Guided Fantasies for the Future

Retirement as wish-fulfillment

Posted Oct 23, 2012

Have you ever fantasized about where you would live if you could live anywhere at all? I don’t just mean a particular place (such as a country, or place within a country) but also a type of community. Did you know that in addition to all of the kinds of communities you already know about, there are also racetrack communities, equestrian communities, hangar-homes, a Martha Stewartville community, a Shakespeare-loving community, and many more?

Do you ever wonder what the best options might be if you wanted to try out a new job or just work a few hours now and then?

Suppose you want to save some money so you have more possibilities for funding your fantasies. Are there some suggestions you haven’t heard before? Some ideas you could implement that might not feel like much of a sacrifice?

I found all of that, and a whole lot more, in Jan Cullinane’s new book, The single woman’s guide to retirement. It is the sort of book that, first and foremost, is about providing tons of information and helpful suggestions about preparing for retirement. It does, in fact, provide all that and much more, in a readable and compact way.

A book of information may sound useful but probably not fun. That’s what I expected before I saw the book. I was wrong. It is the sort of book you can open to any page, almost at random, and find something intriguing. I just tried that and ended up at the section “How to fool ourselves or change our environment to eat better and less” in the chapter, “Fitness in body, mind, and spirit.” Some of the suggestions come straight out of social psychology, my own field.

Interspersed throughout the book, in boxes, are “fun facts” such as

“Single women represent 21 percent of homebuyers and are responsible for more than 30 percent of the growth in home ownership in the United States since 1994, according to the National Association of Realtors”

and “tips” such as

“If you are looking for grandma-like opportunities that pay, check out There’s a $25 fee for a background check and processing”

And “significant statistics” such as

“The current definition of poverty for a single woman under 65 living alone: income under $11,702, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.”

As you can tell from the title, the book is pitched to single women. (Jan Cullinane explains why in a section of the introduction called, “What makes single women special?”) Yet as you have probably already discerned, there is a lot that would be useful to men, too, and even to people who are not single and not retiring.

Still, it is pitched to single women, and in that regard, there were times when I especially appreciated the author’s sensibility. For example, in discussing where you might want to live, Cullinane suggests avoiding “places that picture only couples in their ads.”

I think there is a unique question about retirement in the 21st century: What is it? How do you qualify as being retired? It is not as clear as it once was. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime.

[Notes: (1) The image next to this post on the Psych Today page is of a “pocket neighborhood” right here in Santa Barbara, California. (2) My latest posts elsewhere include the two below.]