The Penniless Pensioner: The Ugly

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K. Stephen

(TORONTO, ON) – Considering that 44% of Canadians retire because of ill health, or termination, perhaps retirement is mythical. A wonderful time of life as the days slide by, bathed in the happy burbling of grandchildren and lazy hazy days.

Termination of employment and ill health are hardly in the good category. However, assume you are horribly stressed out at work. Termination with a package may not be as bad for you as you thought. And perhaps the time to recover from ill health may be expedited by less work related stress.

Seriously consider if you had continued working. Would that have expedited your death?

Let’s not sugar coat matters here. There is an ugly side to retirement so, perhaps, we should explore further. Think of ugly as the worst possible side of retirement.

Closer to Death (Waiting for God)

Death is inevitable.

Death prior to retirement is also a possibility. But retirement is a transition point in one’s life.

It’s the last step before death on the roadmap of life. For most, that is a depressing thought. However, for others, death is simply part of the journey that should not be feared.

Strangely, although your physical demise approaches closer every day, a significant life event like retirement may spark the realization you are at least 80% done.

Ironically, this realization may also lead to an emotional and psychological rebirth. I hope most penniless pensioners take their impending demise with a sense of humour.

I was at a 60th birthday party recently and a retiree proudly showed his vanity plate for his expensive new Corvette. The plates spelt SorryKds.

Not picking up on the deep meaning, the retiree looked at me and explained that he and his spouse were going to have a rip roaring good time and leave no inheritances for their children.

Ill Health

If there is any benefit of short term ill health, such as the flu or broken limbs, recovery enhances one’s appreciation for life. Illness also improves your appreciation for health. However, when there is no recovery and days are spent in discomfort, pain, or dementia retirement is ugly time.

Increasing doctor’s appointments and lots of medication with unpleasant side effects, the ugliness often increases where one spouse is significantly younger than the ailing spouse.

The spousal relationship may deteriorate to the point where the younger of the two becomes a caregiver for the older and health stricken older spouse.

At a retirement seminar attended by my pal Mr B, the results of the top 10 concerns in retirement were discussed. There were two test groups; those who were working and those who had retired.

Health ranked as concern number 7 or 8 for those still working, but ranked number 1 for those who were already retired. If you are not retired, pay heed. Choose your priorities carefully.

In addition to the effects on a spousal relationship, the safety and health concerns of an elderly relative creates havoc amongst family members.

As people age, they often don’t think the same as they used to. The parent who previously talked about how they would know when it is time to move to a safer and healthier place no longer sees a need to move, even though they are no longer capable of looking after themselves.

Powers of attorney for property and personal care are a must, but there is also a need to trust those who love you. They are usually trying to do what is best for you.

Spousal Implosions

Haven’t we all heard of stories about the apparently happy couple divorcing after 35 years of marriage? Was it retirement that caused more and prolonged contact between the spouses and they finally realized a poverty stricken separate life was superior to conjoined misery?

Divorce can be amicable or nasty and very ugly. If retirement involves time to take one’s stock in life, and that stock isn’t too well valued, divorce may be around the corner.

This one is a bit more difficult to categorize as ugly. Maybe for some it’s a time of liberation, but for others distress and terrible pain.

The Possibility Your Life has Been Wasted

Retirement may cause you to reflect on what your life has been. Deep value judgements come into play here. You may have made a gigantic pile of money, like kindling to start an idyllic retirement; second homes, travel, and fine lodging and dining.

So what if your children were raised by Pilipino nannies seven days a week?

Some may be blinded about the acquisition of wealth and fail to see the damage of their greed and pursuit of ego, but for others it’s realization time of a very bad lifestyle choice leading to some ugly self reflection.

The question of self-worth inevitably comes to mind for the penniless pensioner. Most deal with this question within a reasonable transition period and move on, stronger and more determined. For others, it is more difficult and prolonged.

Depression is not unusual for retirees and seeking professional help is often the best solution.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."Email Robert Stephen

1 Comment on "The Penniless Pensioner: The Ugly"

  1. When you retire your life is just beginning, it’s all how you look at it, I look at as freedom.
    There are two things in life you can’t change and they are death and taxes, so buck–up and enjoy the time you have left because life is to short to waste time on this earth.
    Unfortunately health issues are a big concern, that is why you need to enjoy as much retirement as you can, do things you love. Hopefully you will have a partner that you can share them with, so enjoy as much freedom as you can with the time you have left.
    The Ontario government needs to keep up with inflation, and our government should reflect this in our government pensions. We took care of our government when we were working, now its their turn to take of us when we are retired.

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