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3 Things We’re Learning About the New Retirement

By Marcia Smalley May 27, 2023 Mindset

The conversations about retirement sound different than they did 10 years ago. Baby Boomers are learning how to align retirement with our unique needs and individual desires.

There’s no “right way” to retire.

However, current research supports that there are elements to living successfully in retirement that most of us agree on despite the different ways we live out this life stage.

A recent study conducted by Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 financial services company, and Age Wave, under the leadership of Ken Dychtwald, revealed four key ingredients to living well in what they describe as “the new retirement.” They call these essentials the Four Pillars: Health, Family, Purpose and Finances.

These four components aren’t surprising; you’re probably nodding in agreement. But what’s revolutionary is the emergence of data to support that they are of equal importance to prospective retirees. 

Gone are the days when getting our financial house in order is the only thing needed for a successful retired life. A wholistic approach to retirement has taken center stage. 

We need resources for designing this “new retirement,” especially when we’re just starting out or if we’re retooling our retired lives. Here are three notions worth considering.

Take Time for Self-Reflection

A valuable question to ask as you approach (or re-evaluate) retirement is, “What do I truly want in this phase of my life?”

Your response may come quickly. Or you may need to revisit the question several times to get clarity. The goal is to get to the heart of your ideal retired life by asking how you want retired life to feel, who you want to be in retirement, in what ways you’d like to grow.

Let each of the Four Pillars be a lens through which you frame your response and notice what comes up for you.

Allow What You Value to Lead the Way

As you consider or re-examine retirement, take some time to identify your values and to note how and when (or if) they’re showing up.

Most people I speak with about retirement or aging mention how valuable their time is. They also count strong relationships among what they cherish. Health and well-being are priorities. Lifelong learning, creativity, and giving back often make the list.

Whatever you value deserves your full attention.

Pinpointing what you value most informs you about how you might spend your time or what you could focus on during retirement. You very well might find greater Meaning and Purpose along that trail, too.

Retirement Is a Process Not a Date

The celebrations are over. All the cabinets, closets and drawers in your house are organized. You face the rest of your retired life. For many people that can stretch many years.

And about the time you think you have retirement figured out, something occurs (or occurs to you) that sets you on a new path or gives you a new idea.

Cue change, which is constant no matter what stage of life we’re in.

Your retired life stage is no exception; it changes and develops along with you. So it helps to have a handle on your skill set for managing transition, and it helps to talk with others and get support. 

Retirement is a journey and not a destination. Like any journey, it’s filled with opportunity, wonder, and a little magic even as it’s fraught with uncertainty, complications, and surprises.

Fortunately, we’re living in a moment when we’re able to set our own “new retirement” course, using what we already know and what we care about as a map. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, but we can move forward step by step (or inch by inch) and face whatever lies ahead.

We still have a lot to learn. But we have even more to gain.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are you learning about the retired life you want to live? What are you valuing most during your retirement years? How are you moving forward during retirement?

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When I retired 4 years ago I spent some time clarifying HOW I wanted to spend this precious time in my life. I came up with three defining words: GRACEFULLY, HEALTHFULLY AND JOYFULLY. These words drive the choices I make daily. I now play volleyball twice a week with a group of seniors who embrace life and fitness, I watch my great grandsons twice a week and I paint, garden, attend Bible study and spend time with family and friends. Clarity of priorities and purpose is absolutely essential!

Marcia Smalley

Patty, I love how you chose 3 words to guide you. Your retired life sounds truly rich! Thanks for reading.


Staying fit and healthy is definitely a goal for me. So I joined a gym and took up weightlifting with a personal trainer.I got a few strange looks from friends but I don’t care I love it. I get bored quickly so it’s not easy being semi retired, I have a small job which isn’t regular hours but it helps especially as my partner is younger and still working full time.
I’m not sure when I will stop working altogether it scares me a bit !

Marcia Smalley

You may find that you don’t stop working, Elaine. Or that you’ll reach a point when you know the time is right to finally stop. Either way, it sounds like you’re enjoying this phase of life…hooray! Thanks for reading.


Not going to lie here! I retired with a disability 10 yrs ago and thought I would be able to do things I wanted regardless…..but….it all turned out to be something I never imagined!!! Youngest daughter had her first baby. She worked part time. I offered to babysit part-time a couple days a week. It turned into full time within a year, then 5 yrs later another baby came. I have been babysitting non-stop for 10 dreadful years. Two weeks ago, I finally put my foot down and told daughter I physically cannot do this anymore. My Dr said I will need a hip replacement sooner than later!! My life is passing me by all too fast. My dreams of retiring to a warmer climate have been totally squashed by her. My wants and needs are never met. Daughter never pitched in with buying groceries. I paid for everything from formula to diapers to milk to clothes and all the food. I babysat for free. The girls are 5 and 10 and fight with eachother all day long. I break up their fights and yell alot. I realize I am too old for this crap.. My point is…… to not do what I did when you retire!!!

Marcia Smalley

Thanks for sharing your “lessons learned,” and thanks for reading. Wishing you well!


Wow. Thank you. I would like for my mom to hear your story. She’s going through same with another family member, but she’s not yet commenced her hellish journey yet. Just starting it.


I shouldnt have said “dreadful”…. The first couple of years, with 1 child, were wonderful. When the 2nd one arrived is when it became extremely hard for me to do it all! The age difference is almost 6 years. It just became so difficult to keep my cool with them. I have repeatedly told my daughter she has to find a new babysitter and she will have to PAY this new sitter. The hours per week I babysat were more than 50 hrs! Some weeks were 55 plus if daughter had to work mandatory overtime. I am in my late 60’s now and want to finally retire from childcare, I have paid my dues plus more. sigh….

Jan Cullinane

Love being semi-retired…about twenty years ago, I started writing retirement books after a career in academia – my most recent book is “The New Retirement” – Wiley, 2022. That title is an interesting coincidence, as it’s the same title as Ken Dychtwald’s recent study.
I have several “buckets” to my retirement life: passion (my work), family and friends (my heart), staying active both physically and mentally through volunteering, tennis, and biking (my brain/body), discovering new things through travel, joining a book club, taking up a new sport, and doing/investigating novel things outside my comfort zone (my spirit).

Marcia Smalleuy

I love your “buckets,” Jan. Thanks for reading!


I love being retired. Free time, no tight schedules anymore, no constant demands for my time. I can fill my days as I like. If I choose to stay in my pj’s all day, I can without judgement. Luckily, my health, family and finances are good. My purpose is helping other retirees with their health and financial issues. I always planned ahead and am now reaping the rewards.


I too enjoy the freedom and opportunities of retirement after a very productive 45 yr. career, 2 marriages and 3 wonderful adult daughters. We are financially secure, in good health, enjoy traveling and have wonderful friends BUT I seem to fall short in the grandma category. Love my beautiful grandsons but I hear often how I prioritize volunteer work and social time with friends over “activities “ with them. No matter the discussions I’m left feeling guilty and inadequate in my role as “Nana”. Insight? Suggestions?


Take no notice is my advice.You have given your all now is your time.
I was always being called upon and told l did not spend enough time with my grandchildren even though l worked full time,until my daughter and husband were offered a better job in another country.They went without a backwards glance so now is my time!

Marcia Smalleuy

This situation comes up more often than you might think, Norma. Try to see it as an opportunity to practice setting boundaries for yourself. How you spend your time is yours to choose, even if that means having a few uncomfortable conversations with family members. Wishing you the best!


Is it possible to bring your grandsons with you on your volunteer work?


I echo this. And I love being in this stage of my life…a second spring 💜

Marcia Smalleuy

Love that, Joyce! Thanks for reading!

Marcia Smalleuy

Lovely, Kim! Thanks for the work you do to support other retirees, and thanks for reading!

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The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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