The New Life Period Between Working and Retirement
With better health and longer lives, we have a new opportunity to discover our selves and our world—if we can afford to do so.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably been hearing a lot lately about the "new retirement" and "next chapters" for those of us in the baby-boom generation who are getting ready to transition to retirement. Indeed, there is a movement of sorts taking hold to find more happiness and fulfillment in this stage of life.
So what's all the hype about this new retirement? And what does it mean for you?
Well, the hype is well-founded—what lies before you is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshuffle your deck and live the life you were meant to live. Big words, huh?
Let's get some perspective: We all know that years ago, our grandparents—and maybe parents—retired at an average age of 65 and lived to be maybe 75 or 85. In those days, you worked for the same company for many years and probably got a good pension to boot. When you retired, you took it easy and did the things you enjoyed.
Fast forward to today: Very few of us have one-firm careers, and even fewer have pensions. We're seeing the emergence of a gig economy, in which many people piece together a living doing maybe two or three part-time jobs or side hustles. The "normal" retirement age of 62 or 65 is not realistic for many without that dependable pension to count on. Social Security is in trouble, and there is so much uncertainty out there now. When we combine these trends with the gifts of increasing longevity and better health, we get a perfect storm of opportunity to redefine this stage in life.
I like to think of retirement as actually staying the same; the difference is we're postponing it to make room for a new chapter in our lives. The life-cycles we are familiar with include our learning phase (the college years), followed by house-holding in our 20s to mid-30s, and then career-building (all the while parenting for many).
Once you get to the point where the nest is empty, you have the freedom and greater resources to re-think what you do! You don't have the same rules anymore. And you may begin to experience a restless feeling—a sort of gravitational pull in a different direction.
One of the best descriptions of the opportunity at hand can be found in Abraham Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. If you recall this from college, the idea is that first you must meet your basic human needs for food, shelter, etc. before you can move on to intellectual pursuits and ultimately, this thing called Self-actualization at the top of the pyramid.
For years this concept escaped me (what is that?!). I now think of Self-actualization as a process that accumulates over time. I envision a layered tapestry weaving in your life experiences, your unique skills and talents and your perspective of the world around you. This is the secret sauce that only you can offer—it's your mojo. It is your dharma calling! The great opportunity of this phase is understanding that you can put your life experiences together in a new way, creating something meaningful and interesting for yourself and the world.
We truly are the first generation that can claim this new space as a distinct life phase. Too many of us continue to work in our main job or career just because we know it. It's our comfort zone. If you need to still earn an income, the logical thing is to keep at it. And for many this may be a good solution.
But for many others, this is the one last chance to create a life that speaks to your heart—your true authentic self—and to pursue dharma in a way that was not possible before. We ought not to ignore the possibilities this time of life presents to us!
Most importantly, you first have to think outside the box and imagine the possibilities. You owe it to your soul to explore this next phase and make it your best one yet. Figure out what it is your heart would like to pursue, so you can make a real plan to do it. (Find more resources and inspiration on how to tackle your Act 2 at my website www.act2transitions.com.)
Seizing this opportunity does not have to involve ditching your life. It can be more like a tweak. It would take focus and concentration, no doubt. And there is a certain zen component to the soul-searching you will need to do.
But perhaps the biggest stumbling block is finances. In my 25 years as a financial adviser, I've never had anyone ask how they could fund a great Act 2; the focus has always been on retirement. The assumption was that it was not possible to dream this dream unless and until you hit your retirement number and became free. The problem with this thinking is that you wind up spending much more of your energy on something that is not your truth. Who knows how much time we have really? With soul-searching and tweaking your financial plan, you will be amazed at how do-able this can be!
To illustrate, consider these three ways to engage this new chapter if you still need to earn an income:
- Work part-time to create space to pursue your passions. The value of part-time work is vastly under-stated; working longer has enormous benefits.
- Re-configure your skill set in a way that offers up a unique service or product that you love and that the world needs! Find this sweet spot for yourself, and you won't even need to "retire" from it!
- Create a financial plan that incorporates some scaling back with some creative resource solutions to allow you to pursue this reaching this new life stage in a specific time period—maybe a three- to five-year or even a 10-year plan. Downsizing can play a big role, as can financial strategies to re-work what you have. (The "Life Planning movement" is especially suited to help you craft a financial plan that helps you create and live your dream life. Find more information about this at www.lifeplanningforyou.com.)
Paula Osenni is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and holds a master's degree in Finance. She is a 25-year financial planning veteran who founded Act 2 Transitions to inspire and coach others to create their best chapter yet. Based on multiple skills and extensive experience, she offers coaching, strategic financial solutions and workshops all geared to get clients to the second acts.