There’s a “silver tsunami” making waves. Around 10,000 Baby Boomers will hit retirement, every single day, over the course of the next 15 to 20 years – and, that’s just in the U.S.
But, for Boomers, retirement doesn’t mean what it used to! In fact, for many nearing 65, retirement looks less like “taking it easy” and more like “taking on the next challenge.”
For many people – and especially for senior executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs – retirement is about finding a new adventure, career or passion.
I had merged my company with a large east coast consulting firm and, when my tenure as a partner in that firm was completed, I knew that sitting back just wasn’t in the cards for me. I knew – like many others – that my skills, interests, and expertise were going to take me into some new territory.
However, even for successful professionals, starting over is a massive challenge. Especially since retirement may mean leaving behind a title, connections, a professional identity and other perks, it’s really difficult to leave a career to start a new chapter.
“What’s next?” is not so much a practical question as a very real fear for many people at this stage.
For example, I had a conversation with a lawyer recently – she was very successful, driven and soon would have grandkids. But, for all her accomplishments, retirement terrified her! She said to me, “I don’t know how to be a grandma. I won’t have any friends because they’re all from the practice and they won’t have time for me!”
The prospect of not being a lawyer anymore completely unmoored her. Psychologically, she wasn’t just unprepared for moving on to “something else” – she couldn’t even imagine what that “something else” would be!
Her story hit on an important social change that’s happening: the generation of women retiring now was the first generation of women to engage in the workplace as never before. We were the first to gain leadership positions, stay in careers for longer, and shape industries where women had previously been in the minority (if not nonexistent)! Just as we changed up the workforce, it only makes sense that we’re going to change up retirement, too.
But that change certainly isn’t easy. When women who’ve enjoyed their careers for decades face retirement, it can be a huge challenge. We wonder…
What’s going to happen to my work? How will my relationships change with my family and friends? Do I have to give up the passions, skills, and knowledge that I’ve cultivated over years? What will I be if I’m not my job anymore?
All of those are serious questions – and as many women have discovered – the typical retirement plan just isn’t a good answer.
So how can you find out your “What’s next?” What can you do to readjust your personal focus, relationships, and career? Here are 4 basic steps to get you started.
Get started by identifying your professional and personal strengths. What has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment? What are your passions? What skills have you gained in your career? What comes “easy” to you that doesn’t for most people? Don’t worry about “right” answers at this point. The goal is to generate a bank of ideas that you’ll be able to refine later.
Use your inventory to begin crafting your brand story and plan. Start by thinking of a statement that captures the way you want to interact with the world. Who do you want to help? How do you want to help them? How will you use your personal strengths, passions, and skills to serve a need?
Once you have a big idea down, you can start fashioning a few plans that will put that story into action.
Once you have a starting point (or more than one starting points!), identify ways to test your plan and your interests. Some people have multiple plans – others may have only one or two. No matter what, the idea is to test it in tiny ways.
Give yourself permission to try something once and move on. Don’t commit to any one path until you’ve given yourself time to test out all your ideas.
Testing your plans is not a “one and done” proposition. Look back at your experiments and reflect on what you learned from it (note: there is no “failure” here, just learning). What was most rewarding? What was easier? More challenging? Interesting? Give yourself time to think, retest, and adjust your plans.
Is this the only way you can reinvent your retirement? Absolutely not. But, a solid starting point goes a long way to relieving some of the anxieties and fears that come with starting something new. If nothing else, this is a way to move into a state of mind where you give yourself permission to try, explore and test new ideas.
For a lot of people, a sense of freedom is something they haven’t had in a long time! As one woman told me, this plan meant so much to her, because it gave her the clarity she needed to get started and the space to discover what her new life was going to look like.
If you’re wondering what retirement has in store for you, don’t be anxious – be eager! Remember, exploring and experimenting makes for a rewarding outcome. Allow yourself a little bit of patience, reflection, and space to figure out how your skills and passions can play out in a whole new life. Before you know it, you may find yourself more excited, engaged, and energized than ever before!
Do you agree that the definition of a “successful retirement” is shifting from “how much you can relax” to “how much you can explore and enjoy your passions?” How would you describe your perfect retirement? Please join the conversation.