By Joe Casey
What does your life after retirement look like when you imagine it?
“When you are 20, you care about what people think about you,
when you are 40 you stop caring about what people think about you,
and when you are 60, you realize nobody cared in the first place.”
– Winston Churchill
Have you ever asked someone “How was your weekend?” – and regret it when, five minutes later, they’re still breaking down Saturday morning blow by blow? Let’s face it. You were really expecting “Fine” or “Wonderful” or “Awesome” – or even “Not bad. How was yours?” Any answer would do. And you’d both pleasantly move on with your days. Well, it turns out that that same dynamic may be at play with a weighty question that’s quite important in transitioning to retirement.“So, what are you going to when you retire?” Having a clear retirement vision helps guide your planning and decision-making. But while it is important to you, perhaps any answer will do for others.
What Are You Going to Do in Retirement?
When you’re faced with this question, watch where your eyes go. They will instantly tell you where you are in the process of transitioning to retirement. If they look upward, you’re probably in the exploration phase. You will likely launch into an exciting and rambling answer roaming the landscape of the possibilities you’re pondering. If the person who asked the question is still awake (or even still there…), be prepared to hear “Oh, that’s interesting.”
If your eyes go directly to your shoes, you probably haven’t taken the time to give it the proper thought yet. You may grab some answers from the shelf of classic retirement cliches and mumble something about every day being Saturday, catching up on things you’ve meant to do around the house, golf, or traveling. Be prepared for “That’s nice”.
It’s just like the question How was your weekend?
Any concise answer will do just fine.
What’s Your Elevator Speech?
Our latest podcast guest, Dr. David Ekerdt, University of Kansas Professor and President of The Gerontological Society of America, thinks there’s a better way. He has studied transitions to retirement for several decades and he recommends that we develop an Elevator Speech for retirement – just as you would in starting a new business.
If you’ve ever developed an elevator speech, you’ll know that it is short and clear, by design. A lot of thought and refinement goes into it.
It forces clarity.
Who Will You Be?
Ekerdt reframes the question What Are You Going to Do Now? to a more meaningful one – Who Will You Be?
He suggests that answers to the first question can come from expectations created by cultural norms and commercial marketers. Answers to the second one require more reflection and tend to come from values. He notes that one of the cultural beliefs that shape our views on retirement is that a busy retirement is best. But a busy retirement is not for everyone. Ekerdt advises focusing on what’s most important to you. And to do those things at your own pace.
Many of our choices earlier in life are influenced by the expectations of others, perhaps more than we even realize. The retirement phase of life is about freedom. When you earn the freedom to retire, how will you structure your day in retirement? It gives you a chance to live in alignment with your true values, to do more of what you want to. Churchill suggests it’s a time we can move away from the expectations of other people. Hear our conversation with David Ekerdt, where he shares his wisdom on retirement.