What makes a good retirement gift?

You probably won’t find the answer in an internet listicle

written by fiona

An older couple is walking down a grassy path, facing the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters in Southern England. They are both wearing straw hats. It’s a clear and sunny day.

published on August 14, 2023

What makes a good retirement gift? If any of the listicle results from my Google search are to be trusted, good retirement gifts can be anything from a fancy shovel, to a watercolour palette, to a fountain pen. For the most part, the answer to this query is stuff, stuff and more stuff (all with Amazon affiliate links, of course).

Even the items that claim to be “personal” and “customizable” are corny at best — an engravable bookmark encouraging someone to “enjoy the next chapter”, or a monogrammable heart-shaped picnic table. Sure, some of these gift ideas speak to the kinds of activities someone might start doing more after they retire — golf, travel, crafts, heavy drinking (there are SO many wine and whiskey-related items, it’s a little disturbing). But none of them come close to actually celebrating specific achievements or allowing colleagues the chance to say goodbye in their own words. Nor do they even try to address the emotional or psychological challenges someone might experience when embarking on this major life transition.

Fears about being forgotten, that no-one will miss you, or that the work you did meant nothing, or that you’ll lose touch with the people whose company you enjoyed every day. These aren’t trivial concerns either, according to the longest running study on happiness, the biggest challenge people face in retirement is not being able to replace the social connections that sustain them at work.

Fondfolio isn’t a solution for this challenge — it’s not going to help someone sustain relationships or make new friends — but it can be a sort of bridge. Fundamentally it’s a visual reminder that you had an impact on those you worked with and it’s an opportunity for your work friends to share, with as much specificity as possible, why they’ll miss having you around, and maybe offer invitations to connect in the future. Everyone needs to hear these words, but especially those starting out on a new path where doubts and bouts of loneliness may happen more frequently.

And it’s the words that really matter — the personal stories and memories, so even if you can’t find the budget for a handmade retirement memory book, there are other options — there’s a $10 digital version or a $25 print-at-home pdf. Or, if you’re creative, just use the Fondfolio app to collect the contributions and DIY your own book. With just a bit of effort you can avoid a meaningless retirement gift and make a special keepsake for your colleagues. Remember, it’s the effort that counts.

Photo by Marc Najera on Unsplash

written by fiona

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