We often look to retirement with much anticipation. It is a mark of success where greener grass plays on our mind, “If only I didn’t have to work, I would be happier.” We plan. We financially prepare. But what catches many people off guard and what we often fail to consider is how are we going to find meaning in retirement?
A vibrant and amazing 90-year-old client recently told me, “I think as you get older you need to feel like you belong someplace.” Truth told simply. How do we find meaning and a place to belong in retirement? When we hang up our hat on work, how do we find self-worth?
Often, we try to fill the gap identifying ourselves with family – our kids and our grandkids who have their own lives. Or we volunteer and spend time helping others. But for many this doesn’t do it and we can be left feeling alone and without purpose leading a life absent of focus and contribution, connection and belonging.
My father passed away a little over a year ago and reading through his personal journals, this plagued my father in retirement. He wrote, “Things are getting dull, and I feel left behind and frustrated. I guess I question the purpose of retirement. It is okay to do just what you want when you want, but what is the purpose?”
We meet with many clients of all ages who are working toward retirement, and some want to retire early and break free from the shackles of their 9 to 5. Maybe a little forethought regarding activities in retirement would solve this paradox, just some time contemplating how we will each find personal meaning in retirement.
This contemplation does more than simply solve the paradox of meaning in retirement; it provides a deep and abiding truth for our soul and spirit, a path forward fulfilling a truly basic human need. The need to belong. To contribute. To be part of something larger than ourselves and valued as an integral part of not just our family, but of our community.
My message to potential retirees and current retirees is simple: find something to do and do it. You are valuable and you are very meaningful to the community around you. Find ways to interact with the structure and functioning of your personal community and create positive meaningful change around you.
My message to family and friends of retirees is also simple: honor retirees by involving them, making retired people part of your planning and projects. Lean on them for their wisdom and knowledge, their ability to give and be part of your process.
It isn’t enough to simply think about money and how to get to retirement with enough of it. Here at TenBridge we are courageous enough to step out on that limb with you and ask the question: how will you make sure you have meaning and purpose in retirement? How will you belong? We coach a lot of amazing people who inspire us. We know your answer to these basic questions will be of absolute value to anyone lucky enough to consider you part of their personal community.
Finding meaning in retirement means a life well lived, but more importantly it means a life well lived and happy. We’d love to hear if and how you find your purpose.
From the desk of Erik Lawrence CFP®