Does your transition style match your retirement plan?

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want, So tell me what you want, what you really, really want, – Spice girls, Wannabe

When I ask pre-retirees what they want in retirement, I get answers like:

  • “Lower stress and anxiety”,
  • “More control of my life”,
  • “I want to do things of my choosing at my timing”,
  • “I want to have lots of choices about how to live the rest of my life.”

These thoughtful answers sound about right when compared to more formal studies. One such study got results of 37% for the answer, “Live comfortably”, 31% for “Maintain good health”, and 15% for “Travel”.  Control. Choices. Comfort. Good Health. Travel.  Sounds good to me!

Retirement fears

When I invite people to consider their greatest fears about retirement, I hear about outliving resources, health problems, boredom, feeling isolated, disconnected and vulnerable.  Some fear the loss of love ones and loss of status, identity, structure, authority, and friendships stemming from work.  Any major life transition can bring loss but also new possibilities and options to explore.  Others do not present fears at all.  “I can’t wait!” or “Bring it on!” are responses I often get as well.

A change is gonna come

Any transition brings change from marriage, to parenthood, to children, to a new job, or a new home.  Choices come up. Questions need to get answered like, “How do I find community, social networks, and support?” and “How do I remain productive and lead a life that is meaningful to me?  and “How do I live in line with my interests and values?”

The best time to think about lifestyle issues in retirement is as early as possible.  Most of the Boomers have hit the big 5-0 and some of them have attended my Retirement Readiness courses or gone to weekends in Asheville, North Carolina at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. They are getting the whole picture of retirement and not just the financial one.  Most, however, have not!

It may be time now to start thinking, dreaming, figuring out and visioning what retirement is going to look like.  Then make some choices so that you are confident you have control over your future and the level of comfort that you want to achieve.  You have made transitions before and may have insight into yourself to know your transition style of moving on to a new reality.

Know your transition style

Change Minimalists continue using their skills in a new way or keep following their interests but with more time to spend on what they have already been doing.  They may stay working in a part-time capacity.  They often stay put and may make some gentle changes like introducing new activities or a fitness regime.  Their lives look to an outsider basically the same as it did before they shifted from full-time careers.

Some are the Pre-planners.  They have been winterizing the cottage, joining interest groups, thinking of how to use a hobby as a small business,  and monitoring cash flow closely.  They have already bought a place on Vancouver Island or the southern United States.  They figure out what their goals are and start to make them real while still working.

The Adventurers are more dramatic.  They are more the Monty Python line, “Now for something completely different.” They see retirement as an opportunity to start new endeavors, claim a new identity and recreate themselves.  They may sell their homes and relocate to a new community, province, or country.  They may start a new business or a whole new career.  Those watching may not be able to keep up with the great range and rate of changes.

Researchers or Explorers are a bit more laid back and take time to decompress and experiment with what their new life will be like.  They may try new activities, relationships, locales, and new ways of travel to find out what suits them best.

Some are the Zen masters of taking each day as it comes and let the possibilities unfold.  They observe, relax, absorb, and ease into their new routines.  They may not feel comfortable with any kind of plan and count on intuition, fate, or happenstance to guide their futures.

This next group is the Retreatants who step back, take a break, watch their new life come into focus from a more disengaged position.  They often drive their spouses to distraction with vagueness, passivity, and indecision.  It may take them a while to find their feet in the new flow of life.

The one to watch out for is the Change Back the Clock ones who regret retiring or were forced into retirement by a health issue or a pink slip or buy out at work.  They were not ready and fight to get back to where they were before the shock to the system of retirement happened.  They have some challenges ahead.  It may turn out for the better but may not feel that way at the time.

What is your vision of retirement?  Do you know your transition style?


  1. Ed Zinkiewicz

    I love your “styles” of transition. These blend well with the Ameriprise study that shows how retirees are using their time.

  2. JIll Robson

    I think I will be the Adventurer Donna, definitely looking forward to my retirement and trying new things. Great article.

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