Last century, when I was a brand new 2 Lt. in the Air Force at my first assignment in Abilene, Texas, a representative of an insurance company knocked on my door to offer me a brand, NEW investment product—an Individual Retirement Account-an IRA! First of all, I wasn’t making much money and was loathe to part with any of it. And second, I was wary of any salesperson knocking on the door, selling an intangible product! Finally, my ultimate response, as a 23 year old just embarking on my career was, “Who’s retiring? I’ll NEVER retire!”

Besides the vision problem of imagining needing money in retirement, I had no imagination of ever retiring from a career, or not working. As I got older, I didn’t think of retirement, from a life perspective, although it was a lot harder to ignore the requirements of financial preparation for life after work. Then I crossed the threshold around 55 years old. At the height of my career and earnings capability, I decided to stop thinking of retirement or even throw a passing nod to my friends who were on the brink of their final career years. Yes, denial can be a real place to find refuge from uncomfortable realities. Then I began witnessing the impact of the challenging transition to their next chapter of life, having had no real preparation in that regard, and mourning not only the loss of their career, but wondering how they would ever find purpose or meaning without their work identity.

In my business (airline piloting), there is a mandatory retirement age and on your 65th birthday, regardless of health, passion, expertise, or desire to stay, you’re done. This kind of arbitrary retirement point, like downsizing or an illness or injury ending a career, can be to some sheer psychological agony, especially if there is no plan in place to fill the needs that work provides. Of course, there are financial needs, but for many, the status, camaraderie (socialization), sense of purpose, and time management that the job provides will be even more sorely missed. The antidote to suffering the painful loss of any of these needs is to create a vision of what your days, post-career, will look like.

Many people actively participate in planning for their financial security in retirement: there are seminars on Social Security and how to get your buckets of money lined up with the greatest tax advantage. But as important as that piece is, it is the other needs which should be addressed and done well in advance of the actual transition date, perhaps 3-5 years out. To create this vision, there needs to be time and space for self-inquiry, such as : Who am I? (Identity), What is important to me? (Values), What do I want to spend my time on in retirement? (Purpose), and most importantly, With whom? (Relationships).

Once there is a line on what you want your retirement to entail, the next step is to craft the steps on HOW to create that vision. Using a retirement coach is a great tool to get you to specific and targeted action points to discover what path will work well to lead you to your ultimate goals and dreams. Discussions with your significant other or close friend may also reveal some strategies to work on, as you are able, to develop the new muscle or pathways in the future life you desire.

Whatever method you choose, don’t wait until 6 months before the actual date of retirement, as that time, with all it’s change and finality, can be a difficult time to creatively search for your vision of the next chapter. Just think of it—someday I AM GOING TO RETIRE! What terrific potential for a new beginning!
About the Author

This post was from Mary Blissard, from Flying Forward in Retirement. Mary is a Retirement Coach and Airline Pilot, who specializes in helping baby boomer clients transition to their next chapter in a calm and purposeful way. She can be reached at, or by contacting her at 703-472-1872.

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