What You Want Versus What Is Possible
It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth of the matter is, a whole lot of anxiety and stress is created when you have a set of expectations for how life will be in retirement and the reality is that those expectations cannot be met.
The reasons for your life dreams not lining up with reality when it comes time to launch your retirement parachute can include:
Not enough financial resources
Lack of access to what you want
Maybe in your twenties you had envisioned retiring at age fifty-five, splitting your time between exotic travel in Africa and Indonesia and sipping lattes near your SoHo apartment in New York City. To break things up you'd serve as a mentor in an after-school program — when you were around. Somewhere between crafting this little fantasy and seeing that magical retirement date coming at you like a meteor, real life intervenes in the form of a mortgage, a spouse, multiple kids who need sneakers twice a year, braces, tutors, music lessons, sleep-away camp, and the grand-daddy of all budget-busters, college tuition. At the same time your mother-in-law is part of your household. Keeping track of her prescriptions and doctor appointments is a part-time job in itself.
Dealing with Reality
Continuing the previous scenario, it is pretty obvious that wrapping up work at age fifty-five is not going to happen. So? How do you feel about it? The facts don't change, but your attitude to them can make a big difference. If you feel cheated because your dream life got derailed by real life, you may wind up angry or depressed. If you take the approach that you have two, three, or however many, terrific kids who have enriched your life beyond your wildest dreams and you wouldn't trade one minute of your parenting experience (well, okay, maybe just one or two sleepless nights), you shouldn't feel you have lost out in the long run. Maybe having your mother-in-law live with you actually has an upside because it has given you and your spouse freedom to go out or travel more since she is a built-in babysitter. And you actually adore her.
Always keep an open mind and have a Plan A and a Plan B for retirement goals. If you cannot afford the mountain cabin of your dreams, think about working longer to accumulate more resources. In the meantime, schedule long weekends or plan your vacations in the setting you love.
Attitude Is Everything
It's all about attitude. Can you look at life as the glass being half full, or do you see it as half empty? Maybe instead of fifty-five you don't retire until sixty or sixty-five, and maybe you won't be going on safari. Yet you may still be in great health and have enough resources by selling your house and dividing the proceeds to buy two condos to follow the sun. Perhaps your travel will take you on an occasional Elderhostel trip where you will learn something in the process. This is not the plan you had originally set out, but because you have been willing to adapt your expectations to the reality of your life circumstances and your resources, you find yourself completely okay with it.