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Article - Retirement Success

“The whole notion of retirement has been radically changed. Formerly we thought of retirement as the beginning of the end; today we simply think of retirement as a new beginning. The retirement transition is actually the beginning of a new career/life stage called RENEWAL.”  - Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D., author of The New Retirement

When I facilitate workshops on Retirement Success, I like to start with a question. ”What is your first thought when I mention the word retirement?” Most people say ‘money’. We spend our time planning for the financial aspect of retirement. Of course this is important, but it is not the only factor. We often spend more time planning for a two week trip than we do for retirement. Just as we plan for a trip, we need a road map for where we are going for the rest of our life.

Our work life fulfills five basic needs of life:

  1. Financial
  2. Time management
  3. Sense of purpose
  4. Status or role in society
  5. Social

Let’s have a look at each of these areas. Our financial needs are fulfilled by working. For a successful retirement, we need adequate financial security to maintain our desired life-style. Money cannot guarantee retirement success, but it does play a central role in overall satisfaction in retirement. A key question is: How much is enough? Being human, our answer is usually ‘a little more.’! We need to consider our priorities for retirement: family, leisure, friends, home, travel, material possessions, physical health etc. and ask ourselves how much money will I really need?

Our time is managed for us, to a large extent, by work.  Work gives structure to our life and keeps us in the mainstream of life. We know where we will be Monday morning. Once retired, we are in charge of all this time. How will we manage it? There are 168 hours in the week. If we give ourselves 56 hours to sleep, 56 hours to work (allowing for travel and overtime), we have 56 hours left. When we retire, we will be in charge of 112 hours – we need a plan. How will we structure our time?

Work provides a sense of purpose or utility. It gives some meaning to our life. No matter what our work is, we are needed in some way. How can we replace this in retirement?

Through our work, we have a certain status or role in society. In fact, many of us take our personal identity from our work.  We are often so invested in our work that our jobs define not only what we do, but who we are. In planning for retirement many options are open to us.  It might be another full time job, part time work, volunteer work or maybe starting that business you always dreamed of. What might your new role be?

Finally, work brings us in contact with many other people and provides socialization.  We connect with others, form relationships and even friendships in the workplace. Many times, these relationships end once we leave the workplace. We have all heard the expression: ‘friends for a season, friends for a reason, friends for life’. As not all friendships become friends for life, we need to ensure we have social contact in retirement. Research suggests a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being. Finding new avenues of social interaction are crucial.

Retirement can be the most exciting life phase, offering the freedom to do whatever we want. It is our invitation to grow, learn, and experience life in a new way. It can also challenge us in ways we never thought of. The key, of course, is planning. By using the five factors as a base, we can develop the plan and experience retirement as a most exciting time of renewal. 

For a more detailed assessment, take the Retirement Success Profile survey, which looks at 15 factors for a successful retirement. Research suggests that individuals are more productive at work if they have a solid plan for retirement in place.

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