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What Will Retirement Mean for You?

Jun 7 2021
5 min read
A woman writing in her journal

Gone are the days when “retirement” typically meant moving someplace warm and taking up a hobby or two.

Today, more people may be working longer for financial reasons, or they may want to stay where they are, near family and long-time friends. The loss of a spouse can mean a change of plans. And while playing more golf or dusting off your old paintbrushes are nice, maybe you feel the need to continue contributing to society in a meaningful way. Any of these situations, of course, could lead you to redefine what you thought retirement would be.

The truth is, while some people retire and make long-planned changes at a certain age, retirement can unfold over time in diverse ways. It may mean starting with smaller changes, like planning more trips or cutting back on work hours that slowly transition into the next chapter. However it plays out for you, being able to thrive during this new stage of life is important; continuing to be productive, active, and successful—whether it’s with work, play, or a new challenge—is essential to your health and happiness.

It’s also a time to consider seeking assistance. While this major life change is normal, it often doesn’t feel normal because you’ve never done it before. If you were going to learn a musical instrument, you would likely find a teacher; when you’re redesigning your life, you might want to talk with a life coach who has helped other people navigate this life transition.

When you’re ready for things to shift, think it through; only you can know what your next steps will be. Here are a few tips to help you discover your version of retirement:

Consider Your Situation

What’s happening in your life when it comes to finances, relationships, and health? Think about what you really need moving forward. Is it a steady paycheck? Relatives and friends who live close by? Do you want to downsize where you live? Once it’s clear what you’d like to change and what should stay the same, you can begin to think about what’s next. Maybe that means continuing to work in some capacity at your current job or in a new way. Or perhaps it’s time to ask your friend for the name of the realtor she mentioned a while ago.

Acknowledge Your Desires

While you may still have responsibilities, this is a period of your life in which you should devote more time to the things you love or yearn to do – things that truly fulfill you. If it’s travel, start by looking at your calendar for dates you can get away. If it’s spending more time with your grandchildren, find out when they’re free. If you want to move someplace warmer, research the possibilities or ask family and friends if they know people who live in a place you’re considering. Maybe your desires are more personal, like reconnecting with your spouse now that you have more time to spend together. It could simply be acknowledging that you want to stick with your job because you continue to find the work rewarding and motivating. Listening to your desires and making them a priority is the most important way you can define what this new stage means.

Reassess Periodically

Because retirement is different for everyone, it’s important to not only be mindful of what’s right for you but to recognize that it will likely change. Take time to reflect as you go along; it could be six months down the road or in another five years, but checking in on where things stand helps ensure you’re on the path you prefer. Circumstances are bound to change over time and reevaluating what you want and need is important. You may be ready to leave your job, devote time to a hobby, or make another change you hadn’t even thought about when you first retired.

Simply put, retirement is really a time to think about where you’d like to steer your journey next. That can mean making changes—big or small—professionally or personally, or both. And even if this chapter isn’t all you’d expected, it can be a period of rediscovery that nurtures and fulfills your spirit.

Many people are surprised by the experience of retirement and how it differs from their fantasy. Free time sounds like a gift until it is all you have and there is no map. The work of retirement is exploring rather than knowing; you are successful if you’re learning about yourself, your interests, and possibilities. Change can be energizing and overwhelming – anticipate both, give yourself room to explore and if you feel stuck, ask for help.