Early in your career, you may have looked at retirement readiness as an age. Mid-career, you likely started thinking about retirement in the context of amassing a certain amount of wealth as a measure of being ready for retirement.
As your career gets in the late innings, suddenly retirement preparedness comes down to your willingness to set aside what you’ve done for most of your adult life, and do something else.
When financial security is a secondary concern as you assess your retirement readiness, you know that your retirement problem has nothing to do with money. It is for this precise reason that retirement for the coming generation will probably come in three phases, instead of one.
What Will My Retirement Look Like?
Chances are, as you take a look at how you spend your time out of the office as you approach your retirement years, you may find that you’ve developed new skills or have cultivated new interests that will spur you to make the transition out of your day job. This is the beginning of stage one of your retirement, and this is the time to research what you want to do with the rest of your life.
As you prepare to put your original vocation aside, you might find that you have ambition to become a business owner or to try your hand in a totally different work environment. Or, you may have a pent-up desire to take on adventures and travel. Perhaps you might have a penchant for the arts or a desire to volunteer and give back to the community?
When an aspiring retiree comes to visit me in my office and lists all the things they want to do, these ideas come out. Then the conversation becomes as much about planning for what they want to do as it is about navigating the retirement issues that come with leaving their original career.
For many boomers, the reality is that stage one of retirement will actually be a time to redefine one’s workday as opposed to giving up the workday altogether. Friends and family looking to spend more time with you might have to wait until stage two of retirement.
Framing a Rewarding Retirement
The liberating feeling that comes with having near-complete control over your time should help you evaluate when you are ready to set aside structured time commitments for other pursuits. In stage two of retirement, many boomers may find that their interests shift to expressing themselves by way of spending time with family, cultivating their interest in music or art, or enjoying nature and seeing the world.
The second stage of retirement can and should be a fulfilling, rewarding transition in your life. You may be fully removed from your working life, but it doesn’t mean it is time to stop making a valuable contribution to the world. You might use your time in one of the following ways:
- Find a pursuit that creates a new sense of identity.
- Volunteer your time on a regular basis.
- Commit to writing about your favorite memories, accomplishments and the values that have guided your life.
Enjoying Your Retirement
Baby boomers will eventually want to focus on leisure and relaxation, and phasing into it will certainly make you ready to enjoy the conventional idea of the golden years. This is when a carefully constructed plan that takes into account the varied pursuits you want to engage in over your retirement becomes preeminently valuable.
As we face our own retirement, how we phase into this part of our lives is uniquely our choice. Unlike previous generations that were facing shorter life expectancies and a defined income stream delivered via the pension system, we baby boomers have the ability to freelance our way through the post-career era in our lives.
Certainly, this retirement “is not the same as your grandfather’s.” You want to do things differently and still enjoy your new world of retirement. We just need to embrace a new vision of retirement and plan for a new take on life after work.
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