Retirees are ordinary people, too. Regardless of life stage, human challenges remain similar. That’s perhaps the biggest lesson. Most challenges are worries that bubble from inside your head. Before retirement you worry you won’t have enough money for current needs let alone future. You worry what happens if you don’t keep healthy, how to keep busy without becoming over-burdened, how to handle fears and stress, how to plan and more. In retirement it’s the same. The good and bad aspects of the later stage stem from the same source – you have less ability to change things, so you become better at accepting what you have, but those same limitations on improving the future increase your worry you haven’t made the right decisions and won’t be able to keep going.
Significantly it turns out the benefits of acceptance are noticeably greater than the downside worries about finances, health, keeping busy and what have you. Hence studies repeatedly show people in their late sixties and seventies are at their happiest overall. I definitely notice that.
There’s a powerful message there – validating Buddha’s observation that life is suffering – some of which still remains – but that you can nevertheless be happy by facing reality, that all things are impermanent and are here to be appreciated in the present. His recommendation to seek insight through meditation still works , a fact further validated by the vastly growing number of present day meditators.
Insight shows you can’t expect all fears to evaporate nor can you then simply float through life. It always helps to work at improving, but you can do so knowing that improving the things that count most can be done at any stage and those efforts will actually make a difference. The key is to focus on the right things, to have the security of falling back on acceptance to get through the worst stresses. The sooner you learn these skills or habits, the better prepared you are when retirement becomes a possibility. It will come and it is worth the hassles… but even more so if you prepare along the way.