The First Question You Need to Answer When Defining Your Retirement Life
I’ve had a hard time figuring out what I want my life in retirement to look like. With the guardrails of job and career removed, who do I even want to be? What do I want to do? I was trying to run in several directions at the same time and getting nowhere. It seemed like each thing I wanted to do or change, conflicted with another thing I wanted to do or change. I was stuck.
Eventually (through reading some really good books I’ll detail in another post) I realized that I didn’t need to completely define my destination – I just needed a direction.
I tried to break everything down into a simple binary decision – do this or do that? I kept getting more and more basic until I was faced with this decision:
A: Do I want my life to be very much like my life before retirement, just tweaked a bit to be more fun – or – B: do I want a life that is totally different from my life before retirement?
This was where I knew I needed to start. It sounds simple but it puts everything into perspective and gives you a starting point and a direction.
I know a lot of people who easily chose option A – they’ve built a great life during the working years, the kids and grandchildren live close by, they love their home and have spent years getting it just right, they have a favorite vacation spot or two that they go to every year, they have a vocation or hobby that they want to pursue, they have a cause they want to support, they have friends, family, and a full social calendar, they just need to adjust things around the edges now that they have more free time – but the structure of their life is pretty well set. Option A.
Then there are people like me. When faced with this question as my starting point, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I wanted my life in retirement to be very different from my work life. My work life was totally optimized for, well… work! Take work out of the picture and there was not a lot left. So now I have a direction! At least I know what I don’t want. That made all the difference. Now I can confidently start to move knowing that I’m heading in the right direction without knowing where I will eventually wind up.
Now I have a lot of work to do to figure out what I want my new life to look like, and I’m not the type to try and change every at once. Baby steps! But I have a good process and I’m working through it. I’ll go into detail about my process in another post.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that this is not a problem I can think my way out of. Sure there is some up front thinking, but eventually, the only way to figure out if you enjoy something is to actually do it. Think you might like to go back to school? The only way to know for sure is to get your butt in a classroom and see how you feel when faced with that first test or term paper.
The second most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to figure it all out at once (it’s not even possible). So I have a loose idea about what I want to do for the next few years. I have some things in mind that I might like, and now I’m going to try them on and see how they fit.
And that takes all the pressure off! Hey, I’m headed in the right direction.