With more than 75 million Baby Boomers turning 65 in the coming decade, properly preparing for retirement and understanding the challenges involved has taken on renewed importance. With my own retirement approaching, I am learning firsthand just how difficult an adjustment it can be. What has helped me approach this next chapter with confidence is taking the time to define my retirement for myself, and mentally preparing for a re-imagined life.
Nancy Schlossberg, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland and author of Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose, and Retire Smart, Retire Happy, warns that many professionals focus on the financial aspects of their retirement and ignore the necessary psychological preparation. After interviewing more than 150 impending retirees and conducting focus groups, Schlossberg suggests focusing on three specific concerns to better enjoy retirement: your identity, your mission and your relationships.
For most of our lives, we identify ourselves by the title on our business card. It is what we worked for decades to achieve, and toward which many of us worked countless days and nights. Whether you are a consultant, an executive or a chef, most people will automatically understand your day-to-day life and passions based on your job title or functions. In retirement, you no longer have a title to define you.
"When I was a professor at the University of Maryland, it was very easy to say that, and people got a picture of who I was. If you are a roofer, painter, artist, teacher — that's part of your identity," Schlossberg explained. "One man who retired as CEO of a Fortune 100 company had plenty of money for his golden years, but he said his retirement felt 'hollow' because he hadn't thought about his new identity."
Fortunately, as a solopreneur, I've had more opportunity than most to consider my identity, although the line between work and personal life has often been blurred. My recent goal has been to take the time to define myself outside of my business. After all, I am more than my resume.
Mission and strategic plan
Just as your organization was driven by its mission statement, you will also need to consider what you would like the purpose of your retirement years to be. If there is anything you had considered pursuing in the past, but were unable to do so due to work or time commitments, then retirement is an excellent opportunity to discover new passions or devote more time to existing passions. You can plan multiple goals for your retirement, so don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and learn a new skill, try a new hobby or even travel.
Consider yourself to be an organization. I have named my new organization, "Me, Inc." Just as you would establish a strategic plan for your organization, you can also establish a strategic plan for the rest of your life. I have asked myself, "What are the areas on which I most want to focus?" For me they include family and friends, health, spirituality, volunteerism, home and hobbies. Then establish goals for each area.
In retirement, many find they miss the camaraderie they found in the office, and the friendships they built over the years. While these relationships do not necessarily dissolve in retirement, they can become more difficult to maintain. Consider the existing relationships in which you want to invest your time and energy, and think about ways to build new relationships. One way to accomplish this is to become active in new volunteer groups and other organizations where you can interact with others with similar interests. Retirement also allows for more time spent with family, which is a priority for many.
If you have some idea of an itinerary and what you would like to accomplish before you set out, by focusing on these three areas, you can create your re-imagined life.