Preparing for retirement can be exciting and terrifying! At age 55, my husband has started threatening to retire. Anytime he has a bad day at work, he reminds me of his impending retirement. At first, I balked at the idea—we are too young. Now my response is “OK. What are you going to do in retirement?” I get a lot of the typical answers: sleep in, putter around, nap … you see where he is going with this. Realizing he has no idea what he wants to do in retirement, I finally asked him if he’d like to have an EPIC retirement. That certainly grabbed his attention! Who doesn’t want an EPIC retirement?
When you hear the word “retirement,” do images of sunshine and happy, relaxing people come to mind? Retirement used to refer to an Industrial Age invention created to solve Industrial Age issues. Individuals were living to an age when they could no longer work their manual labor jobs safely. Fast forward to the Digital Age, when some consider retirement a social construct that may be out of touch with our times. We are living longer than individuals in the Industrial Age. Most of us don’t engage in manual labor for our jobs and research suggests some of us will live as many years in retirement as we did working. Does this mean we need to change how we think about retirement?
What if I asked you to think about retirement as retiring to something, not retiring from something (work)? If you are retiring to something—the 2nd half of your life, life 2.0—do you become curious about what that life might look like? If so, there will be a number of questions you will want to consider.
What is it that you want to retire to? What do you want to do in the second half of your life?
What will you do that brings meaning to your life?
How can your actions have a positive impact on others?
What activities will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor?
Will you be physically and mentally up for the challenge?
Consider the questions posited in our 2015 article Retirement Under Construction. Are your answers different from six years ago? How might your responses change as you get closer to retirement? What about once you retire?
Now that we are thinking about retirement, what are the components of an EPIC retirement? And, how do we incorporate them into our retirement plans?
E = Engage at any Age
In retirement, continue to stay engaged in life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and lack of mental and physical activity impacted an individual’s cognitive abilities. Approach life with the understanding that your age does not determine how old you are. This doesn’t mean you should sign up to play soccer, but you can consider learning a new language, playing pickleball, or joining a book club.
P = Purposeful Living
Having a purpose in life gives us a reason to get out of bed, especially in retirement. Hopefully our purpose also has us engaging with others and getting our Vitamin Cs (see below.) A good night’s sleep is important so we have the energy to carry out our purposeful living. We believe that having a good handle on how your retirement assets may spend down over time allows you to sleep well at night.
I = Integrate Vacation and Vocation
“Work/Life” balance is a hot topic post-pandemic. With the rise of portable electronic devices, many workers have flexibility around where and when they work. The upside is the flexibility to integrate vacation and vocation. The downside is that many employees take work home with them, meaning they don’t work a 8 or 10 hour day. They continue to think about and work on work. They check emails and respond to calls and texts on weeknights and weekends, always available when needed. COVID shined a spotlight on “all work and no play.” Besides making for a dull boy, as the saying goes, research shows it also makes for an unhappy, stressed out, unhealthy boy. We are learning that individuals need a balance. If you are currently working, consider learning to incorporate some of your “retirement activities” into your everyday life. Finding a better balance now may change your mind about how and when you retire.
C = Vitamin Cs of successful aging
Connectivity—Stay connected with friends and family. Make new friends. Form dinner groups. Schedule a regular video call with out-of-town relatives. Travel with friends to see new sights.
Challenge—Challenge yourself intellectually and physically. Learn how to play a new game. (My goal is to learn how to play chess.) Go dancing or walking with a friend.
Curiosity—Be curious. Continue to learn. Curiosity did not kill the cat, it gave him 9 lives.
Creativity—Find a creative outlet to continue stimulating new areas in your brain. Dance, paint, learn a musical instrument, be creative.
Charity—Join a cause that is meaningful to you and beneficial to others. Research is finding that grateful living is critical to our mental and physical health. Find a way to share your skills with others. Teach them and learn from them. We think you’ll find you both find joy in the process.
We hope we’ve challenged you to think differently about your current or upcoming “retirement to” and EPIC adventure.
This information is believed to be accurate but should not be used as specific investment or tax advice. You should always consult your tax professional or other advisors before acting on the ideas presented here.