Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Next in Life newsletter. Featuring research-based information and practical ideas for your retirement, each issue is dedicated to helping you explore and plan what you will do with your retirement. Here, the language of retirement is explored – does it excite or depress you? 

What Do You Do?

Exploring Opportunities in Retirement

Asking people what they do is a standard conversation opener. If you are in the paid work force, you might answer, “I am an engineer.” Or you might provide your company name and department, “I work for Telus in marketing.” And if you’ve left paid work behind, you’ll likely answer, “I’m retired.” 

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, retire is from the French: “re” meaning back, and “tirer” meaning to draw. “Retirer” became retire – to withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion – and that does not reflect the lives of most people in retirement nor reveal anything about how time or effort is spent.

The challenge when approaching retirement is figuring out how you want the future to look. If you don’t have a clear vision, you are not alone. Researchers at MIT’s AgeLab asked people to list five words that describe life after career. Words like hobbies, travel, and relax were favoured by older men and peace, calm, and time were popular with older women suggesting no clear vision of life after work. 

How do you create a vision? Start by acknowledging that paid work provides many benefits: financial remuneration; time management (structure to the day); a sense of utility or purpose; status; a social network; and, not insignificantly, intellectual stimulation. 

In an April 2019 Wall Street Journal article Dr. Richard W. Johnson noted that “without the purpose of fulfilling work, retirees can feel adrift and become depressed. Without the camaraderie of their co-workers, retirees risk becoming socially isolated. Without the intellectual stimulation that work can provide, retirement can accelerate cognitive decline.” That said, purpose, camaraderie, and intellectual stimulation can be realized with unpaid work and other pursuits.

Planning how to fill the void that opens up with either decreased or complete disengagement from paid work is a required task. In the meantime, let’s change the conversation. Instead of asking “What do you do?” how about “Tell me a bit about yourself?” In this way we can begin to create a tangible picture of the retirement experience. 

Read the full version of this article with references here

Start Retirement with Self‑assessment

Regular self-assessment, every three to five years, is integral to a positive retirement experience. If you can see a typical day, week or year arising from completing the sentence “I would like my retirement to be a time in my life when …” you have a starting point for your retirement vision. If trying to complete this sentence leaves you feeling anxious, you won’t be the first. Next in Life offers two retirement readiness assessments that can point you in the direction of where to begin. For a deep dive into self-assessment check out James Hollis’ Living an Examined Life. Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey (2018). You can read my review of his book here

What are Others Doing After Career?

Carl Honoré, author of Bolder: Making the Most of Our Longer Lives (2019), offer examples from around the globe of how people are engaging with life in their later years. They may help you re-imagine your own approach to later life. My favourite quote from the book are words from David Bowie, “I think ageing is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.”
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Copyright © 2020 *Stefa Katamay, All rights reserved.

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