In order to have a successful transition from work to a “new retirement” lifestyle (whatever that may be for you), we have to redefine who we are. For many this may mean retiring early to pursue a new career. A Cornell Retirement and Well-Being Study found that 89% of retirees who returned to work gave “keeping active” as one of their top reasons, followed by “maintain social contacts” and “desired additional income” as a distant fourth reason. Our culture bombards us with the notion that we are what we “do”. Work reorientation involves emotionally distancing ourselves from taking our identity from work. While the “doing” part of us is still important, we need to focus more on the “being” part of us. If we don’t, we stop growing and lapse into the “old” retirement definition of perpetual leisure and withdrawal.
Working with clients to plan the “new” retirement, we begin with taking the Retirement Success Profile which measures 15 factors that contribute to success in managing this transition. A profound self-evaluation, it should be taken several years before retirement, and then again after your “first” retirement, and should be taken at five year intervals thereafter. This will keep your goals, life purpose, and your personal fulfillment fresh, as well as keeping your energies focused on what’s truly important.
Let’s look at an example of how one person handled the dilemma of being over-invested in work. “Bill” is a 58 year-old man, who recently sold his business and is now working for the new company. A life-long workaholic, he’s frustrated because he no longer has much control over how the business is run. He’s trying to decide whether he needs to find satisfying work if he leaves this current position. But he’s not sure what type of work would fulfill him, or whether he wants to work part-time or full-time. Since work had absorbed him so much, he had made little time for hobbies, and wants to explore that possibility. He has some health issues and is concerned about his health and happiness. Bill is not a happy camper. He questions where his life is going. He doesn’t know how to create new interests and his health issues make him feel older than he really is. In the coaching relationship, he finds a sounding board to discuss his concerns. He gets help generating some options for new directions and getting involved with some leisure interests, along with his wife. He has some homework: finding out about his travel interests, exercise activities and finding out about agencies where he could focus his volunteer interests. The coaching also looks at how to interact with his new bosses so he can develop a phased retirement over the next three years. He now has a game plan to prepare him for when he stops working altogether. When he gets closer to the time of full retirement, he may start up the coaching process again for support during the transition, and to make sure his game plan is still relevant.