After working hard for several years and enduring all kinds of stress, the idea of kicking back and relaxing in retirement can sound pretty inviting. Some people dream of traveling, relaxing on beaches, and taking it easy. But for many, the luster of this lifestyle generally wears off within about two years. At that point, it’s a pretty good idea to have a long-term plan. Ideally, you’ll even have a sense of the lifestyle you really want long before you leave your career.
A Traditional Retirement Vision
Mike Drak, the author of Victory Lap and Retirement Heaven or Hell, suggested an interesting way to look at lifestyle choices in retirement. Mike identifies two different retirement lifestyles—comfort-oriented and growth-oriented. According to Drak, “Comfort-oriented retirees don’t like to venture outside their comfort zones. They are comfortable with the way they are. They derive purpose from the simple but meaningful things to them—taking care of their family, hanging out with friends, taking care of a pet, or their garden, etc. They would never consider running a marathon or starting a new business—it would be too stressful for them, and they don’t want to experience any stress in retirement.”
I see individuals who lean towards wanting a secure, comfortable retirement as those who tend to embrace a more traditional notion of the “golden years” after a lifetime of working. For some people, this may work. Of course, planning is still important when wanting to live comfortably in retirement. Certain considerations should be addressed such as where to live, what kinds of activities do you enjoy, and what are your financial needs to support a particular lifestyle. Also, what are your plans to maintain your health in retirement? If you lose your health, your ideal lifestyle will quickly evaporate.
A Growth-Oriented Vision
Drak describes growth-oriented retirees as those who were motivated to keep growing, learning, and having new experiences. “A growth-oriented retiree can either focus on pursuing self-actualization or be a ‘transcender’ type who derives meaning through helping others. And some people, the lucky ones, can be both.”
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, wrote,” People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch.” In reality, retirement will involve plenty of opportunities to stretch; some that you might choose, and others that you will need to face.
If you lean towards being more growth-oriented, you’ll no doubt seek opportunities to keep growing and learning. Before retiring, thinking about your deferred dreams, things you want to explore, ways in which you can leave a legacy, whether you want to keep working in some capacity, etc., should be part of your planning. You’ll also want to talk to your financial advisor about what you’ll need to support the lifestyle you want.
Finding Your Own Balance and Figuring Out What Matters
Personally, while I tend to look at most challenges that come into my life as learning opportunities. If something is particularly difficult, I have to remind myself that I’m going to learn from it. I also seek out opportunities to grow and to keep learning. I am also motivated to stay healthy and to keep moving. At the same time, I do like a certain amount of predictability in my life. I don’t constantly seek adrenaline rushes as do some people, and I’m not looking for some ultimate experience before the end of my life.
I believe one of the keys to being happy and prepared in retirement is to know yourself well. Because we sometimes lose sight of who we really are when we give up some of our own wishes and desires to meet the needs of our employers, it is easy to forget what really matters to us. Before walking out of your office or workplace for the last time, it could serve you well if you invest some time into figuring out what kind of retirement best suits you.