That 80s TV show, Who’s the Boss was must-see-TV every Tuesday night in my house.  We laughed watching Angela and Tony, her “housekeeper” spar about who was the boss and who was the housekeeper.  Who actually wore the pants?  Well, here’s what I just realized is the scariest thing about retirement:  Unlike the moving tapestry in that TV show…now YOU ARE THE BOSS…

From birth until now…you always had a boss.  First, all kids are supposed to at least pay a modicum of attention to what our parents said. (Admittedly, once you are a parent, it often doesn’t seem that way….)   From toddler-hood to college or grad school, our teachers joined the rule setting team. Once you joined the working world, you traded teachers for real bosses and we all spend our entire working life morphing into a new person every x years as bosses changed.  Sometimes we were better employees than others and sometimes we had better bosses than others.  But the power all along the route did not lie with most of us.

And now, it’s a whole new world.  My boss is:  Me…Myself…and I!  And that, my dear friends, is an awesomely scary concept.  First of all, most of us default to blaming failings and screw ups on other people.  I mean, if my parents had just done, this…then I wouldn’t have done that.  And if that boss had only listened, the history of the world would be different.  But now, if you play the blame game, the prime suspect is…..yourself!  Even more scary is the reality that your decisions will actually shape your life from the inside out. The good thing is that no decision is irrevocable, but you’ve still got to make some big decisions—and I’m not sure that sitting on the couch binge watching actually counts as a decision.

The breadth of Boss decisions is huge starting with “How do I actually want to spend my time”? That means, of course, that you have to figure out what exactly might make you the happiest and then you have to follow that up with determining the steps you need to take to get there.  After a life of following orders, this is a very tall task and honestly, at this stage of our lives, do we really know?  And even if we do, can we actually put the program in place.  Therein lies the challenge of retirement.  At the same time, it’s the OPPORTUNITY and we should, if we can, look at this time as a real gift.  

As I write that, I have to admit talking about this as a “gift” does have a certain naïve- Polyanna-ish tone—in an easier said than done context.  Looks good on paper, but —get real—coming up with and then implementing this wondrous “job description and life” just isn’t necessarily everyone’s reality.  Let’s be sure to factor in the pulling forces of financial concerns, family demands, and yes…the reality that even if you can figure out the elements of a “retired life” that you want, it’s not that easy to put it all in place.  And more fundamentally, to be honest, it’s not necessarily THAT easy to envision the “perfect” retirement reality in the first place.  So, even though you’re the boss, there’s just no guarantee that you can create a five-star reality for your self.  

So..yes…being a boss in your retirement can be hard work and you’re not necessarily going to be the BEST boss ever.  But the fact is that boss power has morphed in our direction and that represents both a challenge and an opportunity.    Whether you spend time thinking about retirement beforehand or after the big day, there is a new world out there.  Maybe we all try to adopt a little of Robin Williams  advice to his students students in Dead Poets Society—Carpe Diem….the new motto for Retirement!

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