According to the folks at MIT's AgeLab, our lives can be divided into four segments of 8,000 days – roughly 22 years each. They refer to these segments as learning, growing, maturing, and exploring. At a recent Charles Schwab event on the topic of retirement, John Diehl, an expert at the lab shared, “Now that we’ve achieved what we’ve been trying to do forever – extending human life – we really don’t have any idea of what to do with that extended life period.” He goes on to note that we’re so focused on the first three segments and simply making it to the fourth that we don’t know what to do with ourselves when we get there.
As an advisor, I see this play out in the lives of my clients. Many are so excited to stop working, they fail to consider what they’ll do with themselves when they finally do retire. For many of us, our work gives us something to do, offers us a community of like-minded individuals, and ultimately gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth. Without it, we’re forced to redefine a lot of those things and having to do that all at once can be really difficult. In light of that, I think it’s worth considering those questions ahead of time and having some of those items in place before you walk out the door of your place of work for the very last time. If you need a little help brainstorming, might I offer an excellent example from my favorite retired couple: my grandparents.
Several years ago, my grandparents retired from a decades-long venture as small business owners. This was a huge change for them. Luckily, they already had a lot of items lined up to keep them busy, being involved in their community, and living with a sense of purpose. A few of those items – things like volunteering with their church – they had already been doing for a long time which provided a source of continuity during this major life event. As they saw their free-time expand, they began taking on other ventures. My grandfather now volunteers with the police department and the local funeral home. They recently purchased a camper and joined a camping collective that does volunteer work for different churches in need. They are also active gardener’s and enjoy spending time out in nature. And finally, they have a wonderful community of friends who they keep up with. All of these have combined to make retirement a really fulfilling phase of life for them, and as a financial advisor and their granddaughter, I’m so incredibly happy for them that they get to enjoy something they worked so hard for.
If you find yourself eyeing retirement with a mixed sense of joy and anxiety, I highly recommend taking the time to explore what you want to do with your next 22 years. Spend some time exploring different ways to volunteer or get involved in your community. Ask friends in a similar position if there are things that you could do together – things like a travel club, book club, cooking club, etc. Go ahead and dream big: are there trips that you’ve always wanted to take or places you’ve always hoped to explore? Maybe now is the time to finally make those dreams happen. Whatever it is, I hope you take the time to find things that will give you purpose as your journey into this next phase, and as always, if you need a little help thinking through that – give us a call. We’re happy to chat.
*this article was first published on our sister site www.galsguidetomoney.com on June 28, 2018.
“8,000 days of retirement: Longevity brings expanded role for advisors.” Charles Schwab. https://advisorservices.schwab.com/insights-hub/perspectives/longer-retirement-brings-expanded-role-advisors?cmp=TKT.