As I was setting up for my Retirement Reinvention workshop, I was talking with Michelle the Meeting Planner for a corporate program and she said “I’m staying for your class tonight because I haven’t announced it yet, but I’m retiring in six months myself. You know whenever people here talk about retirement they only discuss two things – money and where are you going to live. So when I read your Retirement Reinvention book it was such a surprise. I kept underlining so many things and I learned so much. You hit on all the other things we need to discuss but never do, especially how we will spend our time. I just never really spent much energy thinking about that. It was an eye-opener.”
Michelle wasn’t the first baby boomer to bring this my attention. While there are plenty who make lists of all the activities they will do when they are done working, there are others who keep themselves on the job because they have no idea what they would do if they stopped.
First and foremost, you need to have a retirement plan on how you will spend your time.
Here’s what happened to one lady who came about this whole retirement thing in a typical way thinking only about the finances part.
Colleen was a high flyer inside three large Pharmaceutical companies that she’d worked for. She had been regional Sales Manager and moved up to the Executive Director spot focused on her prestigious job and earning her commissions and bonuses. She was very successful and a complete workaholic. Then her husband Bob got cancer at age 58. He was a fun loving, teddy bear of a man who loved life and enjoyed experiences, travel, socializing and parties. Over the next three years, she watched her beloved husband fade away little by little. At 61, Bob’s life was over. In her early 50s, Colleen’s whole view of life changed. “I was alone with no children and losing my husband had a profound effect on me,” she said.
As she grieved she recognized that she no longer needed to earn as much income as possible to build up a big war chest. If her money was well invested, she could have a great life and retire. “I realized life was not about the next project and sales numbers, it should be about being with family, living life and making memories,” explain Colleen.
At 56, she left work. “I had no plan. I had nothing to fill the days. No idea what I’d do. It had all been about work before I retired” she stated. Now three years later, she says she is so busy with her volunteer commitments. She met a wonderful man and recently married him. To celebrate turning 60, they went on an African Safari.
“The safari had been a far-off dream,” this vibrant woman noted. “It had been on my bucket list. So we decide to go. It was unbelievable. I’ll admit it was very expensive but I want to experience things now. I’m really healthy and fit so I plan to do the activities and see the sights I’ve never had time for when I worked, and I want to do them all now while I can.”
Giving back is also important to Colleen. She reported she averages about 15 hours a week working at two different charities. They make her feel like she is doing something meaningful.
“In my work role, I was never removed from my office before. It was work, work, work. I’d go on a short vacation but I always did emails and returned business calls. Now, I am so free! It’s a luxurious experience. But I have learned that time is so precious and things can change on a dime. I’m making the most of my retired days” Colleen declared.
Career and personal identity are very closely linked for those who, like Colleen, work a great deal. Doctors, Lawyers, CPAs, Architects, Dentists, executives, engineers, and professionals – many of these people have devoted their lives to their profession and it is something that they have loved. Some have been workaholics spending 60 or more hours a week at a demanding job. Many do not know how to live outside that professional world. Many are scared to retire. Although they may be tired or burned out, the fear of the emptiness ahead of them if they leave their current job behind is too overwhelming to face.
Am I describing you? If so, your future requires some definite planning and new ideas. Planning out your retirement and reinventing a new life for yourself may involve uncovering some new interests and a new way to live and enjoy your life after you leave the current career behind. No, it won’t be the same. Endings happen – sometimes unfortunately before you want them to. Keep in mind, almost all of us will retire. You will lose the job (and the stress, hassles, politics and commuting grind). The perks will disappear. Work acquaintances will go on networking but no longer include you. Hanging on, won’t make it easier. To become a successful retiree, you need a new game plan. A solid important direction that makes you feel excited about living this new stage of life. That is essential for your future well-being.
You Need a Plan
Think about how you might want to spend your time. Think about hobbies that have interested you but you never had the opportunity to do them. Make a list and if you can’t think of any go online and just type in hobbies and a hundred will pop up. What sports might you want to try? Consider a new one maybe tai chi or swimming? They are great for your body and health. Check out local clubs and community centers near your home. There may be a lot of resources around that you never noticed before. Start now and make a comprehensive but flexible list. Join a few things now so you are slowly breaking into some activities before you stop the job if at all possible.
Time for New Dreams
Think about two or three big things you’d like to do in the first 18 months of retirement. Maybe it’s a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go on but never had the time. Consider an experience like hiking a big mountain or going to a gourmet 5-day cooking class. Maybe it’s a fancy cruise to somewhere exotic. Perhaps you want to start a charity or go on some service mission trip. What’s important here is that you begin getting excited about things you are going to do. Get the travel book, research the experience and start planning the experience. A lot of joy comes from thinking about what you are going to do. Create new personal goals and fun activities to make your new life appealing and exciting. It must be something you really long to do. Make sure these are dreams you can check off rather quickly and then add in new dreams as soon as you complete them.
Pre-retirees will find a lot of ideas and planning resources on MyRetirementReinvention.com
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