As we 73 million Baby Boomers retire in droves, at the rate of 10,000 per day, and totaling more than a quarter million Americans every month until the year 2030, we enter a period of personal disorientation and confusion, if the truth be known. We are a very hard-working generation, and often have been defined by our careers. And we have high expectations. So our concerns are valid.
Although we have earned money throughout lifetimes of hard work, our savings have been impacted by major stock market, banking industry and housing industry crashes. Even if we did save enough, which many of us did not, we have watched those savings decline drastically, with little we could do about it.
Baby Boomers also have been known to be a generous group. We have done well by our children, our parents, our communities, our churches. Many of us have felt the pinch from adult children who have had difficulties earning adequate incomes on their own. And many of us have dealt with aging parents who need significant assistance, financially and/or otherwise.
We grew up in an era where making a meaningful contribution was paramount to a life well lived. We have always wanted to make a difference. From women’s rights, to civil rights, to world hunger, to preserving the planet, we always have been there – marching, demonstrating, donating our funds and services. We are a generation who has always cared.
And now it is our turn to retire. Our parents retired under a very different paradigm, generally supported for the remainder of their lives by their employer-provided pensions. Not so with us. Only one in four Boomers can expect significant income from an employer-provided pension.
And we know better than to expect that retirement will be cheap. Statistics show that almost half of retired households now spend more money, not less, in retirement. We also know that we are likely to live for quite a long time. According to the Social Security Administration, one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past the age of 90, while one out of 10 will live past 95.
So if some of us associate feelings of panic with retirement, we have good reason. But there are positive factors that will make transformative differences in our favor. Use these five tips and considerations to your advantage to turn your own retirement years into some of the best years of your life.
- Time is on your side.
- Reinvention is the new normal. Expect to have freedom and engagement too.
- If you need more money to live the lifestyle you desire, then make some more.
- Seek assistance with your “transition.”
- Nurture your pioneer spirit as a role model. Lead the way.
Time is on your side.
If you have lived to age 65, you will have another 25 to 30 years or so of life left to live. So you will have ample time to ace your own retirement transition. This bounty of time can be put to good use to redirect and explore, gain self-knowledge, and study the patterns and passions of your own unique and inimitable self in order to yield a retirement design that is optimal for you, mentally, socially, physically, financially, and spiritually. Use time to your benefit to give yourself the gift of a future that engages you fully and towards which you can and will apply yourself with vitality, enthusiasm and enjoyment. Create a retirement that will be your opus, not just a condition that you wander into aimlessly.
Although, as a Boomer, you already are part of the most educated, most techno-savvy generation in our country’s history, you know that there is a lot more for you to learn. With 25-30 years left ahead of you, there is no need for you to race into your third phase of life limited by what you already know how to do. Once you discover what you long to do and be next, you will have the luxury of time to learn how to do it and do it well, to apply your new learning for many years, and even to pass it on.
Reinvention is the new normal. Expect to have freedom and engagement too.
“Working” during retirement, with or without earning money for it, can be a meaningful pursuit when it is in line with your truest and most naturally enthusiastic self. It is essential to understand that what we’re talking about here is not simply more of the same. After retirement, motivation to work is based on a desire for continued purpose, productivity, stimulation, satisfaction, and social connection. Gone are the days of “I’ll do anything so long as it pays well.”
Although the majority of Boomers do plan to work in retirement (71%), that does not mean we are willing to continue on with the same work. Over half of us (51%) plan to enter a different line of work in retirement. Since we are looking for work that yields stimulation and satisfaction, we will be less willing to fit ourselves to a job and more prone to find avenues of work that fit us.
This translates to the necessity of reinventing yourself, then reinventing your work. Make choices based on knowledge of your own true self. What are you like? (your type and temperament). What engages you? (your interests). What has meaning for you? (your values). And what can you do well? (your skills and talents).
Then based on what you discover, reinvent your work. Most likely, you will not be interested in continuing at the same pace and intensity level as your earlier work life. And you may not be willing to opt either for freedom over engagement, or the other way around, when you want to, and can, have both. According to the 2013 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, many Boomers will seek flexible work arrangements such as part-time work (39%), or going back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure (24%). Others will start businesses or enterprises, offer services, create, perform, invent, coach, guide or mentor.
If you need more money to live the lifestyle you desire, then make some more.
In the past, the focus of retirement planning has been on saving and investing money during your major work years in order to be able to live on passive income throughout retirement. To the degree that we have succeeded at this task, or have the benefit of increasingly rare employer-provided pensions, this passive income can provide a solid base after we retire. But this base income certainly does not define or limit our potential lifestyles. Retirement need not mark a shift to passive income only or the end of active earning. It is much better, and probably more realistic, to think of having some of each!!
With the advent of computer-based work, locating and carrying out work contracts can be accomplished without even leaving your house. The world can be your market for the services you offer, the art or crafts you create, the books or courses you write. Once you redefine yourself, and decide what your purpose will be from this point on, you will have many options and arenas for following through.
If your dream has been to travel during retirement, and you are short the money to do so, set out to earn the travel money you need to fly off to France and Italy for a month. If you want to buy books, or season tickets to the Symphony, or even a boat… work as many “gigs” as it takes for you to achieve your dreams. Do not fall prey to the mentality that you will forevermore be forced to live on a fixed income.
Seek assistance with your “transition.”
Retirement, and the considerable challenges of planning for this dramatic transition, is not something you need to face or plan alone. Although it may sound simple to uncover what you are uniquely and even passionately suited to do for your remaining years, this will be a process, not an event.
After decades of having work define you, it is no simple task to turn this around so you are the one to define the work. Likewise, you will be fully in charge of establishing your new balance between work and lifestyle. Without a plan, you may waste precious years of this pinnacle time in your life. These life and work redesigns are made even more complex for couples, each of whom will need to create an individual vision, and then, through a series of conversations, build a shared vision that takes into account what each needs and wants.
During this all essential transition period, give yourself permission to seek out the assistance you need to get it right. Although in the past most so-called Retirement Counselors have focused exclusively on financial issues, the emerging industry of Certified Retirement Coaches, Retirement Therapists, and Transition Counselors have become an excellent source of assistance, offering one-on-one consultation, as well as group sessions. Also, there are a number of helpful books about the retirement transition, particularly those that offer assistance with self-analysis and career changing. Try a search for “life and work after retirement” to identify resources to guide you through the transition process.
Retirement is a time of rediscovery, followed by essential decisions about what to do and be, to accomplish and contribute, for the rest of your life. It is well worth dedicating energy and time, as well as resources, to your own future.
Nurture your pioneer spirit as a role model. Lead the way.
As we 73 million Baby Boomers redefine the process, the visage, the experience and the outcomes of retirement, we ultimately will be demonstrating to future generations how it can be accomplished creatively and well. This will provide them with all-essential models for their own lives in later years. And with 73 million Boomers going through these changes within less than two decades, there will be plenty of need and demand for more retirement coaches in the years ahead. So once you get your own retirement transition right, you may choose to offer necessary guidance to other Boomers.