Add meaning and purpose to the mix when your working days have ended.
Sally Balch Hurme, author of the new book Get the Most Out of Retirement: Checklist for Happiness, Health, Purpose, and Financial Security, published by the American Bar Association, says that people facing the “R” word are split on the idea; some look forward to a leisurely life on the golf course or becoming world travelers, others are terrified at the prospect of not having enough to do.
Recently retired after spending 25 years practicing law, Sally wrote her book to help others with life planning. Not wholly comfortable with the word “retirement” and being the “least retired” person she knows, she wanted to create a handbook that covers all aspects of life after work.
“A lot of people dread retirement because they don’t know what it is going to be like,” she says. “I am having a blast, so I hope I can give [readers] some things to think about so we can go into retirement without trepidation and have a positive outlook.”
Find yourself again
We spend decades defining ourselves by our careers. One of the first steps into retirement, Sally says, is finding out who you are again or want to be for the next few decades. This new life stage is an opportunity to spend your time on what’s important to you.
“It’s going to be different with every person, but even though you are no longer an employee or have this job title or run this business, you are still a lot of other things: you are a spouse and a parent and a grandparent. I am still a lawyer even though I am not practicing law. I still have my volunteer commitments, I still love to garden, I still love to travel.”
Plan for change
When your new adventure starts, plan A doesn’t always work out. And when it doesn’t, you’ll need to fall back on plan B or even C and have a good dose of resilience. In Sally’s case, two months into her retirement, her husband’s declining health forced them to alter their plans of traveling abroad. So, have some flexibility in your gameplan.
“Instead of going to Europe for a month, we plan around shorter weekends,” she says. “We did relocate so I can be around family and have some assistance with caregiving. Health issues are not necessarily the primary reason to move from plan A, but at our age, that is something that we do need to keep in the back of our minds.”
Finding purpose is great at any age, but it can be especially meaningful when you have more time to dedicate. Sally recommends volunteering more, finding part-time work in a field you enjoy or continuing your education. Researchers at Florida State University’s Pepper Institute on Aging and Social Policy find that there is no other greater force for successful aging than meaningful educational experiences. And, most state colleges offer discounted classes for retired people.
Entrepreneurship is another popular way people can embark on a career they have always wanted. According to Sally’s book,
people in their 50s and 60s make up a quarter of all startup businesses. Retirees often have their own money to work with and a lifetime of networking and experience to rely on.
The Japanese never retire from being active and boast some of the longest life spans. Their philosophy of ikigai, or a worthwhile life, is doing what you love around the people you love to make the world a better place. Sally says it may be a good idea to get involved in your local Rotary Club or chamber of commerce to contribute to the greater good.
“Broadening our social networks can add value to the community around us in multiple, exceptional ways,” she says. “Getting over that trepidation about trying something new” can help kick-start a new chapter.
While it may be daunting at first, having a plan, or multiple plans, can provide plenty of opportunities to keep you occupied, active and connected to the world, which can add meaningful years to your life. “There are so many options out there, you need to explore and not be timid to investigate,” Sally says. “You’ve got the time to plan and execute a very exciting second life.”