Staying relevant in retirement

Updated: Jul 15

My approach to a thoughtful relaunch

At work I was living the dream every day

My career had been satisfying beyond expectations even at the halfway point, but incredibly the reward curve extended upwards for more than thirty years. I am sure that recognizing this has been crucial to accepting the next phase - what I call the “relaunch”. For some this may be a life without working, but for me this meant finding a way to continue to boost the learning curve, as well as spending more time doing the things I love outside of work.

Exercise, travel and gastronomy all in one go!

If you read my blog, you know that my interests outside of work include fishing, exercise, travel and gastronomy (not necessarily in that order!). And while these pursuits have been a great launch pad for the next phase, I also realize that it is too early to leverage these completely in filling my daily calendar. Like I said, I need to keep boosting the learning curve. So I turned to academia to facilitate the transition.

Learning by teaching

There are many opinions on how and when to retire and over the years I have read dozens of recommendations on the ideal timing for and approach to retirement. My overall takeaway is that one must digest a lot of input on this subject over an extended period of time, because priorities and circumstances change, not just for you, but also for other family members. I have found my retirement objectives to evolve drastically over 20 years, and I am sure that there will be many more tweaks over the next 20.

So when is the right time to transition? Again there are mountains of opinions on timing, especially regarding the pitfalls of early retirement, much of which implicates unrealistic expectation or preparation by the retiree. It seems that there are many retirees that cannot fully accept that they are retired, but continue identify with and define themselves by their previous profession. I guess that I am on the fringe as it relates to this – I do not need to work, nor long for the professional status that I formerly held, but I also do not aspire to only be consumed or defined by my hobbies. I am very happy explaining that I am looking at opportunities to teach for as long as it is rewarding.

Making the transition seemlessly

Regarding the preparation aspect of the next phase - what do you do if you are unceremoniously jettisoned at an advanced age on your employer’s terms? I have seen this happen to former colleagues – it is often hugely unexpected and awkward for all parties. That is why I advocate planning for this prospect even if you think you are the most productive and indispensible resource in your industry. There needs to be an alter ego that characterizes you outside of the professional persona. Otherwise, you are left explaining who you are post-career without a clear and convincing definition, and this leads to feeling as though you are yesterday’s news. In some cases you may even deny being retired because it doesn’t make you feel relevant.

It is not right or fair to put yourself in this position. Try to imagine a life that is not a constant barrage of emails and phone calls and what this means for your day-to-day. It can be wildly refreshing to know that your day is orchestrated by you without an agenda being imposed upon you by others. I personally find it welcoming that I am able to begin my day with thoughts on what is important to me at the moment, which can mean a choice between TIME to THINK or TIME not to THINK!