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Reflections September 2013

The Grumpy Old Man

What Not to Do in Retirement

By Donald Rizzo

If you’re struggling with feeling powerless and useless in retirement, golf is guaranteed to dramatically accelerate your descent into hopeless depression.

So you’re retired, about to retire, or are dreaming of retirement, but you can’t because you’re sitting in a pile of rubble called the collapsed economy. Here’s some musings from a guy who’s been there for a few years.

Since it’s a lot easier to tell you what not to do than what to do, I’ll take the easy way out and tell you what not to do. I’m retired so I’m no longer able to think positively or in a sustained and focused manner. (My wife says I never could, but that’s rich material for another column.)

Here we go:

  • Don’t just go to work one day and stop working the next. That is traumatic! If you’re like me your whole identity has centered around what you do. When a man meets someone at a cocktail party, after a couple of niceties, he says “So what do you do?” Not “how do you feel” or “how do you enrich your life.” Women? I’m not sure what they say. I stay away from women at cocktail parties. They’re either distractingly attractive or frumpy and wholesome — both types make me uncomfortable.

So, anyway, suddenly sitting at home after breakfast twiddling your thumbs is very tough on the ego. I was in marketing, so I was lucky enough to con a couple of clients into thinking that because I’m old, I might know something they didn’t. They let me stay on as a “consultant” for a while. Being a “consultant” is a wonderful way to get you through the cocktail chit chat. If you tell people you’re retired they yawn and walk away. If you tell them you’re a consultant their guard goes up because they intuitively know it’s probably some kind of con. They’re just curious enough to want to see if it’s something they might be able to use when the pink slip arrives.

And consulting is easy — you interview everybody, find out where the real power lies, and then regurgitate what the power structure wants to hear in a nicely bound report. They happily pay a fat fee and throw it in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. So, if you can, figure out some way to transition from the things you neglected full-time and neglect them part-time for a while.

  • Don’t take up golf. Golf is the single biggest waste of time and money ever conceived by the mind of man. Think about it. The game was invented by shepherds in Scotland who were about 1,000 kilometers from civilization, watching sheep munch in an empty field and generally being bored out of their minds. In frustration, one guy began slapping at the sheep droppings with his shepherd’s crook. (Crook? Is that a word?) One day, a nice round specimen rolled into a gopher hole. How fun! One thing led to another and voila! Pebble Beach.

Today millions of men spend billions of dollars happily slapping away in the hope that eventually they’ll get the adrenalin rush of guiding a small ball into a tiny hole. All for no apparent reason other than to try it all again 17 more times before hitting the bar for some welcome relief from all the tension and thrills. If you’re struggling with feeling powerless and useless in retirement, golf is guaranteed to dramatically accelerate your descent into hopeless depression.

  • Don’t hang around the house! Find some good hiding places. I have heard an encyclopedia of secret complaints from women whose husbands recently retired. They hate having you underfoot! Their toleration level was much higher when you were bringing in a fat paycheck and were out of their coiffed hair all day. Now that you’re both living off Social Security and the nest egg they’ll inherit when you buy the farm, the equation has changed. Face it — you are of significantly diminished value. Seeing you sit around watching Oprah in the middle of the day only reinforces the impression.

But wait a minute — there is a solution. Golf! Gets you out of the house for hours at a time. When you return, it’s almost like getting home from work. You’re exhausted, disappointed and depressed from having spent a perfectly good day under extreme tension accomplishing very little for very trivial reasons. You’re happy because it’s like being back at work and she’s happy for the same reason. Finally, a premise upon which you can both agree. Retirement bliss is only one missed putt away.

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