Many retirement planners spend most of their time focusing on the financial aspects of retirement. Finances are essential, but other vital ingredients should not be ignored. Human beings are social by nature. We thrive on interaction with each other, and a large share of those interactions happen in our places of work. Finding ways to stay engaged with family, friends, and our community is one of the critical ingredients for a happy retirement. Sometimes, this can mean staying engaged in work.
Working during retirement might seem like a counterintuitive way of spending time during our golden years. However, working is not necessarily a bad thing. Most people admit there are things about their work or jobs they enjoy. Could a happy retirement still include working, but only doing the parts of our jobs we enjoy?
Let’s separate our job into two parts:
The part we find rewarding and enjoyable, and the part we do not enjoy and want to eliminate.
According to Joe Kesler, author of Smart Money with Purpose, work offers five rewards that we should strive to hang on to:
- It allows us to feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
- Work provides the opportunity to learn creatively.
- A job provides us with a sense of identity.
- Working creates social bonds with coworkers.
- Employment provides income.
Financial planners and most of the financial press tend to focus on replacing number five, and in some ways, it is the most direct benefit to replace. Are you saving enough money? Will your savings last through your life expectancy? How can you optimize Social Security drawing strategies, minimize income taxes after retirement, etc.? These are all critical retirement planning topics that deserve our attention.
But what about the other four benefits?
Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood told reporters during his 90th birthday that he is not retiring from acting. He plans to still be making movies when he reaches age 100. He does not need income from making movies, but continues to work for the other four benefits.
What does life look like when you no longer need to go to work?
Visualizing life after work is an essential part of planning and deserves just as much thought and attention as growing a nest egg. Many people see themselves traveling, playing golf, gardening, spending more time with family, or taking care of projects around the house. Maybe continuing to work—but only doing the enjoyable parts—should be part of that vision.
We need to adjust our vision of retirement to more of a career change. It is a time of self- financed independence, but contributing to society is still emotionally important. There are ways to use our problem-solving skills and stay engaged in the community. This should be a part of everyone’s retirement plan.
Researchers have learned that many people continue to work into their 70s because they have no idea what to do with their free time. There is nothing wrong with continuing to work when you love what you are doing. I believe that should be the goal—to spend more time doing what you love to do.
How do we design an ideal retirement?
Mr. Kesler offers these six suggestions:
- Ramp up creativity and learning. Many colleges and universities offer continuing educations classes. Take an art class or learn a second language. Career and technology schools provide many opportunities to learn new skills.
- Redesign work. Full-time leisure in retirement is often neither satisfying nor fulfilling. Plan your golden years to include some work and service to others. Many churches and non-profits need your skillset. Eliminate those things about work that were not enjoyable.
- Redefine identity. Transitioning from a lifestyle with job titles and deadlines can create a different kind of stress. Who are you now? How will you describe yourself to someone meeting you for the first time?
- Build deep friendships. Many people develop strong social ties to their colleagues at work. Retiring could mean losing or significantly reducing contact with a large part of your social network. Those in this situation should work on developing friendships outside of work with people who have similar interests.
- Capture Kodak moments. No discussion about social contact would be complete without considering what retirement will mean to your spouse and family. Parents and grandparents are the keepers of family stories. It is their responsibility to repeat the stories they have inherited, to build on those stories, and to insert their chapter in the book of family wisdom.
- Eliminate the toxins. This is the time to be doing the things we love to do and doing them with the people we enjoy being around. Remember how we separated our job into two parts? Do the same with your network. This is the time to be picky about who you spend your time with.
- Finding ways to stay engaged with family, friends, and our community is one of the key ingredients for a happy retirement.
- There is nothing wrong with continuing to work during retirement when you love what you are doing.
- Full-time leisure in retirement is often neither satisfying nor fulfilling.