What’s not to love about retirement? Free at last! No more alarm clocks, no schedules, no deadlines. No more dealing with annoying office politics or demanding bosses and clients. Forty or more previously obligated hours a week to spend on pursuits of our own choosing with people we enjoy. That’s a lot of time. Time to travel or play golf or to do nothing at all! I will just figure it out as I go along – we say. And most of us do! Some of us transition more easily than others. Some of us learn from a trial-and-error approach and worry that we wasted a couple of precious years in limbo. More than a few of us really struggle, to the point of depression, and are too embarrassed to admit it. Some just “flunk” retirement and go back to work. Everyone’s path is uniquely their own. There is no one size fits all retirement. The choices are endless.
Everyone knows you need a financial plan for retirement but very few of us take time to plan for the non-financial lifestyle aspects of life in retirement. Ideally, we would spend as much time planning for the non-financial side of life after working as we do for the financial side. But how many full-time working professionals make the time to plan ahead and to design their next acts? My experience as a retirement coach has shown me that not many do. In fact, most of us take more time planning a two-week vacation than we do planning for how we want to spend decades of our lives post-career.
What do I mean about the non-financial aspects of life in retirement? Work provides us with much more than just a paycheck. Retirement (defined as leaving one’s current full-time employment) is a major life change that impacts every aspect of life including one’s routine, social network, relationship with spouse or partner, sense of identity, and feelings of achievement and contribution. It is important to develop a plan for how you will replace these elements post-career. That plan will emerge and change as you and your life circumstances change.
There is an “art” to designing and living your most fulfilling and meaningful next chapter. This column is designed to offer you tips, ideas and examples from others on how to go about doing so. We will address such topics as: deciding when (or even if) to retire, time management in retirement, where to live, how to expand your social network, the right volunteer or part-time work fit, discovering or rediscovering interests and hobbies, couples in retirement, and keeping mentally and physically sharp. I will share books and other resources you may find helpful. Hopefully some of the ideas presented each month will apply to you whether you have been retired for some time, are recently retired or are just contemplating retirement. I welcome your comments, suggestions, questions and any advice you would like to share with others. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pamela Karr is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor specializing in career counseling and a Certified Professional Retirement Coach.