I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25 KJV).
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10b, NKJV).
Traditionally, we have defined retirement as the cessation of work life, yet today many “retirees” are grappling with what to do at this stage of their lives. I’ve heard more than a few older women lament that they were goal driven for most of their lives, through school, raising their families, and advancing in their careers; but now they are floundering with no goals now that the children are gone and they no longer work their traditional 9-5 job. Instead of seeing this phase as a beginning of a new era or chapter in their lives, they seem to only be able to define it as an ending.
What they don’t realize is that, according to some reports, 40-60 % of Baby Boomers actually don’t plan on retiring. Many of these Boomers are delaying retirement due to financial reasons, and therefore are looking at the so called retirement years as an extension of their productive years. In fact, women are remaining in the workforce longer, as the Department of Labor predicts that the labor participation rates for women women aged 45 – 64 will continue to increase through 2025.
What many who define retirement in traditional ways also may not realize: a woman who reaches age 50 today—and remains free of cancer and heart disease—can expect to see her ninety-second birthday (Gail Sheehy, New Passages). What this means for us: longevity and financial exigency are coming together for many women to create distinct opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers did not have. Instead of seeing this season as a problem, we can see it as a season to pursue God-given possibilities.
Historically, our ideas of retirement fell into three phases, reflecting the agricultural, industrial, and knowledge-service era economies. Yet in today’s talent economy, wise seasoned professionals are working longer (even if only as contractors and consultants) and are carving out their own niches. With longer life spans, and a demand for experience, what worked 50 years ago for retirement, may not be effective for the majority of today’s maturing women.
Here’s what a few professionals have said about a new retirement paradigm.
“Retirement as we know it is dead. It’s no longer an end, it’s a turning point. A chance to take a break and reinvent yourself. “ Ken Dychtwald (http://www.globalagin.org/elderrights/us/2004/definition.htm)
“Retirement implies that you’re just leaving something; it doesn’t reflect that you’re going to something…But it is really a career change. You are leaving something that has been your primary involvement, and you are moving to something else.” Nancy K. Schlossberg,Ed.D., retired professor, author and writer on life transitions.
[Some] people don’t fit the traditional definition of retirement, which according to Webster’s Dictionary means the”withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.[The word “retirement”] no longer captures the current generation of older adults. Nancy Schlossberg, “Retire Smart,Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life” (APA, 2004).
As one of my Christian Women’s Conference participants put it: “I am retired and I am now living the childhood I never had. I bike, I have a personal trainer, I play tennis three times a week.” She and countless women like her, have redefined retirement and have determined in their hearts to stay active and enjoy a purposeful life
Although the level of activity will differ depending on the physical health of the mature woman, each of us can learn from the following eight suggestions for recreating ourselves after “retirement.”
Start with Self Definition. Define for yourself who you will be and what you want to do during this stage of your life or others will do it for you. Who you will be at this stage of your life must emerge from your core spiritual values and align with God’s view of you as revealed in God’s Word. Who you will be cannot be based on other people’s opinions or expectations of you, or on the culture’s stereotypes of the group to which you belong. At this stage, strive for integration of the various parts of your identity (spiritual, psychological, physical, and social) as you journey toward God’s total wholeness for you. Understand your value as an older woman lies in your inner and outer beauty (and that is not defined by the prevailing youth culture of our society), your wisdom, courage and your spiritual fervor.
Continue to Trust God’s Purposes, Promises,and Plans. God’s plan and purpose for your life and Jesus’ promise to live life abundantly span your entire life, not just the pre-retirement years (Psalm 37:25; John 10:10). You have purpose as long as you are alive. Fulfilling your purpose at this stage will most likely take a different form than it did in previous stages, but never doubt you were created to make manifest the love, power and transforming grace of God. Stand firm on God’s promises to provide for you.
