‘Why social norms shouldn’t dictate what you do in retirement’

Oct 20, 2020
You can find your own path that suits your wants and needs in retirement. Source: Getty.

We all like to think of ourselves as interesting and unique individuals. But as individuals we sometimes forget that we have been formed, to a greater or lesser extent, by the rules and norms of the society in which we grew up, and in which we now live.

As a result, we often ‘follow the herd’. Doesn’t this help to explain our tastes in the movies we watch and the sports we play, to name two easy (and non-controversial, I hope) examples? In this social sense, many of us (not all, of course, by any measure, but for the purpose of this short article I need to simplify) drink from the same fountain: marriage, family, work.

You may object to this when it comes to work. Isn’t it totally obvious, you are thinking, that work is what we do because we need to earn a living? Sure, that is true, but there are also herd-following aspects of work to consider. Aren’t you surprised – at least this is true for me – when you hear of a worker who DOESN’T work Monday to Friday, nine to five? In other words, the norms and rules of society have conditioned me to believe in the normality of that Monday-to-Fridayness.

But of course, there is much greater variety on display and, once I start to think harder, I can see that. That example is to do with peoples’ working lives. Now let’s talk about the norms and rules of society when it comes to retirement.

By the way, when I ponder the word retirement I can almost feel a string that pulls me towards a group called ‘retired men’. Can we coin the collective noun? A roundup of retired men? Please let me know if you have a better alternative for that collective noun.

So in retirement there are social norms and rules that you are ‘expected’ to fit; such as grandparent, charity worker, gardener, household cook. You might think that I am over-simplifying with these examples, but isn’t that often the case with societal norms? They typically have the simplicity of an advertising pitch, in order to make them easier to comprehend and adopt. There is nothing wrong with any of these examples, but I claim that there are other paths to walk.

That is my point. The norms of society are out there and easy to understand (by and large) when it comes to the choices you can make in retirement. That is both their strength and defect; clearly laid-out paths to follow as distinct from highly personal and individual choices.

My take on this is simple. If you have already guessed that I am about to introduce retirement coaching into the conversation, then you are correct. Please be patient, there is only one more paragraph to read.

By working with a retirement coach you may be able to discover your very own and personal mould-busting life of retirement. The one that, deep-down, YOU want to have. Then society will work with your choices, not dictate them.

Retirement. You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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Are you following the social norms in retirement? Are you happy to do so?

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