What do you think is the worst mistake that you can make at your retirement party? Having one too many glasses of champagne? Nope. Telling blue t-shirt Bob from accounting what you really thought of him all these years? Not even close! Having talked with hundreds of women in the Sixty and Me community, I can tell you that the worst mistake you can make at your retirement party is to tell people you are retiring.

Ok, right about now, you’re probably thinking, “What is this woman talking about? How could it possibly be a mistake to give your co-workers the impression that you are retiring… at your own retirement party?”

Well, hang in there with me for a minute. I promise that everything will become clear by the end of this article. Whether you have already retired or you are approaching your retirement party, I the advice that I am about to give you has the potential to change your life.

 
 

What Kind of Retirement Do You Really Want?

If you are in your 60s, you probably have a picture of what “retirement” is going to be like. Whether you realize it or not, this image has been strongly influenced by the media, the government and your friends and family.

Whether you arrived at the official retirement age with a pile of cash in the bank or you are worried about how you are going to survive on your monthly Social Security check, you probably assume that your working days are over. For better or for worse, you feel like you are done working.

Well, I’m here to tell you that retirement is not a destination. With 20-30 years ahead of us, it can’t be! It is a phase of life as long as “childhood” or “parenthood.” As a result, the biggest mistake that we can make as we enter retirement is to assume that our earning days are done.

Let’s Talk About the Transition to Retirement

Most of us don’t challenge the idea that retirement is a destination until it is too late. When our co-workers ask us about our retirement plans, we talk about our desire to travel or spend more time with the grandkids, even if we would love to continue working part-time.

Not knowing how financially challenging retirement can be, especially if you are not a millionaire, our managers and co-workers smile kindly and say things like, “You’re so lucky to be retiring!” or “I’m so jealous!”

If you still have time before your own retirement party, my advice is this – don’t be too quick to tell the world that you are done working. Even if you feel like you will never work again, don’t plant this seed in the minds of your colleagues, business partners and friends.

The reason for this advice is simple; if you ever want to work as a consultant, freelancer or part-time worker, your professional contacts are going to be invaluable. The same is true if you ever decide to start your own business.

When I left my last full-time job at Siemens, I thought that I would never work for a big company again. On one level, I was right. I haven’t taken another full-time job, despite having several opportunities to do so.

But, on another level, I was completely wrong. While I haven’t taken a full-time job, I have done plenty of contract work. This work was often more tactical than the projects I worked on as a full-time employee, but, it helped to pay the bills. Equally importantly, it helped me to stay social during a time when I was searching for new sources of meaning in my life.

Talking with the other women in our community, I have heard many similar stories. So many of us thought that we would never need our business contacts again, only to find that they were still among the most important people in our lives.

By the way, if you are looking for ideas, here are 60 ways to make money in retirement.

Don’t Let Society Define Your Desires and Your Needs

If you are approaching retirement, now is the time to dream big and keep your options open. If your colleagues talk about all of the relaxing things that you are going to do in retirement, remind them that you are just getting started. You may even want to have a conversation with your boss about the possibility of you doing the occasional part-time work after you leave the company. Planting these seeds now will bear financial fruit in the future.

If you have already retired, take heart! It’s not too late to stay in touch with the people that you worked with for all those years. Keep an eye out for their names in the news and congratulate them on their successes. Follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook. When appropriate, tell them about what you’re working on.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to reach out if you are looking for work. They may be struggling to find someone to work on a project. If you don’t tell them otherwise, they may assume that you are happily retired, sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping Mai Tai’s and watching the sunset.

The bottom line is that retirement is whatever you make it. Don’t let anyone else determine what the “perfect retirement” looks like. Decide what you want and be honest with the people who are closest to you. Most of the time, they just want to help.

Do you think that it is a good idea to stay in touch with the people that you worked with during your career? Do you think that the society’s limited perception of retirement limits us from being happy in our 60s and beyond? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.

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