Millennials & Baby Boomers. Can We Talk (about Retirement)?
Is Your Attitude in Shape for Retirement?

Who’s Your Retirement Role Model?


by Joe Casey

Retirement today is drastically different than it was in earlier generations. You know the drill. Pensions are a relic of the distant past, for most of us. We’ve heard about them and there’s probably a compelling museum exhibit somewhere on them –  but they are not part of our reality.

Longer Lives, Longer Retirements

There’s also greater longevity. This one cuts both ways. Saving for retirement today requires investing more – and earlier – to fund what is likely to be a far longer time in retirement. But it’s also a great potential opportunity. Rather than retreating to the rocking chair on the front porch of yesteryear, today’s retirees are likely to have the time and space to be active longer, to continue learning and to carve out Second or Third careers on a part-time basis. It’s a new era and it’s (mostly) exciting, but there are challenges. Retirement today means navigating uncharted waters.

Build Your Own Road Maps

Our guest on The Retirement Conversation podcast, Dr. Thelma Reese, notes that all of this change creates a dearth of role models for retirement, for both men and women.  We can no longer look to previous generations for the pathways. We have to create our own.

So, Who is Your Role Model for Retirement?

Dr. Reese, co-author of two excellent books on reinventing your life in retirement (one for women and one for men), thinks we are our own best role models.

Personally, I agree. I think we can be our own role models by continually looking for attributes and behaviors in others that we can thoughtfully incorporate into ourselves. These examples can come from many sources, starting with people we know best. What parts would you emulate and make your own?

Thelma Reese and many of the people profiled in her books are also great sources of wisdom. If you are still working and contemplating retirement, one of the smartest moves you can make is to spend some time with former colleagues who have retired to hear about their experiences and lessons learned. Get some lunches scheduled and catch up.

I think it’s also important to keep an eye out for attributes and behaviors that you don’t want. While these can also come from people we know, they can also come from literature and movies. For me, there are some things about John Updike’s character Rabbit that I want to avoid (mainly constantly consuming Peanut M&M’s). I’d also like to avoid the “Get Off My Lawn” mindset portrayed so well by Bill Murray’s character in St. Vincent and Clint Eastwood’s in Gran Torino (although their transformation toward mentoring is great to emulate).

I’m Still Going Old School

But for me, becoming my own retirement role model takes me – ironically – back to my maternal grandparents. Their love of life and family, their sense of humor and their ability to get the most out of the small pleasures of life will be my starting points.

Listen here for a great Retirement Conversation with Thelma Reese. She shares her insights on a range of topics you’ll find of interest (and she has a great sense of humor).

In closing, I’d like to give an unsolicited recommendation – if you’re looking for a unique and valuable Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift, her books – The New Senior Woman: Reinventing the Years Beyond Mid-Life and The New Senior Man: Exploring New Horizons, New  Opportunities are home runs.


Joe Casey is a former senior HR executive who is now an executive coach and retirement coach.

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