue Contributor

I had been planning my retirement for years. I read all the literature about my pension and ran all the calculations. I reduced my spending. I got completely out of debt and even added a little padding to my savings. So why did I fear what is supposed to be the best time of life? Why did I awfulize retirement — thinking so much about the things that could go wrong that I was afraid to retire?

The truth is, I was far from alone.

Credit: Shutterstock

Now that I’m retired and traveling around the world, I have met many retirees — tourists, expats, and nomads — who’ve expressed frustration with themselves about how they had awfulized what has turned out to be the best time of their lives.

Why I Was Awfulizing Retirement

In my case, even I was surprised that I had awfulized retirement. After all, from the time I began working as a teenager, I fantasized about living what I now call “Life Part 2” (which is also the name of my blog about my experiences as a retiree globetrotter). And although I enjoyed my 25 years working as an air traffic controller, near the end of my career I longed for the days when I could set my own course, travel the world and do my photography. I wanted to leave the comfortable cage I had built for myself, live life “closer to the bone,” challenge my boundaries and explore the world. I was ready.

Or so I thought. But what, I wondered, if my assumptions and estimates were wrong? What if I hadn’t saved enough? What if the cost of health care soared out of reach? What if inflation shot up? What if my investments took a dive? What if I outlived my plan?

How Fear Distorts the Picture

When pondering retirement, many people fantasize about, say, life on the beach or having time to write the next great American novel or finally being able to spend more time with our grandchildren. But when action and decision making are required, fear distorts the picture. Opportunity starts to look like a nightmare. The human brain is an amazing thing, but it doesn’t deal with uncertainty very well.

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