Retirement – More than $$$

Posted on November 2nd, 2011, by iMinerva

woman at golf course

Most retirement checklists start with the financials – your 401K, pension, social security and monies available to sustain you for the next chapter of your life.  Important, even critical – but your financial checklist doesn’t tell the whole story.

Just back from a marvelous, fabulous trip to Paris with a small group of folks who were vaguely connected.  I was invited by JoAnn, my cousin, who works with Marc, the trip organizer, who knows Edward, who knows David, who knows Richard. Marc also knows….well, you get the idea.

Back to retirement.  Several of the pilgrims on our trip are now retired and dinner conversation often centered on the changes and issues they’re facing at this new stage of their lives.  Very different from a mid-life crisis… which most of us have tramped through with the help of a new car, a kitchen remodel, a facelift….  this retirement-stage crisis is deep and more soulful.

Who Am I??

Those who have worked most of their lives feel they have lost their “definition.”  As one travel-mate said, “I always defined myself by my job, my career, my title.  I don’t have any of that anymore.”  So his question became, “Who am I?  How do I define myself?” 

While this is a basic philosophical question pondered through the ages, we’ve all filled-in-the-blank with answers like:  Mother or Father – Executive at xyz company, assistant to xxx, salesperson, bank teller, nurse, police officer…..  Now, at this retirement age, those descriptors generally don’t apply and we’re left floating.  It’s not enough to say, “former executive” or “retired teacher.”  That sounds like we have no current role in life.  We need to recreate our identity to fit our new life chapter.

Circle of Friends

A second concern for the Recently Retired is the loss of community.  Because our circle of friends often includes many workmates, retirement sends us out of the loop for gossip or shared experiences.  Friends from outside of work are often still employed and not available for lunch or an early movie, and don’t want to use their limited vacation time to join you in Paris.  Friends who are retired and have the time, don’t want to spend the money for fear their nest egg will too quickly disappear.  So where do you find your new circle – folks who have time, share your interests, and want to share an early movie followed by a glass of wine and a salad or maybe a Grand Marnier Souffle ?


Number three on the Recently Retired checklist – but certainly not the last in importance – is lack of purpose.  What is the compelling reason to jump out of bed today?  What do I need to accomplish?  What challenge do I need to solve?  What is my contribution to life going to be today?

Laundry, shopping, a shower, a good book or movie…  none of it very compelling.  We all need to feel a sense of purpose.  It’s what the French call “raison d’etre,” or reason to be, and the Japanese refer to as “ikigai.”  What is the purpose of one’s life?

So there it is…   My dinner discussions in Paris – well, a small portion of the discussion but an important part.  No lightning bolts bringing answers.  However, Paris brought lovely new friends – a new circle of folks who shared the questions and conflicts of retirement.  Hopefully, our discussion will continue and together we’ll begin to find direction, definition and ikigai.  Stay tuned.  A bientot.


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