Photo illustration by Sarina Finkelstein for MONEY; Dreamstime (1); Getty Images (1)
By Susan Leader
May 30, 2017

I’m glad no one gave me that proverbial inscribed watch when I retired from a successful financial-services career several months ago. By and large, clients and colleagues wrote me complimentary emails, which was absolutely the best gift ever. Even if half of what they said was hyperbole, those kind words, combined with fun lunches and dinners, made the transition to retirement pretty smooth.

But there was one gift, that the sender had touted as a “retirement surprise,” that had me gagging when I opened the box. It was a coffee-table-sized book that seemed to view this stage of life called retirement as something far bleaker than what I had in mind.

I believe the book was entitled simply “Retirement.” (I say “I believe” because I was so undone by the gift that I trashed it within 15 minutes of opening it.) Inside the book were hundreds of mostly blank pages inviting me to write memories of my childhood, teenage years, college experiences, favorite life events, etc. I found a website offering the book or something very like it; how would you feel if you received this as a retirement gift?

Of course, the gift was well intentioned. But first of all, let’s talk about the fact that few people retiring today write much of anything by hand. (Am I alone in watching my handwriting deteriorate from underuse?) Maybe retirees of my parents’ generation would have relished meticulously filling in lines and lines of memories. But focusing on those blank lined pages in 2017 made me feel as if I were in a nightmarish time warp.

If you believe as I do that retirement is an exciting time to look forward, then you’ll understand that seeing all those fill-in-the-blank pages looking backward was nothing short of horrifying.

Most boomer retirees I’ve spoken to are busy focusing on the future and on what will make them happy for the next 20 years. To me, spending your days dwelling on the past seems like a colossal waste of time. I’ve lived all those past years and now I want to do something more than just “re-living” them. There’s a whole world out there to be explored and experienced…and you can’t do that sitting and writing with a quill pen in your mega-large journal.

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Look around and you’ll see that so many of us retirees have a whole lot of gas left in the tank. Retirement isn’t the end of the road…it’s assuredly a new beginning. To be sure, this is a totally unfamiliar road and one you have to learn to drive on. But as we do that, our focus is decidedly not on looking in the rear-view mirror!

This is adapted from a post on Susan Leader’s blog Retirement, Whatever That Is?! (photo courtesy of TCW).

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