Are you ready to retire? Today’s financial advertisements promise that, if you make the right choices, you will be able to live a life of leisure. Leaving the drudgery of an eight to five job should be the promise of a better life—shouldn’t it? The truth is, this message is playing on our desires to avoid the things we don’t want; it is not a promise to help us find what we do want.
Did you know that, of people aged 40-70, only one third intend to retire in the traditional definition of that word? The other two-thirds plan on continuing to work, or will create changes in their work in order to meet their changing interests or physical needs. The word retirement no longer seems to fit in a world where lifespans may stretch to 100 years of age and beyond. We understand this, but are uncertain of our choices. It is time that we re-looked at our assumptions about 55+.
At the age when we become eligible for social security (somewhere around the age of 66), we are at the greatest point of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Does this sound like the time to pull back from life? Instead, we suggest that we mark this stage of life by redefining our purpose, discovering our interests, and recharging! We chose to call this period our “Act III.” It’s a new stage of life, and one that those entering the “senior years” today will be defining. It’s not the first time that a new age has emerged. Consider another recent entry into the stages of life: adolescence.
In 1904, the American Psychologist Association announced their recognition of a new stage of life called “adolescence.” Perhaps you can recall a parent or grandparent talking about how they started to work at age 14 or 16. This story was not a tale told to get you to help with the dishes. Early work lives were the standard and there was little to mark the transition from child to adult. But, as education became more widespread and changes in the workplace required greater levels of education, a new life stage was born. Today, we cannot imagine a 15 year old as an adult. The same emergence of a new stage of life is facing our “senior” generation today.
Fortunately, no one is in a better position to change the meaning of the second half of life than today’s baby boomers. The most educated generation to date, the new senior is more interested in being than in having. We refuse to be daunted by financial turnarounds and are determined not to go quietly into the sunset. We’ve been faced with some financial challenges and, for many of us, we are not able to enjoy some of the benefits that we had planned on. But where resource fail, creativity helps us find imaginative ways of fulfilling our dreams. For example, one couple we know, challenged by a loss of savings during the 2008 downturn, focused on their lifetime dream: traveling throughout the United States. They decided to sell their home and opted instead for a mobile trailer. At the same time, they obtained jobs as product representatives for a gourmet food product. They are now in a position to work full or part time as needed, while traveling the United States. Their circle of friends has expanded and they have never been happier.
Act III lives are filled with new options such as these. People in their 50’s and 60’s are studying for new careers, taking internships, and starting businesses. Karin, tired of her job in financial investments, started a new career in real estate. “I knew how hard I am capable of working; I knew that I would be successful in this business.” For Karin, her new career promises flexibility. She can work as many hours as she wants to, but can cut back if she wants to travel or simply take a break. Starting a new career in her 60’s gave her a renewed interest. “I was getting stagnant in the old job; now I can’t wait to see how I can stage a house or find just the right house for a new couple to build their first home.”
How will you redefine the second half of life? What are the activities that no one could pay you to STOP doing? What do you do when you want to recharge? Follow those natural drives and use them to define your goals for the future. Before you think of retiring—think of recharging.