If I asked you what hopes you have for your retirement, what would you say? You might be surprised to hear that most people say they don’t want to stop working. The answer seems counterintuitive to the notion we have about what retirement should be, doesn’t it? But for a generation who measures much of its self-worth on their career, imagining a life without work is a scary proposition.
When I ask participants in my seminars if they have a retirement lifestyle plan, most say they don’t. They usually have a financial plan but not a lifestyle plan. According to a survey conducted by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, only 14% of Fifty-somethings make a lifestyle plan. Stats Canada also found that 2 in 3 new retirees express some regrets within the first 3 years of their retirement. Lack of lifestyle planning may very well be the reason why so many are struggling during the first few years of retirement.
Next to establishing a career and raising a family, retirement is one of the biggest transitions we make in our lifetime. It challenges every part of life – social, physical, intellectual and spiritual. To engage fully in a retirement lifestyle that is meaningful and filled with purpose, we must have a good sense of what it is we hope to achieve. It can be helpful to think of how we want to show up, how we want our STaR to shine in retirement.
In the early stages of retirement, it’s natural to feel lost in a sea of murky waters, without a clear view of what lies ahead. During the early stages friendships from work began to drift away and daily routines are unclear. It’s a time when we feel compelled to re-confirm the values we hold dear, and we may find ourselves struggling with our new identity as “retirees”. It’s the perfect time to ask ourselves what retirement will mean exactly; what we’re going to do with all the free time we have. There are only so many golf games to be played and trips to take before we realize that we want more out of retirement. Lifestyle planning in invaluable to gain clarity on the interests and dreams we want to pursue in retirement and to do a reality check of what’s possible. Ideally the planning starts long before retirement officially happens.
Once the murky waters begin to clear, most retirees emerge with clearer goals and a newfound purpose. They find meaningful ways to stay productive and have a better understanding of what they need to do to stay physically and intellectually active. This may include work, volunteering or finding other outlets to contribute to society in rich and engaging ways. Learning is also important. Those who thrive have found the sweet spot in the lifestyle they want in retirement. Life has a new pace that feels right. They realize that they are no longer infatuated with the notion of what might have been and are content to simply enjoy life. Research shows that spiritually, in the broader sense of the word, takes on a new level of importance in retirement.
Later in retirement the time comes to reconcile those things that no longer serve us well. That time comes, early on, midway through or at the end of retirement when we make peace with what never was or will be. We settle differences that drain our energy and restore harmony in our lives. It’s an individual process that has no best before date.
Retirement has its own unique cycle and every retiree moves through the cycle at their own pace. It is a time of personal growth that offers an opportunity to put the spotlight on what’s most meaningful to you – a time to become the STaR of your own life. It is also a time to polish the rough edges of a legacy that will inspire younger generations.