What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, Second Edition : Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future
Plan Now for the Life You Want
Today's economic realities have reset our expectations of what retirement is, yet there's still the promise for what it can be: a life stage filled with more freedom and potential than ever before. Given the new normal, how do you plan for a future filled with prosperity, health, and happiness? As a companion to What Color Is Your Parachute?, the world's best-selling career book, What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement offers both a holistic, big-picture look at these years as well as practical tools and exercises to help you build a life full of security, vitality, and community.
This second edition contains updates throughout, including a section on Social Security, an in-depth exercise on values and how they inform your retirement map, and the one-of-a-kind resource for organizing the sea of information on finances and mental and physical health: the Retirement Well-Being Profile. More than a guide on where to live, how to stay active, or which investments to choose, What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement helps you develop a detailed picture of your ideal retirement, so that--whether you're planning retirement or are there already--you can take a comprehensive approach to make the most of these vital years.
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Ten Speed Press
July 13, 2010
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Excerpt from What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, Second Edition by John E. Nelson
This book is part of what we call The Parachute Library. Like all books in that Library, it is not intended as a substitute or replacement for its best-selling centerpiece, What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Guide for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (ten million copies in print), but as a supplement to it.
Why do we need a supplement? Well, each time of Life has special issues and special challenges, where we all could use a little extra guidance. The time of Life from age fifty, on, is one of those times. I have a friend named John Nelson, who is an expert on that time of Life, and therefore I have asked him to write this book.
My contribution to this book is twofold: (1) To frame some of the questions and challenges during this period, as I have done in my earlier work The Three Boxes of Life, and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Life/Work Planning (1978). (2) To write this introduction and overview, to get us going.
The time of Life that we are talking about here is traditionally called "Retirement." Some people love that word. I'm not one of them. For me, it implies "being put out to pasture"--to borrow an image from a cow. It implies a kind of parole from a thing called work, which is assumed to be onerous, and tedious. It implies "disengagement" from both work and Life, as one patiently--or impatiently--waits to die. It thinks of Life in terms of work.
I prefer instead to think of Life in terms of music. My favorite metaphor is that of a symphony. A symphony, traditionally, has four parts to it--four movements, as they're called. So does Life. There is infancy, then the time of learning, then the time of working, and finally, this time that we are talking about, often called "retirement." But if we discourage the use of the word "retirement," then this might better be called the Fourth Movement.
The Fourth Movement, in the symphonic world, is a kind of blank slate. It was and is up to the composer to decide what to write upon it. Traditionally, the composer writes of triumph, victory, and joy--as in Beethoven's Symphony #3, the Eroica. But it may, alternatively, be a kind of anticlimactic, meandering piece of music--as in Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6, the Pathetique. There the Third Movement ends with a bombastic, stirring march. The Fourth Movement, immediately following, is subdued, meditative, meandering, and sounds almost like an afterthought.
Well, there are our choices about our own lives: Shall the Fourth Movement, the final movement, of our lives be pathetique or eroica--pathetic or heroic? Your call!
I like this defining of our lives in terms of music, rather than in terms of work.
To carry the metaphor onward, in this Fourth Movement of our lives, we have instruments, which we must treat with care. They are: our body, our mind, our spirit, and what we poetically speak of as our heart, which Chinese medicine calls "the Emperor."1 Body, mind, spirit, heart. Some of these instruments are in shiny, splendid condition. Others are slightly dented. Or greatly dented. But these are the instruments that play the musical notes and themes of this time of our lives.
The traditional notes are: sleep, water, eating, faith, love, loneliness, survival (financial and spiritual), health care, dreams (fulfilled or unfulfilled), and triumph--over all adversities--and even death.
Traditionally, the themes for this period of our lives also include planning. But I believe the outstanding characteristic of the Fourth Movement in our lives is the increased number of things we call unexpected. And that can knock all our plans into a cocked hat. So I prefer to say that one of the notes we strike, is how to handle interruptions. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps put it best, just before his death:
"The major problem of life is learning how to handle the costly interruptions--the door that slams shut, the plan that got sidetracked, the marriage that failed, or that lovely poem that didn't get written because someone knocked on the door."
Interruptions, in music, are the pauses between the notes; they are, in fact, what keep the notes from just becoming a jumble. Just listen to the first few bars of Beethoven's Fifth. Thank God for the interruptions, the spaces between the notes.
So, where have we come thus far? Well, I suggested that it is useful to think of Life after fifty as the Fourth Movement in the symphony of our lives--the movement that comes after the first three: Infancy, then The Time of Learning, and then The Time of Working. And it is useful to think that we have instruments, which play certain themes in this movement, as we have seen. That brings us to the $64,000 question: "Toward what end? What is the point of all these notes, all these themes, in the Fourth Movement? What are they intended to produce?"
Ahhh, when I think of the overall impression left with me after I hear the Fourth Movement of any great symphony, such as Schubert's Ninth, one impression sticks out, above all others. And that impression is one of energy. I am left with an impression of great energy. And the more the better, say I. Energy is lovely to behold, and even lovelier to possess. That energy belongs in the Fourth Movement because it brings the whole symphony to triumphant resolution.
This, it seems to me, is how people evaluate the Fourth Movement of our lives, as well. Not: Did we live triumphantly and die victoriously; but: Do we manifest energy? Do we manifest enthusiasm? Do we manifest excitement, still?
Ask any employer what they are looking for, when they interview a job candidate who is fifty years or older, and they will tell you: energy. They ask themselves, "Does the candidate (that's us) slouch in the chair? Does the candidate look like they're just marking time in Life? Or does the candidate lean slightly forward in the chair as we talk? Does the candidate seem excited about the prospect of working here?"
Energy in people past fifty is exciting to an employer. And to those around us. It suggests the candidate will come in early, and stay late. It suggests that whatever task is given, the task will be done thoroughly and completely, and not just barely or perfunctorily.