When Saeed Amanullah retired seven years ago, he thought he had his life all
figured out. Like many people hitting the retirement trail, he planned to do
some consulting work and to go abroad to see the world.
But for Amanullah, 71, of Orange County, CA, things didn't quite work out
the way he expected. His grand plans of turning his civil engineering career
into consulting work turned out to be a letdown.
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How do you know when to ignore your body’s lapses or when to seek medical advice? What’s normal aging, and what’s not?
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"I found it monotonous," he says, "and I just came to the
conclusion that I had to get into something different in order to enjoy myself.
But I was puzzled as to what to do because I had no other skills to speak
The Dream Turns False
Amanullah's experience is not unique. To most people, retirement sounds like
one big dream come true -- until they're actually faced with it.
"People have a certain degree of fantasy about retirement," says
Denise Loftus, a retirement and employment specialist for the American
Association of Retired Persons. After a few months, she says, they realize it's
still important to have some purpose and meaning in life. "You just don't
play golf and fish endlessly for the rest of your life."
Getting a Plan
"It's important that people face the reality beforehand," Loftus
says. "They need to think and plan what they are going to do with all those
hours that used to be taken up by work."
For many, retiring means continuing their careers -- just on a smaller
scale. According to a 1997 survey by the Employee Benefits Research Institute,
72 percent of all workers, especially those from ages 34 to 44, plan to work
after retirement. Others choose alternate paths such as volunteering, going
back to school, and traveling.
But the main problem with retirement planning these days, says Loftus, is
that for so many it means only financial planning. People must also take into
account the personal adjustment that retirement will demand of them, and
address practical concerns such as whether they will move or stay in the same
city or house.
"If a person arrives at retirement having given no thought to it,"
says Rhoda FrindellGreen, Ph.D., a New York City psychological consultant
specializing in career and business planning, "it could be quite a jolt and
it could create anxiety, depression, or any number of reactions."
Men often have a harder time with retirement than women do, Loftus says. For
many men, work has been the central focus of their lives. But many women have
focused not only on work but also on family and household responsibilities --
concerns that continue past retirement. For these women, retirement is a less
abrupt change in their lives.
So where can people turn for help? Loftus recommends the book Comfort
Zones, by Elwood Chapman, as a place to start. Or find a friend who's gone
through the same thing. "Sometimes a good way to plan," she says,
"is to talk to someone who is retired and ask, 'What went well, what
didn't, what do you suggest?'"
Seeing a career counselor like Green could also uncover new options. "I
suggest that people visualize what would be an ideal day after retirement,"