Integrated Wisdom

Moving to Paradise

Finding your place to retire.

When you retire, things get turned upside down. What was once important can’t matter any more. You can no longer derive your identity by what you did for a living — that’s how most people define themselves while they’re still working. If you don’t replace that identity with one that fits your new life stage, you can get stuck in limbo — no longer part of the work force, but not fully committed to a retiree’s world.

How you get to a new definition of you is pretty much wrapped up in what you plan to do in retirement. Are you looking for a stress free life, personal or intellectual development, some type of work, etc.? The first step is to find out who you are, to re-discover yourself — what you really want and need, and what will make your life fulfilling.

If you need some assistance in this area, take a look at Identifying Your Passions and Pursuing Your Passions.

A little introspection helps, but keep your clothes on.

Once you figure out how you will live, you might also need to figure out where. This can be a little tricky. That’s because you have options, and one type of environment might not satisfy all facets of the new you. Life is so much easier when you’re shown what to do and how to be, like when you were working.

Lots of people struggle with finding the right place to live. You can go for hassle-free, a quiet little town or somewhere out in the country, but you might find there’s not enough to do. You can go for big city, but then you have all the traffic and expense. Maybe you want to downsize to a condo to eliminate chores, but you might have to give up some privacy and outdoor living space. As we said, what best suits you depends on your priorities.

Our podcasters Bill Wood and Peter Goldsmith discuss how their changing needs and priorities led each to search out new living spaces in The Right Place in the Sun.

Thomas Kinkaid — Nature’s Paradise

Yep, it can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Use some introspection to find out what you’re really all about — and honesty counts. But there’s also a few other thoughts to consider as you go through the process…

First off,  you really shouldn’t decide on where to live until you’ve been in that lifestyle for a year or two. You can’t really know what retirement is like until you’re completely immersed in it. While still dealing with the stress of a job, it’s easy to overestimate the value of spending hour after leisurely hour in a warm climate surrounded by beaches.

When the job and its stresses are gone, your perspective changes in a lot of ways, and you don’t need escapes. So, a hasty move that seemed like a good idea might not be so wonderful after all. One study found that retirees who relocated to an area with a warmer climate and more recreational facilities were less happy with their move than they expected to be. But those who focused more on practical elements, such as easy access to medical services or daily conveniences, were happier with their choice.

Next, some may think they want to live near their kids and grandchildren. That’s understandable — who doesn’t love their grandchildren? But keep in mind that, as close as you might be to your family, your children are not your peers. They do not share the same lifestyle, and what’s important to them won’t be what’s important to you. They’re trying to build their lives, raise a family, achieve some level of financial security and success.

You, on the other hand, should be more interested in having fun — or, if that sounds too flippant, in doing the things that matter to people after they have achieved the goals their children are still striving toward.

Very nice — in moderation.

Instead, the right place to live has to offer you a balanced social life — one that includes equal parts family and friends. We mention this because social interaction is extremely important to one’s mental health. Friends and acquaintances add meaning and value, create a sense of belonging, help to reinforce your identity, validate who you are, and are a refuge in time of need. Additionally, social functions and other gatherings that occur at a set time help to add structure to day to day living. Finally, a social life is even more important in retirement, because you no longer have daily access to people that a job provides.

So, if the place you pick has good social opportunities, and it happens to be near your kids, great; if not, well, that’s why they make planes.

Now, whatever you decide, it makes a lot of sense to focus on the bright side. Having positive expectations suggests you’re emotionally committed to your choice, and that attitude will motivate you to build your new lifestyle.

But don’t be too positive. Expecting too much may be more of a problem than not expecting enough. Pretty soon you’ll find that a house is just a house and great views become boring — over time, any stimulus loses its ability to dazzle. If you’re overly optimistic, you run the risk of being disappointed by the day-to-day realities, and that can be demotivating, even depressing.

It’s not that positive expectations are in themselves a problem, it’s more that such expectations are often tied to a sense that things will just come your way, with little or no effort. That’s not at all realistic — you have to work at building a new life for yourself, regardless of where you end up.

All in all, making a move is a gamble, and you could get it wrong. But that’s OK, because you can always start over or go to Plan B.

Now, if you can only figure out what Plan B is.

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