Second Stage of Life

Have you looked beyond the finances to focus on the transitional work?

The meaning of the word retirement has changed and evolved. Originally, it described the period after people stopped working a traditional job or career and began old age. More recently however, it has taken on new meanings like finding a fun, part-time job; a new or renewed passion for a hobby or interest; starting a new career; or balancing work and fun.

Because of this shift in meanings, I use the term “exit strategy planning” in place of retirement planning. This is more fitting because it includes leaving the usual career or normal workplace in favour of new adventures. I recently facilitated a seminar where one participant stated, “Retirement really seems to mean transition, rather than not working.”

This change of terminology is also fitting because the length of retirement has changed with time. When mortality rates were lower, “retirement” represented a short period (approximately 5 – 10 years) from age 65 to death (which was quite young comparatively). Now, with improved longevity, the second stage of life might begin at the sought after “freedom 55” and extend for decades. It is not unusual for people to leave work in their 50s, live actively into their 80s or 90s and actually be retired longer than they worked!

Getting to that “post work” position comfortably takes a significant amount of planning and requires a review of a number of difference facets of life including: emotions, details, change management, activity, family and social interaction. By taking each piece and considering it carefully and independently, an exit strategy grows stronger and synergistic because the contributions of each component were weighed, measured and incorporated into the plan.

The Emotions of Exit Strategy Planning

Regardless of the term, the transition can be characterized as anything from sheer excitement to absolute fear. A similar continuum of feelings might have emerged at other times of change – committing to a new relationship or getting married, expecting a child or taking on a new job. Leaving a career or business is a major change and its impact should not be underestimated. It deserves the time and energy to plan, prepare and adjust. I have worked with many people who did not realize that their emotions fell somewhere in between fear and excitement – they often landed close to the middle around worry, concern, nervous or stressful because not all their planning was complete.

Emotions of Exit Strategy Planning

The way to keep moving towards excitement and avoid the trap of fear is by preparing and planning. The future can be uncertain and yet comfort and confidence can increase when future challenges, joys and decisions are figured out. Taking charge of the transition is important because it creates a feeling of control. No one wants things to just happen to them or rely on luck.

Transition TopicsThere is no single solution to making the transition successful, but looking forward proactively definitely makes a difference. This begins with making the time and taking the opportunity to plan and prepare long before the exit arrives. A successful transition is based on having the confidence that the work on the financial side is complete while the personal transition work is also in place.

Getting ready to leave and following through with the exit will progress better when the work is done to figure out the whens, wheres, whats and hows.

Details, Details, Details:

A major stressor before exiting is the need to rely on other people for answers that help decision making: how much pension do I have, when should I leave, do I have enough money saved? The focus on finances and selecting a perfect date is so strong, the everyday questions get lost: what does monthly living cost, how much is saved on commuting, what do activities cost?

Ask yourself:

What is your favourite season and is that a good time to leave?
What monthly and annual bills will you incur yearly?
Is there an age or anniversary that has great meaning to you?

It is essential to contemplate all components that contribute to transition success. Answers to the three questions above should be self-generated rather than provided by outsiders or professionals. Don’t underestimate the simple things like month of exiting, budgeting details and short term goals.

Manage Change:

A number of people underestimate the amount of change exiting brings and assume the major difference is “just not going to work” or “having more free time”. The error is not seeing all the pieces associated with having an extra 40 – 50 hours per week (or sometimes over 60 hours for workaholics or long commuters).

Ask yourself:

Do you want to downsize your home? If so, when is the best time?
Should you live where hobbies or sports can be enjoyed year round?
How do family members impact where you live and travel?

Successful transitions require an examination of different phases of life in order to visualize the change. It is necessary to look at big items such as home, vehicle and family as well as smaller ones like activities, hobbies and travel. The results of “not working” need to be set up through an actionable plan rather than just thinking about it and hoping the exit will unfold serendipitously.

Active & Activity:

It is not unusual to hear about people who are miserable and wandering around aimlessly by the 7th or 8th month of leaving work. They neglected to create a schedule, goals or plans for day to day activities. There might be a great “to do” list but without organization and motivation nothing will be started, much less get finished.

Ask yourself:

What will you do to occupy your time?
What level of busyness or schedule do you want?
What kinds of new activities, hobbies or sports will you try?

“Aimless” wanderers must look at lifestyle needs for both daily and monthly living. The big picture becomes clear when goals are identified and action steps are developed.

Family Ties:

People in their early 50s should be in their glory if they can stop working at a young age. Unfortunately, they are at risk of frustration because family demands override daily dreams and freedoms. When people have younger children, aging parents and numerous obligations, an early exit can be more about others than self.

Ask yourself:

What arrangements are needed to leave the workplace this early?
How much of “your” transition and life will be controlled by “others”?
How long will these demands on your time last?

In these situations, the focus is on a difficult concept – balance. There is a need for clarity on transitional goals, boundaries and expectations. Every major change in life necessitates evaluation and negotiation with family members. Frustration, conflict and family drama can be avoided through open discussions and planning.

Social Circles:

One of my clients found herself babysitting grandkids five days a week. This happened quickly – only 3 months after exiting. She loved the kids but babysitting was not her dream, plan nor intention. It felt like a “new job” she didn’t enjoy and didn’t know how it happened. Although she was busy and active, she felt isolated, overwhelmed and resentful.

Ask yourself:

What is the best way to schedule your days, evenings and weeks?
Just how busy and social do you want to be?
Will you know when it is time to do something different?
Who will you socialize with if everyone else still works?

This “reluctant babysitter” took time and sought professional help to figure out her dreams and the boundaries she needed to be successful. She now babysits one day a week and enjoys craft classes and volunteering to meet new friends. She didn’t realize that socializing with children does not fill the same needs as socializing with adults. With this valuable interaction and friendship, she is a much happier Gramma!

Finding answers is the first step in planning and preparing for the transition to exit. Notice that none of the questions included in this article have to do with finances. The word retirement, for many, leads to thoughts about finances while the word transition is about daily living. Make sure to combine both financial and transitional preparation so the future will unfold exactly how it is envisioned and planned. Want help with this plan?  Check out our Exit Success Program or contact us at or 604-349-8660 to discuss how we can help you.

This entry was posted by Pam Paquet and is filed under Exit Strategies, Retirement Preparedness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.