Retirement is About More than Just Money

iStock_000015520861XSmallTen thousand baby-boomers reach 65 years of age every day, a numeral that makes you ‘of retirement age.’  You hear this startling fact every few minutes on prime time television.  AARP is all over this.  But who among you thought this time would arrive so abruptly, a phase of life we associate more with our parents and grandparents?   I never considered I’d ever have to give retirement planning serious thought.

Many of you are facing retirement, whether in the next year or some years out, either a result of your personal decision or a choice by your employer.   You’ve been bombarded with charts, plans, spreadsheets, direct mail and dire warnings about how much money you’ll need to retire. No doubt, money is important.

However, what I’ve learned is that in retirement, money is only one piece of a what could be the happiest time of your life.  Money is perhaps the easiest to check off the retirement ‘to do’ list because it’s simple arithmetic and discipline.

What’s harder is the choices you decide to make about what you want to do and how you want to live the rest of your life.  Remember, you have (statistically) more than one-fourth of your life ahead of you.  It’s indeed precious time to do what you love.  Don’t just retire:  do something new.

You will want to talk to others, write down thoughts, share ideas, try out and research possibilities.  Here is a simple process to help you find what might be next for you:

Imagine Your Next Chapter

  • What would you really like to do?  If you wrote down the top 3 – 5 activities you’d relish, you would be surprised and feel excited about the possibilities.
  • What part of your future did you put off because you took another path earlier in your career?  Nothing wrong with this – I don’t know many people who sought out their initial dream, especially once they had financial and family responsibilities.
  • What values and needs are essential for your satisfaction so you can wake-up each morning looking forward to your day?
  • If you had a clean slate, what role would you design for yourself?  Think about it without boundaries, letting your energy and interests lead the way.
  • Don’t look back with regret.  While your morals and ethics have likely stayed intact, what  you want to do at 65 is different from what you even could have considered when you were just 25.  Think differently and expand your options.

Design a Plan

  • Take a few ideas from the above exercise and lay out the pros and cons of each and write down what the new career would mean to you.
  • Make a honest appraisal of the income you would like to earn and whether or not you’d sacrifice income for an appealing new career.
  • Note in bullet form what steps you’d take to make the ideas come true.  Realize that you can ‘try out’ these ideas without being fully committed.
  • Create a realistic time frame for achieving your new role.  For example, don’t think you’ll be secure in a well-paying, ideal job in a year.  It will take you longer than that and you want to avoid disappointment.

Build a Well Laid-Out Transition Guide

  • Acknowledge that it will take time for you to find what you love.
  • While you’re learning and experimenting, seek other meaningful work.  I have found volunteering, going back to school for a course or two, mentoring and exploring have kept my mind stimulated, my heart beating, and my interests alive.  Find time to relax and step back from your efforts.  Go for a walk, have lunch outside when you can.  Exercise.
  • Talk to others in your fields of interest.  People really love to tell you what they do and why, and are often willing to help you get started. Join associations and make connections there.  You can learn a good deal from just one or two meetings.
  • Put together a multi-year plan of how you will achieve your new goals, being more specific in the early years and less so as you look beyond your two-to-three year horizon.
  • Ensure you speak to your loved ones about what you want to do, as it will affect them and their plans.  Talk to them often about your ideas.  Avoid surprising them!

From personal experience, being deliberate about what is next in life can be fulfilling, liberating, and remarkably relaxing.