If you’re like most people, you want to do something you love—something that gives life meaning—after you retire.

Yet planning what to do in retirement often takes a back seat to planning how to fund retirement.

To get clients’ wheels turning on how to craft a purposeful retirement, I recently had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on the topic.

We’ve summarized the conversation below and have also included an exercise and resources designed to help you thoughtfully jump-start your own successful transition to retirement.

Our Panelists

Our panelists included Melodee Bluhm, former Sales/Shopper Insights Manager for Mars, Inc; Doug Johanson, co-founder and former CEO of Vista; and Kirsten Meneghello, J.D., Certified Professional Retirement Coach and founder of Illumination Coaching LLC.

Finding Purpose in Retirement: A Conversation

Where are you in your retirement journey?

Melodee: Since retiring 5 years ago, I’ve spent time volunteering, traveling, and have played a lot of golf. My husband retired a couple years after me, and so far, [smiling] we’re subscribing to the maxim “go go in your 60s, go slow in your 70s, and no go in your 80s.”

Doug: I retired a year ago. So far, I’ve spent a month in Spain, taken classes in bike maintenance, skied in Sun Valley, and more. I’ve prioritized spending time with family and friends while “shifting into neutral,” or decompressing, something author David Corbett recommends in his book Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50.

How did you approach retirement planning?

Melodee: My father-in-law often says it’s not what you retire from, it’s what you retire to. I considered what brings me joy as I transitioned into my retirement. At this point, I’ve chosen to emphasize self-care, connecting with others, travel, and giving back.

Doug: As I moved toward retirement, I began to clear my calendar and focus on two things—spending more time with friends and family and being active outdoors. I intentionally built in time to “reset” post-retirement.

What three things should people consider as they prepare to retire?

Kirsten: First, recognize that retirement is a big transition. Second, visualize who you want to become in retirement. Finally, create goals in support of this.

To this point, I highly recommend the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges, which discusses the psychological process of change, from letting go to shifting into neutral to becoming energized for a new beginning.

A couple other things to keep in mind: (1) You cannot rush these transitions—each person goes through the stages differently; (2) And if you’re feeling overwhelmed about planning your retirement, remember you need only plan three to five years—not 30 years—ahead.

How have your expectations of retirement compared to reality?

Doug: While I miss the daily interactions of my pre-retirement life. At this stage, I find [cheekily] appointments are like thorns.

Melodee: We had high expectations for our retirement—and it has exceeded our expectations. Being intentional with our time has helped us achieve this. On most Monday mornings, my husband and I meet to talk about the week ahead, think about people we’d like to see, and look for opportunities to take a trip or two in the coming months.

Retirement Transition Wheel: An Exercise

Presented by Certified Professional Retirement Coach Kirsten Meneghello, the Retirement Transition Wheel is a tool retirees can use to establish a baseline for where you are in 12 key areas of a successful retirement transition.

(Download full-size PDF here.)


Source: Kirsten Meneghello, Illumination Coaching LLC


To use the wheel, select your level of satisfaction in each area, where 7 is highest/greatest and 1 is lowest/least. Then connect the selected numbers on your wheel. The larger your circle, the more prepared you are for transitioning to retirement.

Contemplate what you discovered. Did anything surprise you? Then think of one action step you can take to address areas where you feel less comfortable. And good luck as you embark on your next phase of life!

For Further Reading

Whether you’ve been retired for a while or are contemplating retirement, we shared a few resources to help you navigate your journey. You can download our guide, Beyond Wealth: Purpose in Retirement (PDF), or check out any of the following books we recommend: