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Be The Architect of Your Retirement
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Retirement gives us hope of a new beginning, but only if you take the time to envision and design it. Ask yourself, “If I had to do it all again, what would I really love to get up every morning and do?” Invest the time and effort needed to design your new path.  

Retirement means different things to different people. Long before the going away party at work, you need to decide what you want your retirement to be. Will it be leisure time? A new career? Volunteer work? Establishing a legacy?

Planning for retirement takes time, reflection and visioning. After all, retirement is centered on you and your needs, and only you can be the architect of what that looks like. To begin the process, here are some areas to explore:

Develop Lifestyle Goals: Make a list of things you would love to do if you could afford to retire tomorrow. Then write down how much time you currently spend on these activities. Your list may include exciting pursuits, but if you are not engaging in these activities now, what about retirement will change this? We will make time to do the things we love no matter how busy we are. Take time to assess how realistic it will be to do those activities.

Decide What’s Important to You: When looking for clues to what you will want to do, consider what’s most important to you now. Your core values, as evidenced by your actions, have always been with you. They reveal what’s most important and meaningful to you on a deep level. Those around you can see them both in your expressed talents and the choices you make. We are often the last to realize what our values or talents are because they are so natural to us. Consider asking a good friend, colleague or family member. What do you see as my special talent, ability or gift? Why? Keep a journal of what you discover is most meaningful to you.

Build or Tap into Your Network: You have naturally done this as you built your career, and it is not that different as you chart your course for retirement. Studies show that a person may spend 25 to 35 years in retirement. Don’t you want a strong support network for such a significant period of your life? According to geriatric experts, social interaction is a key component in staying mentally healthy as you age. As you leave your work network behind, purposefully engage in new activities and develop new friendships.

Live Your Dream: What have you always wanted to do but never had the time to? You’ll know you have found your purpose in life when you can say that your pursuit of it is tireless and causes contagious energy. When you retire, it’s even more important to tap into your life’s purpose. Think of retirement as a space holder; it has no inherent value or worth. It’s the purpose and meaning you bring to your retirement that will make it the joyful phase of life you envision.  

Whatever your retirement, it won’t just happen. Too many people expect that their passion or mission in retirement will just come along one day, like a birthday or holiday. That simply isn’t the case. Only you can shape your retirement, and that will take an investment of time and effort on your part. That may mean stepping out of routine and embracing new and different experiences and opportunities to realize your vision. This is not a time to be safe, but to embrace life with all its promise and possibilities.

Sandy Demarest, a certified career and retirement options coach, is the owner of Demarest Directions, an organization in Amherst that provides seminars and coaching to help plan for retirement. For more information, visit DemarestDirections.com.

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