Four Tips For Planning A Meaningful Retirement

Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

By Denise Hellekson
The Village Business Institute

A commercial on television the other day caught my attention. It was from AARP, and it showed different people who looked to be in their early 60’s in different aspects of daily life. When the camera focused on them they would say things like, “When I grow up, I want to own a bookstore,” or “When I grow up, I want to join a jazz band.” The commercial was about retirement, and it reminded me of how our view of this stage of our lives is changing.

Not so long ago, retirement was seen as an event marking the withdrawal from active involvement in the world of work; a time of endless days of leisure and idle busyness. The new view of retirement sees it as a process, not an event; a time of exploration, life enrichment, creative change, and personal growth. Many people who “retire” find a new career path, and rejoin the workforce in a different capacity. The new view of retirement has been called a time of renewal, and there are a couple of reasons for this change in perspective;

  • With increased health and longevity, people are living longer and remaining active well into their senior years.
  • Baby boomers, as with all developmental stages they have passed through, have not been willing to fade gracefully into the sunset. They have redefined retirement as a more active, meaningful time of life.

Although the attitude about retirement is changing, the focus for preparing for this stage of life still focuses primarily on financial considerations. Very little is offered on how to plan emotionally or socially for this major life transition. In fact, it has been said that most people spend more time planning a two- week vacation than they do their retirement; which could last for the next 30 or 40 years.

Whether you plan to retire in six years or six months, you can start preparing and planning now for this next phase of your life. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Take Stock of Your Retirement Situation. At what age do you plan to retire? Will you be helping to care for aging parents? Helping to raise grandchildren? Are there any special health concerns you will need to consider? Do you plan to work part-time? Do you have social interests and friends outside of work, or has your main focus been your career? What are your dreams and interests? What gives you a sense of purpose and meaning?

2. Gather information on what to expect. Talk to friends and family members who have retired and ask them what they found to be the hardest part? What one piece of advice would they give? If they had to do it again, what would they do differently and why? What do they enjoy most about retirement?

Check out resources such as “What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement,” by Richard Boles and John E. Nelson, or “Your Retirement Quest,” by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. Books like this can be very helpful in explaining the stages of retirement, and providing self-assessments and helpful tips on how to create a retirement that is meaningful and unique to you.

3. Communicate with Those Closest to You. Share your plans for retirement with family and friends. If you are in a relationship, make sure you and your partner communicate openly and honestly about your dreams and your concerns regarding retirement. Do you both have the same expectations? How much time do you plan to spend together? Do you plan to retire at the same time? (Research indicates it can be helpful to retire at separate times, in order to help each person adjust individually)

4. Practice Retirement Now. This is especially helpful for people who have made their career their main priority. Pick one retirement dream and start cultivating it in your life now. It can help you develop interests, relationships, and an identity outside of work; set healthy limits and find balance; and make work more productive and fulfilling.

One last thing to keep in mind; although financial security is indeed a factor in creating a satisfying retirement, there has been a great deal of research that indicates that the size of one’s nest egg is not what drives happiness. As Alan Spector says, “The greatest issue is not running out of money, but of running out of meaning.”

Begin planning today to create a retirement that is fulfilling, meaningful, and uniquely your own!

About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.