Even more than money, family relationships are fundamental to a successful (i.e., enjoyable, fulfilling) retirement. Think about it: would you rather spend your older years pinching pennies but enjoying a great marriage, with loving and mutually supporting relationships with your children, frequent interactions with grandchildren, and happy connections with extended family – or would you trade all of that for complete financial security?
Opting for the cash is tempting, but except for those having little or no family to begin with, it would not be the wiser choice. Unless people are utterly destitute, they accommodate themselves to the level of income they have in retirement, and after a while they rarely think about it. But family is for life. Wild, or even moderate, expenditures have little appeal in old age, because we can no longer enjoy them the way we used to. But the love of family persists in its value. It never gets old.
And just as investments need tending, so do family relationships. Yet however lax many of us are about our finances, most people are even more careless about doing maintenance on their family lives.
Many of us look back occasionally on the days when our marriage was new and exciting, or when our children were young and thought we were wonderful, or when our sister or brother was our best pal – and then we just sigh and try to put it out of our minds, because those days are gone and they’re not coming back.
But repairing a broken relationship, in most cases, is not nearly as difficult as repairing broken finances. Or to the extent that it is difficult, the true obstacles are in our own minds. Focus on the “four essential virtues” – respect, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. The more we foster these virtues in ourselves, and employ them with others, especially those we are closest to, the better our relationships become.
And these same virtues can often repair, or at least significantly improve, bad relationships. The point is that it can be done. We can make our relationships, especially family relationships, much better than they are, even if there is a long history of difficulty. Even if the other person is truly dysfunctional, some improvement can usually be made (though this is more difficult, and is more likely to require professional support).
So when you are helping older employees prepare for retirement, addressing family issues brings a level of realism and helpfulness to your program that can make a big difference. This doesn’t mean you have to become a family therapist. A good module on family will instead focus on awareness, education, self-discovery, and taking individual responsibility for action.
So first you should be reminding pre-retirees that family issues are going to be even more important in retirement than they are before retirement. With more free time, there can be both more opportunities for family involvement (especially with one’s spouse or partner), and more opportunities for stress, misunderstanding, the reopening of old wounds, or the infliction of new ones. This is an issue they need to think about.
So if you already have or are creating a Retirement Readiness program that allows for a lot of face time with the participants, you can easily include several useful sessions on family and other personal relationships. Or if you don’t conduct group sessions, you can still use printed materials, websites, emails, or other methods to point participants to these concerns, and prompt them to put some time into it.
There is hardly anything else you can do for them that will provide as big a payback with so little effort on your part.
Information for this post was provided, with permission, by Chuck Yanikoski of Still River Retirement http://www.stillriverretire.com/srrps_home.asp