As retirement nears, folks tend to become very focused on how they're going to spend their money. But figuring out how you're going to spend your time in retirement is every bit as important. According to a 2021 study by Edward Jones and Age Wave, the pandemic renewed the emphasis that people place on purpose. In fact, their survey found that post-pandemic, "Ninety-two percent of retirees now agree that purpose is key to a successful retirement."
I couldn't agree more. One of the biggest challenges of retirement is the transition away from two of our biggest sources of purpose: raising a family and work. Many seniors aren't prepared for just how jarring that transition can be or just how empty your days can suddenly feel.
Whether you're a new retiree or someone who's starting to glimpse retirement on the horizon, here are three suggestions for rediscovering your purpose.
1. Find a retirement role model.
When I'm working with clients who are nearing retirement, I often ask them to think about someone whom they would consider a successful or happy retiree. What are some words that describe that person? How does that person spend their time? What does that person do for fun? What kind of a social network and support system does that person have around them? Does that person have a part-time job or a regular volunteer position?
You might expect money to be a big part of this conversation. But in my experience, having money isn't what makes seniors happy -- it's the way that they use their nest eggs, however large or modest, to provide stimulation, engagement, and security.
Trying to "keep up with the Joneses" often just leads to splurge purchases at one extreme and living too conservatively at the other. But if the Joneses are invigorated by their weekly tee times, the vacations they plan for, and their tutoring positions at the local high school, maybe buy them dinner and pick their brains about retirement.
2. Get inspired.
Retiring baby boomers, who are healthier and more active than any generation of seniors before them, are redefining the possibilities of retirement. That, in turn, has generated a wealth of content about rethinking traditional approaches to the Golden Years.
For example, the TED Talks library features many speakers who touch on issues related to aging, finance, health, and retirement.
Many seniors have also started using meditation and mindfulness apps that help you clear your head and refocus on what's really important.
I'm proud of the library of podcasts and blogs about navigating retirement that we've put together at Keen Wealth. In particular, these insights from some successful retirees could change your perspective on the second half of your life:
- Don’t Tell My Stepmom What She Can’t Do “At Her Age”
- Avoid These 5 Dangerous Attitudes When Piloting Your Finances
- Dick Blaisdell: Insights on a Successful Retirement
- Kansas City Radio Legend Darcie Blake Explains How She Transitioned From A Dream Job into a Dream Retirement
For you readers out there, I also write quite a bit about my experience with seniors and purposeful retirement in my book “Keen on Retirement: Engineering The Second Half Of Your Life.” And if you'd like a perspective on happiness and purpose that's a little more outside the box, I recommend "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. I often return to the book's story of a young man visiting a beautiful castle when I need to remind myself of what it means to live a full life.
3. Reconnect with your best self.
Think back to the happiest moments in your life, the times when you felt the most at peace, the most sure of your purpose, the most excited for what the day had in store.
Hopefully, work factors into some of those memories. But even if your job wasn't 100% fulfilling, there were moments when you applied your skills and experience to solve a problem or make a coworker's day a little easier. In retirement, you could experience similar satisfaction by using those same skills at a mentorship or volunteer position.
Your family life has changed since your adult children have moved out of the house. But you can experience those same feelings of togetherness by planning a big family vacation, coaching your grandkid's soccer team, or restarting those weekly date nights you and your spouse enjoyed before you had children.
In fact, think back even further to your own childhood. You can't play high school football again. But you can work with a coach who will bring your golf or tennis game up a level. Did you spend lazy summer afternoons on long walks or bike rides? Reincorporate those activities into your daily retirement routine.
As you can see, there’s a very broad definition of what “purpose” can mean to a retiree. Finding your personal definition can be challenging. But it can also be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. Call up my team at Keen Wealth and let’s discuss how our process can help you connect your purpose to your financial planning.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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