Not Your Father’s Retirement

Purpose provides activation energy for living.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Several years ago, I was visiting my folks. My dad and I took my son to a local park so he could run around and burn off some energy (my son, not my dad). As Dad and I walked along, he asked “what is it you do again?”

He was always confused by my jobs and career choices. Like many of his generation, he had basically one employer his entire career. I say “basically,” because he spent about 25 years as a U.S. Army officer and another 10 years as a Department of Defense civilian employee.

I explained that I helped people make career transitions. “How old are these folks you work with?” he asked. 

“They range in age from mid-fifties to mid-sixties.” 

“Shouldn’t they be thinking about retirement?”

At this time, Dad was in his mid-eighties. “How long have you been retired?” I asked him. 

“Geez, about 20 years.”

“Dad, that’s a pretty good career. Look, hopefully, I’ll live at least as long as you. I can tell you that I can’t afford financially or emotionally to be retired for 20-plus years. How long was your father retired before he died?”

“Oh, just about 10 years.” 

“That’s how it was supposed to be, Dad.”

My father passed away about ten years later. He had spent almost as much time retired as he had in his career. 

Retirement Tsunami

Boomers (those of us born between 1946 and 1964), the oldest of which turns 76 this year, are re-defining the latter part of life — much like they’ve done at each life stage, from childhood to teenagers to young careerists to mid-life.

In the next 10 – 15 years, 10,000 North Americans will retire every day, creating a “retirement tsunami.”

Many of us can expect to live well into our 80s — and beyond. That means we can expect to be retired for almost a quarter of our lives. Many of us can’t afford — or have the desire —  to be retired for 20+ years. 

So what do we do for the last 20-odd years of our lives?

One of the major characteristics of our generation has been to seek meaning in our lives. How do we find meaning in the last part of our lives? What will our legacy be? 

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share some of the stories of folks I’ve been talking with about this stage of our lives — the challenges of finding meaning in retirement or in the transition to retirement. 

By the way, if you’re nowhere near the age of retirement, or even at the stage of considering retirement, you may find what these folks have to say useful. Frankly, we’re talking about another stage of one’s career — the last stage of that career.  And we seem to always attempt to find meaning, or purpose, at each stage of our careers. 

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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.

Image copyright: sifotography