Retirement – Heaven or Hell?

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Jesus Christ in blue sky with clouds, bright light from heaven, burning doorway in dark red sky, road to hell, way to hell, heaven and hellby Michael Drak

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Recently, while reading an article relating to the risks of boredom in retirement, I was reminded of a TV show that I had seen more than 40 years ago. I’m always amazed at how something can trigger a memory and we can recall it with such clarity as if we just viewed it yesterday.

The show was a Twilight Zone segment entitled “A Nice Place to Visit.” In it, the main character is Rocky Valentine, a small time thief who is shot during a robbery and passes out. He wakes up and at some point he realizes that he’s in fact dead, but by some mistake he’s in heaven and has been assigned a guardian angel by the name of Mr Pip.

Life for Rocky is great for a while as all his wishes are catered to: there are beautiful women, an expensive penthouse, fancy clothes and all the money he desires. In fact every time he goes to the casino, no matter what game he plays he wins: he can’t lose. But eventually Rocky gets bored of the predictability of his life, the excitement is gone and with that all of the fun.

Finally Rocky pleads with Mr Pip to send him to the other place where he belongs and that he doesn’t deserve to be in heaven. At this point Mr Pip’s says “Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven? This is the other place!”

I love the punch line and the lesson here is that Rocky goes crazy because there are no challenges in his life, there is no effort required and there’s nothing to hope for because it all exists as soon as he wants it.

The boredom of endless leisure

Today. advertisers continue to sell us their version of retirement, which like the Twilight Zone episode is based on a life full of leisure where everyone lives happily ever after.

But the reality is that any retirement based solely on sitting on a beach somewhere drinking Margaritas all day usually ends in boredom and boredom can be a living hell. We need to be constantly challenged, and not just by who hits the longest drive.

Even in retirement you still need to get up each day, put clothes on, and find interesting, satisfying and meaningful activities to fill the day, during a period that could potentially last longer than the time you spent working.

Many people believe retirement is some Holy Grail where they become instantly happy and finally start enjoying life more. However, the truth is that if you weren’t happy before retirement the odds are your life probably will not change that much during retirement and it could even be worse.

Today retirees are acting younger, and are capable of much more than in the past. The key for a happy retirement is to stay engaged, set challenging goals and continue to take risks. For me, continuing to work to some degree is important for my happiness and keeps me busy.

Retirement can and should be a period of great adventure so take the time and plan an intentional retirement that works for you instead of against you!

Drak 2014
Michael Drak

Mike Drak is part of the Komitas Mastromartino Wealth Management Group at RBC Dominion Securities, based in Toronto. He is currently writing a book with Jonathan Chevreau about some of the themes mentioned in the above blog and at the Financial Independence Hub in general. He can be reached at michael.drak@yahoo.ca.

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