Retirement is dead, or at least in the original sense of sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.
Today, many portray retirement as a point in time for a dream. People save their entire lives, work hard, sacrifice time with family, and abandon friends, all in order to get to this magical but totally arbitrary landmark. However, when the time comes, it amazes me how many times they haven’t asked themselves even the most basic questions: What’s next? What will I actually do in retirement? Who will I be? And perhaps most importantly: with whom would I do it? Especially when you think about retirement, it is often cited as a major contributor to the increase in the number of gray divorce Divorce cases over the age of fifty.
Having to rebuild personal relationships, losing professional networks, and not having the identity of an employer, executive, surgeon, athlete or other profession can be upsetting. Some retirees find that the core of their identity is lost, especially when they have not built strong personal networks and are relying solely on their professional identity.
Study after study has shown that many who retire in the traditional sense often quit what brings them happiness. This disengagement can lead to poor health, depression, and cognitive problems—all of which are likely to eventually cause a decline in both healthy range and how people rate their quality of life.
But what are your options if you have one current occupation not for you career forever? And what if you are already retired! The answer is simple – do not retire! Engage and enter what I call your era of choice.
Some of the most energetic and long-lived individuals do not the retirement at any age. Instead, they constantly interact re-invention themselves. For you, it could be volunteering, engaging in a job you may have left, starting a new career, developing new social networks, or finding activities outside of work environments. The key is to get involved in life and be in a position to choose to live the life you want. For example, I don’t have any personal plans for retirement. In my age of choice, I will remain engaged outside of work through a combination of focusing on friends and family, continuing my education, traveling, writing, and mentoring the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.
The shift in mindset is not to retire, but to have enough financial independence to create your own era of personal choice — when you are fully in the financial leadership seat. That is, your lifestyle is no longer dependent on your career or work. If you choose to earn less, or even nothing, you can still live the life you want.
In this framework, your goal should not be retirement, but instead, you should plan to develop your lifestyle where financial independence allows you to choose the opportunities you wish to pursue.
Of course, having choices isn’t enough, it’s important to make choices that affect your lifestyle and understand why you’re making those choices. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, they developed the concept of ikigai. The term Ikigai comes from the Japanese words iki meaning life or life and gai meaning benefit or value. Rough translation means to be alive and to give your life value or meaning.
In the States, we’ve been taught that retirement is what you get at the end of a race, and it’s about how you entertain yourself from the point the race ends until you die. This is radically different from choosing through an Ikigai filter. Ikigai shifts the focus from how to entertain oneself to feeling good.
Does moving from entertainment to focusing on achievement make a difference? For the people of Okinawan and other blue zones who have lifestyle concepts similar to ikigai, it does. The blue regions are the rare regions in which individuals have been found to be significantly longer than their average lifespan, and are currently being studied to reveal the root causes of increased longevity. Much of the research focuses on their diet or movement, but they have another common denominator: a tendency to value notions of achievement and community throughout one’s life. This mindset has been shown to lead to healthier, happier lifestyles – not to mention a longer life.
So whether you’re just starting out, retiring in the full sense of the word, or are somewhere in the middle, there are concrete steps to transforming your retirement goal into a new era of choice that can be shared with those you care about most about — after all who want to be done. Put it out in the pasture.
Start assessing your position today by asking yourself some introspective questions: Do your relationships need work? Do you care about your health? Do your hobbies keep you busy or just provide a little entertainment? Can you identify the things that make you want to get up in the morning? Is your financial plan designed around an end point or about creating a lifestyle that you want to be able to adapt over time?
It is important to understand that this new plan may or may not include a point where earning income in the traditional sense ends and that some of your previous goals may be replaced by something more satisfying.
Now that you’re done with the difficult and introspective part, update your plan and make it more than just numbers. Identify and include areas of achievement and enrichment, and deal with them with the importance they deserve. Similar to correcting financial gaps, you may need to develop specific plans to improve more personal areas designed to achieve greater fulfillment. Examples of regular date nights with your spouse, activities with friends, or improving your health through diet and exercise can be planned. After all, just as your bank account does not grow without regular deposits, your health and relationships will not thrive without regular investments of time and effort.
Finally, implement your updated plan with the understanding that you will adapt over time, so the plan will need that as well. As you get older and your values and abilities change, what you find attractive today is likely to be modified as well. For this reason, it is important to commit to constantly finding areas for growth and expansion in order to remain engaged and engaged in active communities.
The basic truth of this whole concept is simple: Don’t wait! Don’t sacrifice friends and family to some point in the future, or put off what pleases you to an arbitrary date — or maybe forever? Change the way you think from working hard to pasture yourself in endless retirement to an age of choice where you move instantly to a more powerful and fulfilling life. As your resources grow, so will your opportunities, but starting planning for a future that brings new beginnings rather than just begging to quit your current job is the day you take your first step into the age of new choice.
Trey Smith, CFP®, CIMA®, CPWA®, ChFC®, CRPC®
Senior Managing Director / Trust Wealth
Trust Investment Services, Inc.
Sources: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Hardcover – August 29, 2017;
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