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Posted July 15, 2019

Depending on how close you are to your planned retirement date, the above question will be either frighteningly urgent, or so far in the distance that you won’t be able to focus on it for any length of time at all. But what I have noticed most about this question now that I am in semi-retirement myself, is that most people pay a lot more attention to how much money they will need in retirement than what they actually will be doing. And most people have a very hard time with the transition, so that should be expected. But the quality of your time during retirement deserves some serious attention – and I have some ideas that could help.

As I mentioned in my Opening Bell articles in January and April, I am very happy about how the content of my own partial retirement is taking shape. I am not saying the transition has been easy, but honestly, I’ve never heard from a soul who says it was. There’s always an adjustment and some serious thinking taking place.

My favorite aspect of retirement so far is discovering pockets of actual free time here and there in the midst of my formerly over-committed days. I love that feeling! I also love taking long walks in Rockridge and Elmwood in the Oakland/Berkeley neighborhoods near where we live. I love being able to go to the gym more often, and spending more time with good friends. As much as I love reading, I still don’t like it during the day, unless I’m taking a book to lunch at a cafe, which I’ve always loved to do. Daytime is when we extroverts are out in the world seeing people, having conversations, and doing work in the world. It’s hard for me to stay home when it’s daylight outside.

I still love coaching, of course, so am happy to have former clients seeking me out here and there. Jane Micallef, as you probably know by now, is the new career/life coach at Bell (jmicallef@bellinvest.com) who is taking on new Coaching clients at Bell. I am also helping put together a Financial Literacy class at Catholic Charities in Oakland, for people who need improved financial skills, and I am helping put together a group at St. Mary’s College in Moraga for people who are thinking about retirement. I love all those things.

But in the June 17, 2019 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Carol Hymowitz, a recent retiree from a long career in journalism, writes about her own experience in facing the “empty” content of her own new days in retirement. The headline of her article is, “Looking for a Road Map for Retirement? Good Luck.” She describes not knowing what to do for a long while and being bombarded with random advice from close friends, not-so-close friends, and complete strangers – some of whom she actually met while waiting in line at the Social Security office! The advice ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, e.g., Enjoy spending weeks on your couch in your pajamas reading novels, or the ever-favorite, Pursue your dreams, which is not as sublime as it seems because most people don’t even know what their passions are, let alone how to pursue them or make money at them. . .

The question of, “What you are going to do when you are retired?” is one that begs the deeper questions we seem to want to resist: Who are you? What do you care about? What are your gifts and talents? What do you love to do? Who do you want to be with?

I would recommend that at the very least you try buying a journal and taking some time to answer these self-reflective questions for yourself as best you can. Talk them over with the people who know you best. Get more help than that if you need it. But if you are eventually able to fill the content of your retirement days with the activities and people you love; by using your own gifts, talents and skills for something worthy or good; and by using more of your time to help address values and causes you deeply care about, you are well on your way to retirement days filled with content you might actually begin to love.

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