"So, what do you do?"
That's one of the first two or three questions we ask or get asked when we meet someone new. Our work is such an enormous part of how we think about ourselves, and other people. When we retire, and we can no longer say "I'm an engineer" or "I'm a CEO," many folks feel like they no longer know who they are.
Bob Buford's HALFTIME: Moving from Success to Significance offers a possible solution that's stuck with me ever since I first read the book about a decade ago. Buford was a successful cable TV exec who revaluated his priorities and made a very intentional plan for the second half of his life. I believe all seniors can adapt his three-part process to their retirement transitions and redefine who they are in a meaningful way.
1. First Half
For the first part of our lives, many of us are focused on building our careers and providing for our families. We may support a few charities and volunteer a few hours every week. And we make what time we can for hobbies and recreation. But our focus is usually pretty limited. Advancing in our careers allows us to progress through some major financial milestones, such as buying a first home or putting kids through college. Hopefully, we also start working with a financial advisor to plan for some long-term financial goals, including retirement.
And then ... retirement comes closer. That all-consuming career is coming to an end. The kids are grown, and the house is starting to feel empty.
In sports, halftime is when the teams take a breather to reflect on what's gone right, identify what they could be doing better, and plan some key adjustments.
Your halftime can do the same for your life in retirement.
For starters, rather than dreading the end of your career, be proud! All your hard work provided a good life for your family. You've no doubt developed some professional skills that hold a lot of value. And if you've committed to a comprehensive financial plan, you probably have a solid foundation for the second half of your life.
So, let me rephrase that all-important question: What do you want to do now?
If you head into your halftime with a positive outlook, answering shouldn't feel so disconcerting. Think about your passions, your skillset, hobbies you want to develop, the people you want to spend more time with, the causes that are most important to you.
You might tell me:
"I'm going to coach my grandchild's baseball team."
"I'm going to take French classes with my husband to prep for our big trip to Paris next year."
"I'm going to volunteer at the local homeless shelter."
"I'm an amateur golfer who will work with a coach to lower my handicap."
"I want to teach adult literacy."
"I want to work towards my Master's degree so that I can start my own business."
Once you've clarified your goals for the next stage of your life, you can work with your advisor to make a financial blueprint for realizing those goals while also maintaining your preferred lifestyle in retirement. It doesn't matter how big or how small those goals are. What matters is that your new "What do you do?" gets you out of bed every morning excited for another fulfilling day.
3. Second Half
Now for the fun part: putting that plan into action!
I often advise new retirees to build some flexibility into their blueprints. Giving yourself some room to try new things will keep your retirement fresh, especially if some of your ideas about who you are now and what you want to do aren't as rewarding as you thought they'd be. Many of the happiest retirees I've worked with put real effort into staying curious, following the occasional whim, and leaving their comfort zones.
It's also important to remember that no retirement blueprint or "three-step" process is ever really over. Thanks to better medicine, nutrition, and exercise habits, I predict this generation of seniors is going to bust through a lot of old assumptions about what retirees can do and how long they can do it. You might find yourself taking another "halftime" in your 70s or 80s to plan for a new career, a new philanthropic venture, or a new focus on crossing off some bucket list items.
My Keen Wealth team and our comprehensive planning process can help you rediscover yourself at every stage of your retirement. Let's schedule some time to review your financial plan and discuss who you want to be in your next chapter.
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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