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Why Retirement is the Perfect Time to Find Out Who You Really Are

Retirement is an exciting, but also a potentially confusing time. It’s a phase of both endings and new beginnings. Transitioning out of what you’ve been doing for years or even decades can create uncertainty—especially at first.

For some retirees, the newfound freedom and ability to explore endless possibilities is enough. For others, not so much. After the retirement party is over and the last slice of cake has been eaten, many retirees find themselves feeling restless or even unfulfilled, without knowing exactly why.

If you’re newly retired, you might be thinking “What will I do now and how will I find purpose?” It’s an important question and for some, a daunting one. The good news is, retirement is the perfect time to figure out who you really are. 

COVID-19 as a Trial Run for Retirement

Retirement is a great time to examine your life and get to know yourself better—and the pandemic is reinforcing that. Some even say COVID-19 has provided older adults with a trial run for retirement

For the first time, many of us are getting a taste of what life will be like without the daily grind of keeping a tight work schedule, commuting, and juggling errands and social activities. For some, the change has been more welcome than for others…either way, the slowed pace of life as we stay safer at home underlines the importance of finding meaningful and joyful activities to fill our days, weeks, and years. 

Whether you’re approaching retirement or you’ve recently retired (congratulations!) we challenge you to think of this crazy time as a chance to reflect and ask yourself some important questions about what you want for your golden years. (You may even be questioning whether you’re ready to retire full time in the first place.) 

Finding Your Purpose in Retirement: Look Within to Uncover Your Calling

The financial side of retirement is important, but it isn’t everything. The personal aspects of retirement can have an equal or even greater impact on your happiness during this time of life. 

When you know yourself, it's easier to be calm and have greater peace of mind. Whether you’re interested in seeking your higher, overarching purpose, or you just want to get to know yourself a little better—it all starts with you. 

What is important to you? What do you value? What brings you joy? Have you ever stopped to really think about these important questions?

If the answer is no, why not take this time to do a little soul searching. Instead of writing a bucket list, sit down and look back at the things you’ve already done in your life, from challenges to accomplishments and everything in between. Write them down.  Consider things like: 

  • Career changes 
  • School and studies
  • Religious or spiritual exploration
  • Trips you’ve taken/places you’ve explored
  • Hobbies
  • Friendships 
  • Mentors
  • Family relationships
  • Childhood memories
  • Sports
  • Moving to a new city, state, or country
  • Hardships and challenges you experienced and/or overcome

Once you have your list, reflect. Which experiences were the most meaningful and which brought you the most joy and fulfillment? 

You may realize that the times you spent in nature were your happiest moments. That you regret not having spent more time with extended family, traveling more, or never having learned to salsa dance. You may look back and find that helping others is something that you really want to get back to. 

As we’ve seen so often with our clients here at Wealth Legacy Institute, pinpointing (and then focusing on) the things you truly value leads to a happier, more purposeful, and more fulfilling retirement.

Finding Your Purpose in Retirement: More Key Questions for Reflection

You can build on your reverse bucket list and go deeper. Here’s another reflection exercise we recommend for our clients to help hone in on your purpose. Take some time to think about these questions, and promise yourself to give honest answers (write them down in a journal or digital notepad):

  • If I had to take a guess at my life’s purpose, what would it be?
  • What is the one problem I was born to understand?
  • What would I like to do again from my childhood?
  • What made me happiest in my career? Would I like to continue doing that? 
  • What would I do with my life if I knew I could not fail?
  • What activities have I discovered that give me the most pleasure?
  • What do I still want to learn?
  • Who are the people I most admire? Why do I admire them? How would I define their life’s purpose?
  • What have I done in my life that I am proud of?
  • When I enter a bookstore (or online), where is the first place I go?
  • Which activities make it feel like time is flying by and I am completely focused? 
  • At the end of my life, what would I most regret not having done?
  • What has been the greatest challenge I have overcome? Could I help other people overcome that same challenge?

After you have answered these questions, it’s time to reflect again. Highlight the answers which felt the most compelling—the ones that energized you, made you smile, or made you feel proud. These responses will lead you toward your calling(s).

As you’re looking ahead to retirement and all the planning that comes with it (saving, estate planning, social security, etc.) we encourage you not to neglect thinking about YOU. Our goal as financial advisors is to help you retire both comfortably and with peace of mind.

Want more guided reflections and strategies for transitioning to retirement?  Learn more in my new book Retirement Secrets.  New call-to-action

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