Dreaming of Retirement, or Ten Little Letters

Dreaming of retirementA TREAT FOR YOU:  




I was sitting in the bank yesterday, as the bank officer prepared a wire transfer I was making to Malaysia for a piece of business.  She had my driver’s license in front of her.

“You don’t have a middle name?”

“No,” I said.  “Just those ten little letters.”

While she finished typing SWIFT numbers and bank account numbers into her computer, I thought about the fact that those same ten letters had followed me throughout my life.  No middle name.  No giving up my “maiden name” in marriage.  In fact, suddenly I remembered the first time I could write my whole name, all ten letters … I must have been four or five … and I could feel the pride in my chest as I let my imagination go wild …

Still waiting for the bank officer to finish, my mind then wandered to what I was going to write about this week.  I knew it would have something to do with retirement … r-e-t-i-r-e-m-e-n-t.  Ten letters!

So where was the link?

Surely I could find a link between those two sets of letters.  And I did.  Here goes:

Once we get into our forties or fifties, whenever we actually start thinking seriously about retirement, we are so fixed in the present.  We’re constantly juggling the demands of the day and, maybe, of the week ahead.  Often even of the dreaded end of the month.  But rarely much further.

As we try to envision what those later years will look like, we naturally extrapolate from where we are today.  We see the future through the filter of what’s going on in our lives.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  And sometimes that filter is real cloudy.

On top of that, many of us set our dreams aside once married and dealing with the responsibilities of little ones.  Decades of putting other people’s priorities above our own have dulled our “dream muscle.”  Like any muscle that’s not used, it goes soft.

But if you’re going to come up with a vision of your retirement that’s strong enough to motivate you to do what you need to do … you’ve got to be able to dream (in Technicolor®, as we used to say!).

If the film running through your head is a bit faded, or lacks sharpness, you’ve just got a case of today-itis.  The cumulative weight of the years is making it difficult to identify the emotions, the dreams, and the visions that will give you the willpower and the discipline to stop … analyze where you are … see where you want to go … see what you need to change and do to get there … and actually do it.

So I’m going to suggest something.

Sit quietly somewhere.  Find your stillness, however you do that.  Let your mind drift back to where you are five, or six, or seven.  Wherever you feel a strong emotional connection and can visualize yourself clearly.

Slip into the power of the innocent excitement and enthusiasm you woke up with every day at that age.  Feel the faith in the goodness of life:  The friends you’d play with at recess today.  Whether you were taller or shorter than your best friend Valerie.  Whether you’d be able to answer the teacher’s question.

Pure.  Trusting.  Alive.

As you focus on your vision for your future, realize that you’re fulfilling the future of that same trusting ‘you.’  That future is in your hands.  Not the tired, slightly jaded ‘adult you’ who has weathered the little disappointments that life brings to all of us.  But, instead, that boundlessly optimistic you.

If that doesn’t motivate you to take care of yourself … and to do what’s needed to be sure you’ll be okay for the rest of your life … I don’t know what will.

Drop me a note below and let me know if this little exercise changed your perspectiveeven a little bit!


Bio:  Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. But yet she did! Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs.  She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Rachelle

    Kraig and I have been planning on retirement since we got married 22 years ago. With this economic shift, we are reworking our dream it still looks good. Just different. Lighter. I like it.

    • Oh, Rachelle, light is so good!  That’s part of the transformation I made as I “redesigned” my own life ten years ago.  By focusing on what’s really critical to my happiness, I have room to add (or not!) whatever intrigues me in the moment …  Congratulations on being so steadfast and forward-thinking!

  • Diane Massad

    …your effort appreciated. and the ‘tone’ and method…consumable. Enjoyed being able to ‘listen’ while still able to range the email/biz challenges simultaneously.  Your web site look and feel…terrific! How are you doing …thinking…about eBook creations? Trying to master that Adobe product, InDeSign right now to service my own biz needs/hopes in ePUB. Best.

