This question was posed to me during a recent extended family get-together sitting around a large kitchen table having lunch.  The question caught me off-guard, even as someone who is immersed in the topic of retirement- coaching clients, speaking, writing, and reading about the topic. Continuing to eat, I stammered through a response on how I didn’t think I would probably ever “retire” and that I continued to enjoy finding the next challenge.  The conversation quickly changed to another topic as it often does during a lively discussion.

Since we had a three-hour drive home after lunch, I had plenty time to rethink my response- how I should have explained my position and how people view “retirement” now in a variety of ways.  I put the word retirement in quotes because retirement is changing. The traditional three-phase life of education, work, and retirement is shifting to include a longer work phase or some sort of work or volunteer role- something that continues to challenge us in retirement. There is too much left to do and contribute! How we should view retirement is changing.  More on this later.

This is probably a good spot to insert a disclaimer: “All views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily express the views or personal situation as they relate to your idea of a perfect retirement.”  I get this but hear me out.

How people view a wonderful retirement can range from having of vision of retirement that includes sitting in a chair on a dock at their lake home (after all, I do live in Minnesota- doesn’t the photo look relaxing?) to starting a company and continuing to work long hours building an organization.  How people want to spend their time in retirement is completely at opposite ends of the leisure/labor spectrum.  The balance of leisure and labor can be any mix of these two parts that make you the happiest. This may be completely different than what you or I may want.  Consider what your leisure/labor balance will look like in retirement.  What amounts of each and what types of each will fill your days (weeks, months, and years)?

Some people will need to work in retirement to be able to have the resources to do some of the things they have included in their vision. Some have plenty of money and can do whatever they want. Some may want to work to have more social interaction, to continue to be challenges, to get out of the house more, to not have to spend as much time with their spouse at home (yes this does happen- more often than you might think). There are many reasons to continue to want to work.

Basically, there are lots of different visions of what a perfect retirement looks like- everyone is different in what they want to include and how much.  As mentioned previously, figure out what combination of leisure/labor makes you happy?  Do you want to sit in a chair on a dock by the lake all day for the next 25-30 years?  Do you want to start a business that will require you to continue to work 50-60 hours each week?  There’s no right or wrong answer here.  Balance between the two is critical. Beginning the process is what is important.

Back to the topic of retirement is changing.  People are beginning to live longer.  Not only are people living longer, they are generally living healthier.  Most of us try to eat healthier than we did when we were younger, and most participate in some form of exercise.  If we aren’t doing these two things, we at least know we SHOULD be doing these to age well.  We also know what we should be doing to monitor our health.  Again, whether we are doing these things is another question.  But, in general, I believe more people are doing these things or are at least on their radar.

If we are going to live longer and healthier, then two questions come to mind that we need to answer for ourselves.  Assuming most people seek to retire at 62 or 65- or oftentimes they go by “when I have enough to retire” like some sort of math equation will tell them when it is time to retire!

  • What am I going to do with this time in retirement which could be 25 to 30+ years?
  • How do I want to divide my time between leisure and labor?

There are many other questions to answer but answering these two provides a start. It is important to understand how long your retirement might last and how this time will be spent. Your retirement may last almost as long as your working career.

If you are going to live longer and healthier (in general), than you might want to consider some sort of labor (work) in retirement.  The benefits of continued mental challenge and social connection and interaction from work also have health benefits, both physical and mental.  In many ways, it keeps us younger.

The key point here is to have a plan.  A plan that lays out how you plan to spend each hour of each day to replace the time you previously spent at your full-time career. A plan that replaces your identity from your full-time career.  Who will you be now?  With nobody to report to, nobody reporting to you, no deadlines, no meetings, no office politics, no new projects, no expanding the department or division or company, no hiring, no training, no working together with others, no helping younger colleagues learn the ropes.  Poof!  All of the good and bad that was part of your day-to-day along with your identity goes away when you decide to retire from your full-time career cold turkey.  I will repeat the first sentence again- the key point here is to have a plan.  You will also have to deal with this change of identity.  This can be difficult.

If you decide to change careers or begin something new, even if it isn’t full-time, you aren’t really “retired”.  You are transitioning to a new or different career just like you may have done earlier in your career.  That is the mindset you should take at this time.  Look at it as a new opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do or maybe it is something you recently found an interest in pursuing. It is a transition to a different phase of your life.

If someone asks you “so, when are you going to retire” and you have given each of these areas some thought, you will have a well thought out response- one that was better than mine during that dinner conversation.

If you need some help sorting out each of these options and/or designing your ideal vision of retirement- a plan that is customized for you- contact me for a free initial meeting.

You can contact me at or at 952-994-8937.