Retirement: Stepping into a New Stage in Life

© 2019 Brenda Dineen | Reprinting permission with credit to author


The times have changed in retirement land.  As recently as a generation ago, retirement was quite scripted: people worked all their life—often at one job—retired at 65, got their pension and a gold watch.  Then they were sent out to pasture. Just before his 64th birthday, my father retired after working 29 years in the civil service.  He settled into declining age and died when he was 72.

Baby Boomers and those coming up behind us have much bigger hopes and expectations for our future lives.  We are a generation who have lived with optimism, some of us with a strong vision for our future. Many of us have taken care of our health and can expect to live longer than our parents did.  Life expectancy is now much longer for both men and women.  We will retire and go into our elder years in different ways from our parents and grandparents. We have always wanted more and better, and we believe we can create it.

What does retirement mean to you?  Does it signal a time of freedom and relaxation?  A time of not having to work any more?  Or are you fearful of dropping into an abyss or a void, with no purpose in your life?

In the past, our ideas of retirement included these thoughts:  end of work life, being put out to pasture, being put on a shelf, losing a place of meaning and significance in society.

Nowadays, there is a huge range of opinions and views. Some people avoid the word ‘retirement’ and instead are using terms like ‘reinvention’, ‘renewal’, or ‘reengagement’.   I think we will be hearing words like this more.

Do you embrace retirement with optimism? Or do you dread the thought of leaving your work world and feel uncertain about what life will bring?

For many, retirement signals freedom. Freedom from the work world, and new opportunities to do what you want. Many people can’t wait to retire so they can finally do the things they really love.

Here are some suggestions for people at different stages:

Not yet retired?

If retirement is far away, you may be postponing thinking about it.  If your retirement is within 10 years, you are wise to begin planning for it now. Certainly you need a financial plan long-term.  How will your support yourself for what could be an extended life beyond your work years?

If you are within 5 years of retirement, you need to have a very concrete plan, including finances, life style and overall vision of your new life. Do not postpone making this plan.  It is key to having a satisfying retirement.

Beyond a financial plan, you have to think about your new life. What do you want it to look like? Who will you be with and where will you be living?  Are there interests you want to pursue that you don’t have time for when you are working full-time?

You may be worried about what you are going to do with your life when you retire. If you are totally immersed in your work life, you may not be cultivating other interests.  This is a mistake that some people make: they do not plan for what interests they will pursue and what they will do with their time when they retire.

Many people are postponing retirement because they do not have the resources to support themselves. Not everyone has a pension or adequate savings. We are now seeing many people working part-time or full-time in their 60s and 70s because of this.

Already retired?

Hopefully you are feeling really happy with your new life. What are you enjoying? Do you have a sense of purpose?  If not, how will you find one?

Many people go through a transition in the first year or so of retirement. Some feel empty or lost after having such a full life in the work world and feel a void in their life.  Have you experienced this?

One woman said to me: “When I left my retirement party I felt like I was driving off a cliff.” It can be a wrenching adjustment for some people when they leave their work permanently.

Many others are very happy to have retired, and adjusted to their new-found freedom.  They are busy with travelling, gardening, book clubs, house renovations, grandchildren, taking courses, and having new adventures.  The possibilities are endless. One man said to me: “I’ve been so busy since I retired, I don’t know how I ever worked full-time.”

It is important to find a purpose in life when you retire.  Contemplate these questions:  What is my life about now?  What do I still want to contribute? What do I look forward to when I get up in the morning?

Never will retire?

There are people who never want to retire because they absolutely love their work and feel called to continue to express their passion and creativity until the end of their days.  This includes artists, actors, writers and others.  This is what actor Christopher Plummer says about retirement:  “Retirement is death. Absolute death.” Plummer says he want to continue to do what he loves until the very end. “That would be a wonderful way to go, just dropping dead on the stage.”

Whatever time of life you are at, take stock. Do you have a vision of your life that is positive and fulfilling?  If there are obstacles, ask yourself what you need to overcome them. Make a plan for your life that you are excited about. Reach out and ask for support when you need it.

I have described a range of responses to retirement. It is important to be true to yourself and what you want in life, and not to compare yourself with others.

I would be happy to hear your retirement stories, whatever stage you are at.

When you feel confident about your life plans, you are on the right track. May you find peace and contentment in your life.

Warm wishes,


“Helping you navigate through the second half of life with clarity, vision and purpose”

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