Recently I gave a talk to an audience comprising people 55 years and older who were thinking about retirement or who had actually made the step. The talk was about my personal retirement "transition" story and I pulled out three key areas which I hope will help others.
I started with a quote from the actress Kathryn Grayson which I thought encapsulated so much. It was "To love what you are doing and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun!" That's what I call purposeful living; connecting your love or passion to something that's important to you.
A brief synopsis of my career helps to put everything I do into context. I spent 33 years in marketing management for a variety of branded goods businesses. At 54 I made a career change. I moved into what is now called the "Career Transitions" business – better known to those older readers as "outplacement". Companies would pay us to take on employees usually when their positions had been made redundant and coach and support them through to their next career move. I started managing the Bristol office, and later the South West Region, for one of the leading companies so the role was responsible for both the commercial and consulting arms.
After nine years in management roles, at 63 I left as an employee to become an associate consultant. This I did for a number of the leading companies and enjoyed it more than I could have imagined.
#Tip 1 – try and test out new things
My retirement planning journey began at this point. After a couple of years, I fully intended to go part time and take on other unpaid roles. I knew I wanted to serve others but was unsure how best to do it. I started with Citizen’s Advice – training for three months, a day a week – and also joined Rotary. Rotary was sociable (me to a tee!), you make friends and most of all, there is purpose to the friendship – you provide service to others, be it the local community or working on projects in Nepal.
Work continued at a furious pace so I stuck with Rotary and gave up Citizen’s Advice.
The lesson here is that in retirement activities you can experiment, "try things on for size" in a way you could not in employment. You are in control.
Turning the clock forward to 3 months ago and I am now aged 72.
#Tip 2 – have a plan and keep planning
By this time I had cut down on my associate consulting but was still working two days a week plus admin etc. I was always helping my clients to "self assess" themselves, so I knew that I had to take some time to "know my authentic self". I had plenty of raw material and set about it. It has provided me with the foundation for a plan. Yes, you may have thought having a plan was something you left behind in retirement. Absolutely not!
While we are all different, the one common factor for success in this third age is having a plan. It need only be a page or two, but it gets you to prioritise and focus on what's important with actions that flow from these. You realise this change in your life is a major transition and impacts on every facet – from finances, health, work (paid and/or voluntary), time management, relationships, the home, personal development, learning, leisure and spiritual development. You have some thinking and prioritising to do! So some reflection and introspection is essential.
I decided to sign up as a member of Next-Up and the first thing you get is an online assessment. This is a really useful tool to help you look at your skills, giving a structure to your life to achieve that work-life balance and get you to think about what you really want out of this next stage, using your skills and having a purpose at its core.
What I have decided is I need "to make a practical and friendship difference to the lives of others". There is a sub theme here which is also important and that is "helping all those 50 plus in age to live purposeful, fulfilling lives". All my activities grow out of these statements.
I say all my activities but my wife and I love ballroom dancing, we want to go off on long walks, get to the gym a couple of times a week, and I am just joining "the silver cyclists" and about a to buy a new bike. Maybe I will find all this too much but we'll give it a shot and learn what works for me.
#Tip 3 – finding purpose in unretirement
For my purposeful activities I was very privileged to be the President of the Bristol Rotary Club last year for our Centenary. That was exciting and so I am now going to take on another role in our Rotary region. It ticks so many of the boxes for me. Visiting, talking, enthusing , encouraging and mentoring. I have taken on a couple of trustee roles with small charities. I like contributing in this way and think I can bring some good strategic, commercial and leadership skills. And I have started a “fun” business giving talks and helping others in Bristol who are still finding what to do in this great stage of our lives.
Of course things do not always work out or go the way you want them, so resilience is something for me to work on. I am happy the way my retirement is taking shape. I feel good that it is in my control and not someone else controlling me. Things change so you are always striving to adjust the balance and emphasis. It's all about the journey but I am finding that it has a theme to it and a sense of purpose. Don't we all? A life that is wholly made up of rest and leisure is not enough for me. Is it for you?