Re·tire·ment. Noun. The action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.
Retirees will tell you there is much more to it than this simple definition implies. And many will admit they were not fully prepared. A preoccupation with the finances of retirement planning causes many people to overlook the important social and psychological implications.
When people leave their career, they have to learn to stop identifying themselves by their title, company, or industry. This can be more difficult than people realize. Deep introspection is often necessary to reveal an individual’s real values and interests. It’s perfectly acceptable—and recommended—to lay idle, or shift into neutral, during this process of self-discovery. Ultimately, this approach can help reveal true abilities and passions.
David Corbett, author of Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose and Passion after 50, has a unique vantage point after years of helping individuals successfully pivot into new life stages. Corbett notes that Americans are healthier and living longer than any time in history. Today’s 50 to 90 year olds are increasingly blending the once-fixed boundaries between career and retirement.
The most powerful resource we possess to break away from careers and execute a major life transition lies within—our capacity to shift our attitude. Retirement has been synonymous with withdrawing, passivity, and even heading out to pasture. These labels do nothing but detract from energy and self-esteem. They also no longer reflect demographics.
When the Social Security Act was passed in 1935, only one in twenty qualified for the program. Now, one in eight Americans is at least age 65. One in eight of USA Triathlon’s fifty thousand members is also over age fifty. We don’t become “old” because we relinquish things we love as we age, rather we age because we give these very things up. Thankfully, our attitude is not fixed—it can be molded and changed, ultimately leading to new behaviors.
In his book, Corbett creates a life portfolio approach. This step-by-step process combines five elements to create a portfolio that represents who you are—vocational and professional pursuits, ongoing learning, recreation, relationships with family and friends, and giving back through humanitarian or community engagements. The process begins with challenging your mind-set about the notion of “retirement,” and then subsequently revising the time line you have for your life. The last critical step involves embracing the opportunity to create a personal legacy.
In order to accomplish these new goals identified and developed through self-assessment, it is crucial to have a written plan. Think of it as a business plan for your portfolio life. A good plan is realistic, specific, relates to authentic opportunities, and provides purpose. It’s the foundation of a balanced portfolio—one that encompasses your work, interests, and passions. It’s an adaptable and malleable process, so it may shift in ways you don’t foresee. The key is to pursue elements to identify and create something that will outlive us. It helps give birth to our legacy.
Many successful life transitions have begun with an increased focus on giving back. Doing so can generate energy and progress as you transition, while helping increase awareness to purposes bigger than yourself. What’s more, volunteering has been linked to living longer, higher psychological well-being, lowers depression, and better self-reported physical health.
While there is no surefire recipe to finding happiness, the period in life that we used to call “retirement” has now morphed into a wonderful opportunity to find our true passions and reconnect with activities that make us happy. It’s at this stage of our portfolio life that we begin to realize enjoying the journey is, indeed, the ultimate destination.