21st Century Retirement – Planning Beyond the Money

My retirement was highly anticipated and poorly prepared. I had done due diligence on the financial side of things, but I had just vague assumptions about what life would be like if I didn’t have to work everyday.  I was too busy working to really figure out what I was retiring TO! And I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.

Recently a number of IRL friends who are still working have articulated the possibility of retiring soon.  And commented they are looking towards me to be their role model. Oh dear, I certainly do not want them to be poorly prepared!   Days after retirement, everything I knew about daily living was gone. Yes, no more pre-dawn alarm clocks; no more endless, mind-numbing meetings; and no more office politics. But also no more regular connections with stimulating conversation and no more feeling of accomplishment for hitting project milestones.

  • I did not have a plan for being socially connected when 75% of my social connections disappeared because they were work affiliated.
  • I did not have a solid plan on getting physically fit, having no pre-retirement fitness/exercise program.   And everything you read (and know to be true), is about move it or lose it.
  • I did not even have a plan for staying mentally sharp, although everyone assumed I would simply keep working doing consulting in my field.

Post-work life did not just happen. I had to “do the work” to create a new life plan because I was an expert on how to work, but I wasn’t very sure about how to live a life. Figuring out what I wanted my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly life to be took time.

  • I had to learn that it’s less about what you want to do (and having a plethora of activities booked) and more about who you want to be (and understanding what’s truly important). Was I engaging in the right activities for me – the ones that bring me joy and fulfillment?
  • I had to learn relationship-building skills to form a new village of connections – from casual conversations to extended-family support.
  • I needed to create new habits for exercise and mobility – things to get me off the couch every day.
  • I needed to be patient. Learning this (emotional) stuff, creating new habits, building relationships – all takes time.

I learned that a 21st Century Retirement Life is whatever you want it to be. That everyone’s is different, and figuring out what is truly important to you, and not based on someone else’s “you should” or assumptions, takes time and self-discovery. It took visioning, planning, and then refining the vision and the plan.


What is my advice to soon-to-be retirees? (Yes, L and R and K and T, this means you!) Do some pre-planning beyond the finances. Think about what is important to you and how you will replace the aspects of work life.   Not the endless meetings or office politics. But work often provides camaraderie and social connections; a sense of accomplishment, purpose and identity; and even a structure to your days and weeks.   What are your (detailed) assumptions of what a day, week, and month will be in retirement?

And, even with a plan to ease into retirement life, realize that this is probably one of the biggest changes of your life, so allow the stages of transition to occur. Understand you might need to let go of some things – perhaps some long-held beliefs or some long-standing habits?   Understand there is a period of uncertainty when things have ended and others might not have started; when you need to just let it be. Be willing to adjust the plan (pre-plan or post-work plan) as life happens and you get new learning from real life experiences.

My 21st Century Retirement Life is still a work in progress.   Learning to be true to myself, and not to other’s expectations, continues to be a work in progress as well. I continue to refine my vision, and re-work the activities in my daily, weekly and monthly calendar to match that vision. I’m looking forward to a big revision in the next month as a major milestone is achieved (our downsizing move!).

Do you have a vision for your own unique 21st Century Retirement Life?


Picture: my own — Serengeti Sunrise, 2017


Year 3 – Top 10

I’ve passed my third anniversary of my retirement date (where did the time fly; I still feel like I’m in transition) and my second year of blogging (excited that I’ve passed the infamous 18-month drop-off line, even if I’m not hitting my one per week personal goal). I enjoy top 10 lists, and avidly read ones others have posted.   So here are the top 10 things I’ve learned (so far) in post-work life and the world of blogging.

  1. Have a life vision based on what’s important to you. Own your choices of where you spend your time so you’re moving in the direction of your life vision. Stop listening to everyone else’s “you really should”.  Keep refining that vision as you learn new things, about what works for you and what doesn’t.
  2. Don’t let fear drive procrastination. Take action; do something (something small, if needed). What are you waiting for? As Nike so aptly puts it: Just do it. And celebrate those small advancements.
  3. Make gratitude lists regularly.
  4. Be OK with being a beginner. Try new things. Take the opportunity when presented – say “yes”. Give things a fair shot as well; don’t expect to be an expert immediately. If you like it, keep doing it. And be OK with less than perfection (like not hitting every week blog postings!).
  5. Stop listening to the voice of comparative inferiority. Stop feeling guilty/unworthy/less if you’re doing life differently. It’s your unique life, your unique retirement.
  6. Learn to just be It’s not always about constant activity and checklists. Stop to watch the surf, listen to the falling rain, read some blogs, or have a chat. And don’t feel guilty that is “wasted time”.
  7. Consciously build connections with others. Be OK with feeling like you’re putting in all the work – the social connection really is worth it. Appreciate the connections you do have – both IRL and virtual.
  8. Move Do something to get off the couch.
  9. Enjoy the journey. Find joy in the little moments of life.
  10. Marry the best guy ever to share that journey – the one who loves me even when I’m not very loveable. The homebody who was willing to go on a 3 week African Safari because I really wanted it. The hoarder who is trying so hard to downsize and de-clutter.  And a pretty good photographer, too!


Picture Credit: Superb Starling, Africa Safari  – Tim Doyle, 2017