The transition to retirement

The transition to retirement

How do you make the transition to retirement? This is the question Bruce Willis in his role of ex-CIA operative asks of former hit woman, Helen Mirren, in the movie, RED (Retired: Extremely Dangerous). She admits that she still takes some contracts on the side. Retirement is one of life’s biggest transitions because it affects just about every aspect of our lives. Many of us do not plan for this change other than, perhaps, financially.


Many leave succession planning for businesses on the shelf for far too long. Others wait for a health problem or a pink slip or goodbye package to force a change. They deny, procrastinate, or just refuse to do anything about preparing for that possibility that is often associated with over-the-hill, or first nail in the coffin negative thinking. Retirement is sometimes associated with everything that we do not want to face like change or mortality.

A better approach would be to think of it as lifestyle planning. Often the pattern is saving, building, pouring all hard-won resources into creating a lifestyle rather than enjoying it. Maybe it is time to live differently. If what you do is who you are and if you love what you are doing and feel it is important to carry on, by all means, do so. However, if you do not, consider making some changes to improve the quality of life. What do you want your future to look like? Do you have a retirement vision

Baby Boomers are particularly fond of the Forever Young mindset which is a denial of aging or changing. It often takes a real shock to the psyche to get attention. I talk to so many who have had a health scare and are just now looking at what their lives may look like in retirement. It took a real shock to break their denial.


“I’m really busy” is often the reply to the “How are you?” question. This is often said with a hint to pride or desperation. Working at a frenetic pace becomes reality and not having that leaves many anxious and even guilty. Busyness becomes the addiction and facing its absence is too scary to even contemplate. In ‘The Busy Trap’ printed in the New York Times comes the line, “Our frantic days are really just a hedge against our emptiness.”

I talk to those planning retirement in the next few years who dread feeling useless, trivial, meaningless, and lost. Then start now seeding the garden of that retirement so that there is a harvest waiting. Get looking around now.

One fellow who talked about his retirement said, “I went from a Legend to a Nobody just like that. Luckily I had taken the time to plan what I was going to do and started the next chapter in my story so that I did not think I was at the end.” Apt analogy. What is the next chapter?


Take some time to reassess, dream about, envision, and reinvent a future for yourself and suggest your spouse, if you have one, do the same. Then compare notes and ideas. Talk to a retirement mentor, someone who has made the transition.
Get your ducks in a row financially. Figure out the best timing and have a Plan B in case you do not control that timing as about 45 % of retirees do not choose their own timing. Figure out relocation or not, how to regenerate or revocate, how to make that transition that Bruce Willis’ character had trouble with and figure out what that future will look like. Have lots to retire to, look forward to, and then go about making it happen!


  1. Joe @ Retire By 40

    Planning for an active retirement is a necessity. You don’t want to get bored and spend all your saving because you don’t have anything to do. Keeping busy will keep you sane and perhaps bring in a little income as well.

  2. Pauline

    I am not retired but left the corporate world three years ago and it is strange at first to have no agenda, no routine… You can easily fall into doing nothing for a whole day. I now have small habits of how my day goes and it keeps me more active.

    • Donna McCaw

      Pauline If you are not retired as yet, what are you doing now after your corporate job?
      Many retirees take part time jobs or start their own businesses. Paid employment of some sort is a reality for many retirees.

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