    • Thanks for the kudos, Diane.  I don’t know InDeSign, but I’ll sure do a Google search and find out more about it.  How are you using it?

  • Hi Sharon, It was good to hear your voice…it’s very calming–I like your message too. I liked going back to my childhood, the days when we “really” dreamed…I even went back further to those days I can barely remember of learning how to walk. Even though I can’t remember it, I know that walking is hard for a toddler to master, but the dream of being able to get around for us when we’re about a year old must be so strong, because baring a physical disability, toddlers just don’t give up and think, well this is too hard, so I may as well just crawl for the rest of my life…so why as we get older are we sometimes willing to let our dreams slip away? Thanks for starting my Monday off with renewed dreams.

    • Interesting that you’d go back to learning to walk, Pam.  It’s such a great representation of “personal will versus gravity,” isn’t it?  What I found so reinforcing about that exercise was the unbridled enthusiasm I felt as I, as a child, looked forward to each day.  Oh, to bottle that enthusiasm!  Instead, we’ll have to settle for folding into it, and letting it carry us … 😉  [BTW, Valerie and I each wanted to be the shortest because we filed into the school auditorium for events by height … shortest first!]

  • Hi Sharon, thanks so much for this very original way in which you posted your blog.
    You have a lovely voice to listen to ~ very soothing! I enjoyed the post tremendously, as I enjoy all of your posts.

    It is indeed with a certain amount of trepidation that we look toward the future today ~ pension funds are no longer something we can all “bank on” … in the literal sense of the word! And as such I fully agree that we should therefore take a step back and review our situation with regard to what each of us can do to give our future a more positive and more optimistic outlook. Something which is not easy to accomplish, but which I feel is badly needed in this climate of uncertainty!

    You have most certainly prompted me into taking that step back and re-evaluating my own situation; thank you!

    With sunny smiles from Greece,
    Emm :))

    • Emm, we’re all going to have some challenges because of the larger economic uncertainty.  That’s one reason to go back and define what’s truly crucial to make you happy in the long term.  Everything else is then gravy!

  • Excellent food for thought accompanied by a powerful actionable step! I agree, if this doesn’t do it, I don’ know what will! Your recording was brilliant!

    • Denny, you work with parents and kids.  So you tap into that wonderful energy kids have more often than most of us.  It’s absolutely electric!

  • Wil

    In the uncertainty that surrounds us today, what with all the economic turmoil, high taxes, and job loss, it’s hard to think that retirement will be something we all will have the chance to enjoy. But it is something that is worth planning for and working toward.
    Thanks for your good advice, Sharon!

    • Wil, I think it’s a matter of defining what ‘retirement’ means to YOU.  The traditional definition, now that we live into our 80s and even 90s, no longer works for most people.  Besides, we have so much more energy and desire to stay productive and contributing.  It’s a case where finding your own drummer is key!

  • Beau Henderson

    So many of us lose our passion and brilliance somewhere along the way.  Thanks for the reminder to take a step back and get in touch with who we are and where we want to go.  People are sleepwalking through life and this message serves as a wake up call!

    • Beau, I’m sure that, as you work with people to find their “Rich Life,” many are so invested in their own everyday ups and downs that they have trouble seeing what actually “could be” with a little vision, focus … and action.  Wake-up call, indeed!  😉

  • AJ

    Great stuff Sharon, thanks!

  • Anne (Annie) Berryhill

    Sharon..you are so right that it is easy to get trapped in Today-itis. I often do the exact exercise you shared here, connecting with the “kid” me to understand what I want from my life. I find at certain times, it is so hard to find her and what it is that is my dream. But reminding myself to do something as simple as you suggest, gets me back on track. Good stuff..I really enjoy your content!

  • There’s a lot of wisdom packed into those ten letters, Sharon. Thank you for sharing it. We’re all richer for it 🙂