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Is Retirement a “Bad” Word?

You’re excited about retirement, right? You’ve worked hard for, what, four or five decades now? You’re due. No more early alarm. No more meetings. No more deadlines. No more office politics. Can you believe it? It’s just you — out on the links; puttering in the garden; taking care of your grand kids. It’s going to be great. What if it’s not as you pictured? What if those things you’ve looked forward to all these years — more time for your hobbies, more time to travel and more time to relax — aren’t enough to sustain you? What then?

We seem to be inundated with headlines highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly about retirement. We have all looked forward to retirement and it has been part of the American dream. Work hard at your job, do your best and then enjoy the pleasures of retirement. But these days there are many mixed messages. I have heard – “don’t retire, or you will get bored or what will you do all day?” Instead of the heartfelt congratulations, co-workers seem shocked and concerned when someone announces retirement. What happened to the celebratory wishes on this exciting new phase of life?

But wait—there is good news about retirement! Until recently, the conventional definition of retirement meant “not working” for an extended period at the end of your life — a golden period during which you traveled, spent time with grandkids and pursued your hobbies and interests. Retirement was the answer for people who were tired of working or thought they were unable to work. Today’s retirees want their later years to have as much meaning and purpose as their primary working years—or perhaps more purpose and meaning. The term re-wirement may better represent what many baby boomers are looking for as they reinvent retirement.

For many retirements from a stressful full-time career provides new opportunities to create, to learn and to live. It can hold great promise to pursue personal goals on your own timeline. We often hear that it is a time when you lose your identity and have no real sense of purpose. The key word is finding your purpose in retirement. This can come in many forms: work, volunteering, new relationships, leisure activities or projects. Where retirement can become a bad word and a challenging experience is when there is no planning or thinking about it ahead of time. If your plan is to “wing it” that could prove to be a mistake. This 25-30-year period of life is a time to tap into your talents, gifts and true interests that perhaps got put on the back burner.  What is going to get you up and excited on Monday morning?

The first step is self-reflection. Start by doing a realistic assessment of what you enjoy about your job and what you stand to lose by retiring. On the one hand, you may feel ready to leave the working world, but on the other hand, as reality of retirement takes hold, you may feel restless or confused. After some reflection, start making a list of potential opportunities, seek out courses and programs that might be useful in this new chapter. Doing some pre-work can be valuable as you start building your retirement lifestyle plan. If you fear retirement or just don’t know where to begin, consider joining the What’s Next group program for those 50 and up; thinking about what their retirement will look like.  Join a community of pre-retirees in learning, sharing, and collaborating, to help you find and define a second-act career and life vision that is right for you!

 

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