One of the joys of Marriage and Family Counseling is that I get to work with scores of clients about countless subjects. One of my favorites is helping clients design their retirements. This should begin about age 50, but for most it is 60 or even 70.
Many of us hear about retirement planning and think only of financial planning. That is an extremely important element in the task, but certainly not the only thing that needs thinking, planning and action.
Bolles and Nelson in their What Color is Your Parachute? FOR RETIREMENT: Planning a Prosperous, Healthy and Happy Future, think of life as divided into four stages: infancy, learning or development, working or productivity, and retirement. They see the old retirement age as being leisure, but the New Retirement as including self-development, productivity and leisure.
We develop through each of these stages and gain more wisdom, experience more happiness, ending in a stage that gives us the opportunities to create well-being and make sure our legacy continues beyond our death. It is the culmination of our values, personal growth, development of self, commitment to our purpose, our passion, and the pleasure of giving to others. Creating meaning continues to be important to our well- being.
The New Retirement requires an Inventory and Planning
As we approach what we refer to as retirement, the old model being the ending of work and the new model being the new beginning or final stage of life, we need to spend time taking an inventory to know what we are passionate about in life.
In terms of a symphony, the Fourth Movement is a blank slate. It is up to the composer to decide what to write. Traditionally the composer writes about victory, triumph, and joy. Alternately it could be anticlimactic, subdued or meandering. We get to design our own Fourth Movement. Will you choose a heroic movement or something else? The energy found in Fourth Movements brings our lives to triumphant resolution!
Where do we get our energy after 50? More and more it must come from within. It comes less from the physical and more from our passion or excitement about life and what we are doing in the final Movement of our Life.
Designing our Prosperity to Create Well-Being
Examining our needs and desires for our physical location and environment is the first area to be decided. Where to live? The opportunities abound for any place on planet earth. Community offerings, climate, proximity to children or other family members, and cost of living begin our exploration. The house we live in can be extremely important. What purpose does it serve – project, community center, base of operations, or retreat. Many considerations should be looked at: How large? One story? Amount of maintenance? Amenities? Retirement community? Assisted living?
Prosperity also means accessing our finances. We all should have a good retirement portfolio established. It is best to begin it at the beginning of your working days. By 50 you should have a plan in place that provides for 20 or more years for your last stage of life. We have to play catch-up otherwise, and that can be difficult. You should get professional guidance in this area. You will probably want to explore a new career, part time work, volunteerism, or starting your own business for productivity and passion.
Designing our Health to Create Well-Being
Another area to scrutinize is your physical condition. This includes health and health care. What do you do for exercise? What recreation do you enjoy? How do you relax? Are you in shape to participate in healthy activities? How can you get there or stay there? How do you eat? What do you need to change? Where do you get your food? What health conditions are in your family or do you already have? What kinds of prevention and maintenance are available to you? What healthcare do you have? How close are your doctors, clinics and hospitals? What healthcare plans are best for your needs?
Designing our Happiness to Create Well-Being
The final area to investigate is your happiness – the psychological and sociological needs of your retirement. This is the area of most of my retirement coaching. We get to explore many positive psychology themes and exercises found in the main tenants of creating happiness. Your well-being will depend on knowing and doing what brings you pleasure, what constitutes engagement and the use of your strengths, what activities give you meaning, the importance of close relationships, and your sense of achievement and work on the continuation of your legacy.
I encourage you to make a comprehensive approach to designing the ideal future for your retirement so you spend this vital time in splendid well-being.