In precoronatimes I attended an end of year BBQ luncheon put on by my financial advisor at Edward Jones. I’m financially engaged with Kevin and I like Texas BBQ, so I thought I’d go. I also thought my former neighbor Cleo was going to be there and wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her.

Cleo didn’t show up. Foiled! I thought she always went to this thing. Ugh. Okay. Reset. I made due, grabbed a plat of free BBQ and sat down. I was now on my own in a sea of retirees running the same free BBQ grift I was running. There were two people under 60: my financial advisor and the person he invited to be the guest speaker. I failed at making small talk, so my tablemates and I sat the long table poking at our meats and the conversation centered around passing the potato salad.

I wasn’t prepared to hear a talk that day, but I listened attentively anyways. The target audience was people at or near retirement. The framing was around three basic questions to get you thinking about retirement.

  1. Where are you going to live? This question gets you thinking about living accommodations. Do you center your life around grandchildren? A retirement community? Or do you buy that lake house you always wanted? An interesting statistic mentioned was that retirees on average move more than people in their twenties.
  2. How are you going to change a light bulb? While a practical home maintenance question, it gets to idea of community and support. Should something go wrong and you’re unable to do it yourself, who is around you to help if you need it?
  3. How are you going to get your favorite ice cream? Plenty of time to get ice cream when retired, that’s what I’m looking forward to. But this question actually gets to the idea of mobility in advancing years. Tied to mobility is financial stability. How are you going to get around and how are you going to pay for it? And then who are you going to go get it with?

At the end of the presentation, the speaker opened up the conversation and asked current retirees to offer advice for near-retirees. A significant part of that discussion was about forming and maintaining relationships based on something the speaker had said. Women — according to the speaker — tend to be natural social networkers and fair well socially in old age because they do better at building social networks. Men tend to build relationships around tasks and often struggle with retirement because they’ve lost their primary mode of relationship building. A lot of the retirees confirmed this sentiment.

Breaking this out of the binary gender generalizations, it’s interesting to think about how people form relationships and in what contexts are people successful creating relationships. I identify as a task-based relationship-former. Work? Yup. Podcasts? Almost certainly. Is this why any time two men talk they inevitably create a podcast? I see this dichotomy everywhere now. When I play games with the squad, we often do task-based side quests inside the primary game mode which is itself an task-based quest. How meta.

Anyways, that was my retirement seminar. I feel so far away from the need to think about retirement but, nonetheless, a healthy exercise. It appears to have stuck with me if I’m still rehashing it two years later. Now I think about relationships a lot.