Retire with Purpose

“When would you like to retire?”

It is one of those questions we always ask when we begin working with a client and it is a question that is revisited throughout the relationship. Why wouldn’t it be? It is the one of the primary determinants of whether or not an individual will have enough assets to live on for the rest of his/her life.  But did you know it is also a possible determinant of how long a person may live?  According to a 2001 Social Security Administration Division of Economic Research paper, men who retire early (before age 65) also have a higher mortality risk. This is just one of several studies that indicate that early retirement could lead to a sooner death.

One debated cause of this linkage is that people don’t make plans for their life after retirement. Americans spend about 25% of a year at work or completing work-related tasks. That’s a large hole to fill at retirement and that honey-to-do list will only last for so long. So, if you are near retirement or thinking about retirement, remember to ask yourself, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What makes me happy? What will keep my body and mind engaged? For some, the answer will come very naturally. For others, especially for those who have been very focused on their career, the answer to this question is a little more difficult.

Below, I’ve addressed five options that some of our clients have tried and how you may start planning for your new best life in retirement.

  1. Travel: Many of our clients immediately reply with “travel” when asked about their retirement plans. Some choose to make their own travel plans and travel with a spouse or family members, but we’ve also found that many participate in group tours. There are many group tours available, but if you are interested in going with a local group, check with your local senior center, art museum, ski club, country club or other interest group. This tactic not only will help you identify trips that you would most enjoy, but also help you meet new friends. Remember, relationships are an important part of living a long, happy life!
  • Hobbies:  Fill in the blank: I’ve always wanted to try___________________. Start there! Whether it is gardening, bird watching, knitting, woodworking, or some other hobby, almost everyone can fill this blank with something. There are lots of opportunities in your local community to participate in your new hobby; you just need to determine what interests you most.  Try a Google search or talk to a friend.
  • New career: For those who have truly made a career out of something they love, it is natural for them to begin to think of ways to grow in that career upon retirement. For others, a new and fresh idea is exactly what is needed.  Need help in creating a new business? Try a local small business development center, a women’s business center, or chamber of commerce for help.
  • Take a class:  I recently attended a conference and one of the speakers was a Stanford professor who specializes in aging and longevity. One very interesting point she mentioned in her presentation was that on average, life expectancy is increasing. In fact, she said that the majority of Americans born after 2000 will live to be 100 or older. She went on to say that as people live longer, dementia will become the number one health concern. While there isn’t much we can do about our own genetics, there is a lot we can do to stay mentally sharp for as long as possible. Taking a class in retirement is one way to do this. Local universities and senior centers are often great places to look for classes. Some libraries, like the Huntsville Public Library, also offer lifetime learning classes.
  • Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and address interests you’ve always had but never found the time to focus on. There are many opportunities in your community. Most communities have some sort of volunteer center. For example, The Volunteer Center of Madison County and the Retired & Senior Program (RSVP) of Etowah County are agencies that act as a clearing house for all volunteer activities in the community. These types of organizations can link volunteers to the right non-profits. Nationally, the Senior Corps program of the Corporation for National and Community Service has been in existence since the early 60’s and acts as a center to train and guide volunteers toward specific projects that best suit their interests and talents.

Retirement is a big transition, and it isn’t just a transition out of a career, it is a transition into a new life.  So, think big! This is your opportunity to try something new or that one thing that you’ve always wanted to do.