Retire to something - not from something

Several years ago, at age 50, I was “re-organized” out of my corporate job. It was a shock as I had never been unemployed. I never realized how much of my sense of self-worth and self-image were tied up in my job and title. Like most people, I had defined myself by my work and I had no exit strategy, no vision of where I wanted to take my life. I spent almost two difficult years trying to figure out my future. It was, however, out of this experience that I realized that I was far from alone.

Thousands of people struggle with the agony of significant life change and how to transition to a new life. For me, this experience resulted in establishing a company that teaches lifestyle transition planning and retirement education.

‘Old’ retirement vs. ‘new’ retirement

Lifestyle transition planning and retirement education teaches the difference between the concepts of the old and the “new” retirement:

The old retirement meant working to age 65 (for most there was no choice but to retire). Most people didn’t have a pension plan and the reality was you might only live five to 10 years into retirement, so why worry about transition planning and retirement education? Most people would kick back and do nothing.

The “new” retirement is completely different. People are retiring earlier and living longer, and now it is conceivable that one could have 25 or more years ahead of them. That is a long time to do nothing. Today there is a need to build a new life structure that will challenge, motivate, and provide a feeling of being useful and a sense of life satisfaction.

Here is a true story that may help to illustrate this need:

A client made a generous, voluntary early retirement offer to about 200 employees. He was shocked at how few accepted the offer. In order to find out why the offer didn’t appeal to most of the employees, a survey was conducted. The results indicated that these people were concerned about not having a life to retire to. They didn’t perceive that they had alternatives for the future and without alternatives; they did not want to leave. Hence, they wanted to retire to something, not from something.

Seven questions about your future:

To figure out a new life structure for your future, ask yourself these seven questions:

  1. How will I spend my time?
  2. What do I really like to do?
  3. What will keep me motivated?
  4. Will my finances support my vision of retirement?
  5. Do I want a second career?
  6. What about working part-time?
  7. How will my family be affected?

Coming up with the answers can be hard work and it helps to be able to crystallize your thinking by periodically including your partner or a close friend in the discussion process. You may well find that he/she is struggling with the same issues. The process of getting different points of view is very helpful in drawing conclusions over time.

You should also make a list of:

  1. the things you like to do in your current job
  2. your favourite hobbies
  3. your favourite activities

Building a new life structure that allows you to leverage your existing strengths and skills is far more motivating than developing new ones.

If you find this difficult to articulate, try some online quizzes. For example: visit (then click on “Career Navigator”). Answer some general questions about your preferences and you will receive a list of occupations and activities.

Research has shown that work provides a number of benefits: income, time management, a sense of being useful, socialization, and a sense of status. Your new life structure should provide at least three of these to give you a feeling of satisfaction.

If you haven’t already, start thinking about what the next phase of your life might look like. Include your partner or someone you really respect in your discussion and develop a plan to live life on your terms. The key is to get your head around the idea of retiring to something, not from something. In my line of work I see too many that have retired from something. Their life is on hold and they are looking backward at what might have been. Don’t be one of them.


Av Lieberman is the President of The Retirement Education Centre Inc. (RECI). Formed in 1996, RECI is an education, advocacy and research organization. Its unique program combining retirement education with transition planning has been taught to almost 7,000 employees in a broad range of corporations and organizations. RECI does not sell financial products and does not give advice. To learn more you may visit their website:


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