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‘What will you do when you retire?’ is the wrong question to ask
It is far more important to ask yourself ‘who you will be when you are retired?’ first. That in itself will undoubtedly drive what you will do when you retire and allow you to remain flexible.
“What will you do when you retire?”
This question is commonly asked as you approach and enter retirement. I’m sure many of you have been pressed with it and replied with an answer like “I’ll play golf, and I’ll go travelling,” or, “I’ll join a charity and find a few hobbies,” and maybe even, “I’ll spend more time with my grandkids.” While these activities may be true, they no longer define who you are the way the titles of what you did during your career did, do they? You’re not going to build your identity around golfing or travelling specifically are you? So I want you to stop yourself from answering this question, until you’ve answered another one first … “Who will you be when you retire?”
Throughout your career, you acquire a range of labels that are associated with what you ‘do’ on a daily basis. These labels often carry a sense of pride as they signify your place in the social and professional hierarchy. You may have started as a coordinator, progressed to a manager, and then moved on to roles like a general manager or director. Some of you may have become business owners, consultants, or advisors. Others may have held titles such as nurse, teacher, accountant, researcher, or assistant. If someone were to ask about your identity, you would likely list the tangible hierarchy that defined your societal ascent.
But, in retirement, the hierarchy becomes less significant. You are no longer solely identified by your career actions or accomplishments. At this stage, the external labels that once formed your entire identity lose their importance, leaving you to wonder who you truly are when you're no longer defined by what you ‘do’. It may seem stark to think about it this way, but it's crucial to confront the reality of retirement.
Retirement is a turning point where the focus shifts from “what you do” to “who you truly are” when stripped of all those external judgemental factors. This shift in perspective makes it easier to understand where you fit in and how others fit in around you. But it requires a different question to get your identity clear - even to yourself.
Instead of asking "what will you do when you retire?", I want you to really think about that big question "who will you be when you retire?". This might sound profound, but let's delve into this thought and break it down. Stay with me. I think you’ll smile with awareness by the end.
The question "who will you be?" is quite distinct from "what will you do". What it does is it provides a definition of your attitude towards retirement and what you will find energy for you during this phase of life. Based on my conversations with retirees, I believe it is crucial to establish an overarching framework for your retirement attitude from the beginning that frames your values and energy and find ways to live it every day, rather than simply filling your time with activities, erratically. Or at least, those who do seem very happy with their lot in life.
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In essence, at this stage, you go from being a "human doing" in your career, to being a '“human being” in your retirement. For many, retirement offers the first opportunity to define themselves in this way. It is a time when you achieve a certain level of financial security and can make choices about how you spend your time. With this freedom comes the opportunity to become the person you've always wanted to be and let that guide your actions.
Your attitude is what determines the way you’ll look at life and therefore the adventures you embark on during this stage. Retirement presents an opportunity to reflect on the elements that have shaped your identity thus far and reevaluate what holds relevance in the next phase of life. If you strip away the need to be primarily a "human doing" driven by workplace and mid-life hierarchies, the question of what comes next becomes more complex but also, can be far more joyful. It now requires us to break it down into two separate questions.
Firstly, who are you as a human being? Consider your attitude, how you treat others, and what makes you uniquely beautiful. Once you have a grasp of your core identity, you can then explore the question of 'how will you spend your time?’.
As mentioned earlier, there is a conscious opportunity here for all of us at this turning point. Instead of defining people solely by their labels as human doings, we can evaluate them based on four wonderful aspects:
Attitude: How they approach life and their mindset.
Interpersonal relationships: The way they treat others.
Uniqueness: What makes them beautiful and distinct.
Curiosity and interests: What they are eager to explore and learn more about.
Rather than describing someone I interview as a "retired technology director," I would describe her as a curious, engaging, adventurous woman, a caring mother and grandmother who devotes time to understanding technology, travels the world on long walks, and is eager to explore interests in longevity and health.
By looking at people and identifying them based on their internal characteristics, curiosities, and interests, we establish a solid foundation for finding like-minded individuals in retirement—people who share a similar attitude and interests.
