Transitioning to a successful retirement is much more than a math problem, it’s a design problem.
Every retiree needs to design a retirement lifestyle that will work for them based on their own unique values, needs and wants and then ensure they have sufficient cash flow to finance it. The challenge is that most retirees don’t know what they need and want, nor how to get it and therein lies the problem.
In this series of three articles based on content from my two books “Victory Lap Retirement” and “Retirement Heaven or Hell” I’m going to show you how to transition from your current career into a retirement of your own design.
This article and the second one covers the first and most important step which is to figure out what your sources of purpose will be in retirement. In the third article I will share how to build a lifestyle around that.
Purpose: Something To Live For
During my retirement presentations I’ve been conducting a poll asking people to indicate their biggest retirement concern. What I found was that for pre-retirees their biggest concern is having enough money saved for retirement. This isn’t surprising, as the financial services industry spends millions pushing the importance of saving for retirement.
What I found interesting is when I ask the same question to a group of recent retirees the answer switches overwhelmingly to finding purpose in retirement.
These results match up well with recent studies done by Ken Dychtwald’s AgeWave where 92% percent of retirees agree that finding purpose is key to a successful retirement – 93% of the retirees surveyed by AgeWave believed it’s important to feel useful in retirement and 87% agreed that being useful actually “makes them feel youthful.”
Lesson On Purpose From The Pandemic
Many of us learned how important having a source of purpose is from the pandemic. If you couldn’t work from home, there wasn’t much in the way of meaningful things to do, outside of just trying to survive. Not having a source of purpose made us feel a little lost, and frustrated, and life got boring real fast.
Some people woke up to the fact that having a job, any job was far better than just puttering around the house killing time, and taking the dog out for another walk around the block.
When we retire we need to find new sources of purpose in something else, or we are going to be in trouble.
When the kids leave home and we retire our sense of purpose takes a major hit. Suddenly, we wake up to days that aren’t filled by meetings and deadlines, and chauffeuring our kids to their activities. It feels like the things that defined us—our very identity—is slipping away.
We need to find a good way of filling the big hole that was left behind. Until we do that we will always feel like something is missing in our lives. Feeling like this can really mess some people up.
Retiring to nothing is equivalent to digging a premature grave.
At the end of many of my retirement seminars people will tell me stories about a family member or friend who struggled soon after retiring and ended up living a miserable life.
Many of these stories were about people who enjoyed a successful primary career, they had substantial retirement assets yet they just seemed to shrivel up and die soon after packing it in.
Doctors, teachers, business owners, senior executives, people that should have enjoyed a great retirement but didn’t because they were unable to find a suitable replacement source of purpose. Really when you think about it how do you replace a calling?
Related: Not Another Retirement Planning Book
Purpose keeps the fire going and prevents us from drying out. For me, discovering my purpose is what got me out of retirement hell.
We are all wired to need purpose and meaning. We all need something to live for and when you retire you need to find new suitable sources of purpose because without it you risk your health, happiness, and longevity.
Studies have shown us that;
- People at every stage of life are happier when they possess a sense of purpose and we know from the famous “Nun” study that happy people live longer.
- People with the highest sense of purpose live significantly longer than those with a lower sense of purpose and it doesn’t matter how rich or poor people are, or what gender they are, what race they are or their education level.
- Purposeful people have stronger immune systems, they can handle stress better and can recover from surgery quicker.
Sources of purpose
Purpose comes in many different shapes and sizes and most retirees have more than one. Your chosen purpose does not need to be grandiose; it only needs to be something meaningful to you.
Retirees find purpose from taking care of a garden, providing eldercare, taking care of a cat, going back to school, learning how to fly fish, training for an Ironman, starting a new business or doing volunteer work.
Living your purpose strengthens your sense of self; it gives you a way to explain who you are to other people. You no longer have to feel embarrassed telling people you are retired when you have a good source of purpose.
The key is to do whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever makes you feel that you still contribute, and that you still matter.
Purpose Helps Keep You Alive
Ask yourself why do rich people like Charlie Munger age 97 and Warren Buffett age 90 continue to work? Why do the Rolling Stones keep touring?
The answer is they work because it gives them purpose and their passion for their work helps keep them alive.
Their work excites them and makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning. It serves as their own personal ‘Fountain of Youth” and keeps them youthful and energized. Sitting on a couch watching tv doesn’t do that for them.
When you have a source of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. When you find your purpose life becomes easier, and less stressful. There is no space for negativity to seep in because you are busy doing fulfilling, meaningful things.
Purpose is something that we all need until our last breath, and even having a lot of money will never change that.
So now that we know the important role purpose plays in a successful retirement the million-dollar question is where can we find a good source of purpose?
Be sure to read my next article where I will share how you can discover this.
Mike Drak is an author, public speaker and recognized authority on the non-financial aspects of retirement. After having spent 38-years in the financial services industry, Mike retired and personally faced what he called “retirement shock”. During this time, Mike found himself on a journey of self discovery and authored two best selling books on retirement; Victory Lap Retirement and Retirement Heaven or Hell: Which Will You Choose?. Mike is a Senior Contributor at Booming Encore and dedicates his time to helping other retirees design a fulfilling, meaningful retirement lifestyle for themselves.