Do the “Inner Work”. Going into retirement is a major life transition that is every bit as much about a change of mindset, attitude or paradigm as it is a career or professional change of status. Three critical elements of any transition are a) endings, b) the in between state, and 3) the new beginning. Decide at this juncture of your life what you will end and let go of, what of your identity and practices you will retain at this stage of your life, and what new things, if any, will pick up. The most fruitful inner work to prepare you for post Retirement will be directed by the Holy Spirit. Because the Christian life is a life-long spiritual journey,nurturing your relationship with the Lord during retirement is as important as it is during any other period of your life. This is a time to refocus your energy and take the time to do more “inner work.” It’s time to let go of the compulsions associated with the work world such as competition, comparing and keeping up.
Develop a Financial Plan. Many women work well into retirement, but determine to work more on their own terms.Recreating yourself now will help you determine those terms for working in the second half of your life, and right-sizing your life to accommodate your new financial reality. Work with a professional financial planner to develop a financial plan for this new stage of life and manage your finances wisely and closely.
Choose your own Path. Through prayer and discernment, create the path that will work best for you (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 3:6). Some people continue along a similar but modified path as their pre-retirement career(s); some venture into new directions altogether, seeing retirement as their time to finally explore some latent dreams they didn’t have time to fulfill in their pre-retirement days; some relish the unstructured days and fill their time with hobbies, volunteering, working out at the gym or participating in community activities. Find the path that works for you.
Manage Your Health Diligently. As you recreate yourself,include a plan for wisely managing your health. It is no secret that significant health challenges face many women in retirement. But managed prayerfully and wisely, these health challenges do not have to prevent you from and staying as active as possible, and living out your dreams in retirement.
Stay Connected. Fighting loneliness is said to be the number one factor in determining satisfaction with retirement. As you develop your plan for this phase of your life, include mechanisms for staying connected to others, even as they grow older themselves.Community can be life giving and provides vehicles for support, friendship, and service. Stay connected to others, including your family, church, community center, Internet networking group, or your phone pals.
Plan to Leave a Legacy. Retirement allows you to focus on the gift of you and the gift from you that you will leave to the next generation. For mature believers who are also of retirement age, this stage of spiritual maturity is defined by an experiential knowledge of God and this stage lends itself to giving back by helping other come to know the Lord, serving, and mentoring younger Christians (Titus 2:4; I John 2:13-14). The gift of time and wisdom you share with them is just a piece of the legacy that you establish for their future. As you recreate yourself for life after retirement, consider the legacy you will leave the next generation through your writing, speaking, talks with your grandchildren, or even your recipe books
Here are some reflections questions for you to consider as you prayerfully map out your reinvention strategy.
- . Who do you want to be at this juncture of your life? (an equally enlightening question is, who do you not want to be at this juncture of your life?!)
- What are your distinctive skills and abilities that are desirably transferable to your post-retirement life? (e.g.,what skills and abilities could be used in a new capacity such as consulting,volunteering, working part time or working in a new industry, field or sector?
- Explore your transition challenges?What do you need to put an end to? What do you need to retain or continue? What do you desire to start or pick up (either in terms of new activities, services or innovations f the old)?
4. What resources do you need to fulfill the activities you will retain or pick up (time, $, people, training or continuing education)?
5. What people or groups can you rely upon for emotional support, fun time, idea generation? (identify your community or networks of support and if you don’t have any pray about how you will develop and cultivate a support network)
6. Based on the lessons in this article,what will be your first step? What one thing will you do specifically within the next 48 hours to start re-creating yourself for retirement?
Retirement does not have to be a time of boredom or not knowing what to do with one’s life. Later retirements, and second (and third careers) dictate changed mindsets for all of us maturing 50+ women. As long as we have breath, we have purpose. Purpose and destiny fulfillment do not stop because we cross the half century mark. Instead, we can reinvent our selves by re-framing our definitions of self and of retirement to live fuller, satisfying, lives in our golden years.
© 2013 TransPorter Communication, LLC