Here's an awesome real-life example that perfectly captures the power of planning for retirement. Meet Ted, featured in my book, How to Have an Epic Retirement. Ted had a brilliant idea early on in his retirement — he wanted to be “the coolest, most engaged grandparent he could be! He not only wanted to enjoy his grandchildren's younger years but also maintain a strong connection with them as they grew older, even when he became "less cool" in their eyes when he inevitably aged.
Ted was determined to make his grandparent goals a reality. Whenever he spent time with his grandkids during their early years, he gave them his undivided attention. He made every moment together fun and exciting, going on wild adventures and spreading joy wherever they went. And he didn't stop there! Ted immersed himself in their worlds, asking them about their interests and genuinely exploring what made them tick.
As the grandkids grew up, they noticed and cherished Ted's genuine interest in them. They reciprocated that love and developed a true bond with their awesome grandpa. Now, they're almost grown-up teenagers who drive for more than two hours just to spend time with him during university breaks. That connection they formed in their younger years is still going strong!
Over time, as Ted and his grandkids aged, their relationships matured beautifully. They've reached an incredible place of understanding and closeness. Ted knew who he wanted to be as a grandparent and took deliberate actions to make it happen. He adjusted his approach along the way, navigating the waves of life with love and dedication.
Ted's story shows us the magic that can unfold when we set our sights on who we want to be, and put in the effort to make it a reality.
So I ask you today - “who will you be when you are retired?” Tell me in the comments! Use the four levers to describe yourself - and be brave and ambitious.
Keep scrolling down. There’s lots more below.
And until next week - Make it epic!
Bec Wilson Xx
Exercise: Who will you be when you retire?
You can start with yourself. A great way to give yourself perspective is to ask yourself these questions:
Attitude: What do you want your attitude to be, every day, for your own enjoyment and fulfilment?
Interpersonal relationships: How do you want to treat others in these years?
Uniqueness: What makes you beautiful and distinct (or maybe there are different words that replace these?)
Curiosity and interests: What are you eager to explore and learn more about?
This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Sunday the 2nd July 2023. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Retirees being short-changed by the big banks
As interest rates climb and homeowners squeal for mercy, there are two groups often forgotten who can now enjoy the fruits of rising rates: the wealth builders and the retirees.
For eight long years, these people have felt sick every time interest rates dropped, wondering how to generate any income at all from their hard-earned savings without taking too much risk.
Now, rates are rising, but you will probably need to switch banks if you want to earn decent interest on your cash. The world of banking has fundamentally changed, and it’s important to understand why your money isn’t their priority anymore.
In the past, banks made money in many ways. They charged fees for holding funds in transaction accounts and paid you almost no interest. They loaned this money at much higher rates to people buying houses and made a killing.
Counting down to bookstore release for How to Have an Epic Retirement
Take advantage of the 19% discount Booktopia is offering right now.
Just two weeks until it hits the stores now.
This really is the ultimate guidebook for a modern retirement.
How to Have an Epic Retirement is filled with practical information, examples and questions covering the six key pillars of great modern retirement:
Building your financial confidence
Looking after your health
Understanding how happiness is created and finding fulfilment
Living out your travel dreams
Your home and how your needs change in all the different phases of retirement
It’s the first book of its kind to explain in detail how the systems that support a new age and modern retirement in Australia work, making what can be a complex topic seem easy to navigate.
How to Have an Epic Retirement is written for you, Australia’s truly epic pre- and post retirees – so secure your copy using the pre-order discount below.
Retirement Diaries: Packing up and moving across the world to Scotland in retirement with Brian Crisp
In our latest edition of the Retirement Diaries Podcast, I spoke with Brian Crisp about packing up and moving across the world to Scotland when he retired and his enthusiastic attitude to working.
It’s our most-listened to podcast yet! Very popular indeed.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this newsletter and all materials by Epically and Epic Retirement is intended to be general advice and for educational purposes only. It is not personalised financial, investment, or legal advice. The content presented is based on our understanding of current laws and regulations, which may change over time. We recommend consulting with a qualified financial advisor, accountant, or legal professional before making any financial or retirement-related decisions. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information shared. Listeners are solely responsible for their own actions and decisions based on the information provided in this podcast.