Creating a meaningful retirement: 7 areas to consider
In my previous article on retirement planning for family business leaders, I talked about the importance of Personal Continuity Plans as part of the succession planning process for family-run companies. These types of plans are often overlooked or don't take a broad enough view of the multiple areas of life that need to be considered. In that same sense, a plan that leads to a rich, fulfilling retirement needs to take into consideration the many areas of life that create that sense of fulfillment. A successful retirement is not simply about monetary planning and having the cash flow to sustain it. This is especially true because retirement as we once knew it is shifting. Retirement is changing because we are changing. As we live longer healthier lives, retirement planning is being replaced by longevity planning, a concept that requires holistic thinking and planning from the individual, family, and societal perspectives. Retirement once meant leaving the workforce to pursue leisure activities, but today's aging population is reinventing life after 65. It’s about much more than improving your golf game. What does Retirement mean to you?
How we plan for retirement is dictated by what we think retirement is—which is far from uniform or universal. And, if retirement will last 20 or more years, that’s a significant amount of time to account for.
There are 7 areas to consider in creating a retirement that’s fulfilling and satisfying. Each one will be unique depending on the individual and their needs. In the next sections, I’ll briefly discuss each area and how it relates to a holistic retirement.
Purpose & Meaning
Health & Aging
Mental & Emotional Wellbeing
Family & Friends
Spirituality & Faith
Purpose & Meaning
For anyone reaching retirement, especially those who have linked a great deal of their self worth to their career, an important area to consider is purpose and meaning. Whether it's consciously or subconsciously, many people derive a sense of purpose and meaning from their job. And, for those who own their business, the sense of self tied to their work may run even deeper.
Leaders and executives will need to find ways to fill these big areas of their lives in ways that are lasting and sustainable, once they’ve exited their work roles. It’s not only a reason to get up in the morning; our work can become so intertwined with our identity—who we believe we are—that without it we may be left feeling rather directionless. There can even be a grieving process when we step into retirement, as we leave behind that part of ourselves and make space for something new. Identifying your own core values and what motivates you can help you identify other areas to find purpose and meaning. This could mean dedicating time to a cause or an activity that’s larger than yourself, and intimately connecting to your values, to infuse (retired) life with a sense of meaning and purpose.
The shift from work to contribution is an important distinction to help explore what matters most to you. There are many ways to contribute outside of the work world. This could be involvement in your community, volunteer work, or even supporting family members (like more time with your grandchildren and adult children). If unpaid contribution doesn’t feel fulfilling enough, you could consider joining a board, acting as an investor, or starting a small passion project you’ve always dreamed of. Or, even go back to school and become a student again. Contribution means something different to every unique individual. The point is to get to the root of what it means to you. Being a contributor—whether it’s to your family, your community, or society as a whole—is an important factor in fulfillment at any stage of our lives.
Health & Aging
Aging is an inevitable part of life. While you can have an impact on your health through the choices you make, you can’t avoid the consequences of aging. We all age. Ensuring you can enjoy a retirement that’s full and fulfilling is directly linked to your health. These are important years to put a focus on physical health, while also embracing acceptance and appreciation for yourself as you go through the stages of the aging process.
Specially there are four areas in health & aging to focus on:
● Physical activity – strength, flexibility, and stamina
● Nutrition – eating, drinking, supplements
● Rest and sleep – routine and methods
● Medical awareness – being an advocate for your own health
Mental & Emotional Well-being Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health, especially in the transition from work life to retirement life. For many people, work not only kept their minds active and engaged, it also provided an outlet for emotions, issues, or challenges they may have been facing internally. Continuing to read, problem solve, and learn in ways that are unrelated to work can keep mental and emotional health thriving. Practicing self awareness and digging into emotional intelligence is also an important tool; awareness of thoughts and feelings enables you to have some autonomy over your moods and sense of well-being. Tools that can support your wellbeing include:
● Mindfulness and meditation
● Exercising in nature
● People you can confide in
● Seeking professional help when needed
If you’re married, common-law, or in any form of long-term partnership retirement can affect your relationship dynamic. It’s important to talk about your retirement hopes and dreams with your partner or spouse, instead of assuming you’re on the same page. Revisit each of your perspectives on purpose & meaning, contribution, and how you want to spend your time. It’s key to truly understand where you’re aligned and where there are areas to trade and compromise on needs and wants. You may want to revisit discussions around money, budgeting, travel, and leisure time as these plans can change over time. If you’re both entering retirement after years of full-time work, or if one person is while the other was responsible for running the household, you’re suddenly about to find yourselves with a lot more time together. Talk about how this will work. Healthy relationships are a balance of intimate separateness—time apart and time together.
Family & Friends
For many of us work provides a large part of our social needs with little effort. Retirement is a chance to potentially meet new people, but also to redefine our relationships with family and friends. It’s important to find the balance between spending time with our peers and with our partner/spouse as well as our other family members. Many retirees enjoy more time spent with their adult children and grandchildren with their new found free time. This could be a chance to step into that role in a new way. While it’s a wonderful time to connect and even become closer, establishing healthy boundaries will ensure the relationships thrive.
Spirituality & Faith
Transitioning into this third stage of life can be a wonderful time to invest more into spirituality and faith. This is such a personal area that will look different to each person. It could range from being involved with your community church to a less traditional spiritual path like setting up a meditation space in your home. It could mean reconnecting to a spiritual practice that was important to you growing up, or dedicating more time to practices that have already been part of your daily life. The importance of spirituality and faith in retirement years is the deeper meaning it gives to us, which is also closely tied to our purpose & meaning, and even our contribution to the world.
Shifting our focus from retirement planning to longevity planning is a more holistic way of looking at our post-work stage of life.
Some of the benefits of a holistic retirement include:
● Ability to better navigate the transition and change
● Feeling valued and valuable
● Strong relationships and social network
● Realistic and positive outlook on aging
● Reduced risk of depression and addiction
● A sense of fulfillment and happiness
As we continue to change, it’s important that our plans take into account all the areas of our lives that will lead to true fulfillment. With our retirement years potentially spanning two decades, we owe ourselves the chance to make it the very best.
Russel Baskin has been working with families and advisors in a variety of capacities for the past 15 years. She brings a human development background and a passion for family enterprise to her coaching, consulting, and education work. Before joining Trella, she was the National Director of Education and Programming for Family Enterprise Canada. Russel has persistently prioritized the development and implementation of insightful, comprehensive education opportunities to guide individuals, families, and their advisors to make better decisions, gain clarity and think strategically.
Learn more about Russel and the rest of the Trella team on our About Us page.