This idea of “retire with purpose” has two important parts: defining retirement and discovering your purpose?
Retirement as defined in the dictionary is “the period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. That doesn’t quite do it for me. Retirement is a period of life where new time choices are possible, you may choose to work but are not burdened with the requirement to work. For me, it also implies that we have left our life-long job or career.
What are your time choices? We each have 168 hours per week and they will be filled. Why not do that purposefully, deliberately and with intention. The model above suggests that our time will be split across work, hobbies, volunteering or leisure. We can choose tasks or relationships to fill our time or both.
Purpose is (re)discovering who you are and Mission is what you choose to do. You answer questions such as “who am I”, “what do I want my legacy to be” or “how am I going to make the world a better place”. Purpose will feel meaningful and joyful. You feel called to something because that’s who you are. It’s something you can’t stop yourself from doing.
Research shows that people with purpose live longer. It is an important element of well-being. Retirement is a significant shift in time choices. You heart, mind, body and soul must be nurtured but only you know the right balance.
There is something energizing about being a “senior”, that time of life beyond 60 years old. The kids have grown up and you may be an “empty nester”. You have accumulated incredible life skills. Your maturity and experience cause you to see life differently…with wisdom, patience and even a bit more humor.
Seniors are a valuable commodity to family and community. This talent and capacity must be nurtured individually and systemically. Individually, we must define a “retirement” in our own way. We must know that we are each priceless and not let our past be our only identity. Each of our 168 hours per week is lived uniquely, balancing time and attention choices across work, leisure, family and service. Do it deliberately by being clear on Purpose, Vision and Goals. Systemically, we need organizations to create meaningful roles that encourage use of all our talents and continue to develop them. Organizations also need to implement flexible schedules.
Express your creativity…in projects of any type. Keep learning and live to your full potential. Have courage to try new things. Form deeper or new relationships with family and friends. See the world and people with a new perspective. Remember the “good times” but provide future-focused leadership in your passion.
Choosing purposeful activities has been shown to enhance the quality and longevity of life. Our minds and bodies both need to be exercised to stay vibrant. Everybody deserves their day/week/month “on the beach” but I hope you also choose contribution and impact.
Why should you spend time discerning (uncovering, understanding, practicing) your Purpose? Why write a Purpose statement? I can think of several reasons:
- Purpose develops a deeper sense of worth. We know who we are deeply including values, strengths, beliefs and needs. This results in confidence because it’s less about “image”. We use this knowledge to pursue more aligned jobs and life roles.
- Purpose makes it easier to choose how we use our time, make decisions and allow people to enter our lives. We learn what is essential in life to thrive, be fulfilled and feel good about ourselves.
- Purpose deepens our connectedness to our Creator, creation and friends and family. Our relationships change.
- Purpose provides a buffer against “losses”. If we lose a job we know that “our job is not our life”. If we lose a life role, e.g. friend, we know that our many other life roles are being pursued.
Understanding the WHY of our lives is essential and worthwhile. Generally, why are you alive? Specifically, why did we pick this friend, this job, this place to live or this activity? Ultimately, choices are an expression of yourself and a reflection of heart, mind, body and soul needs.
More personally, this effort must be called a transformation. My pursuit of a purpose statement took over a year until the final words emerged. The “mining for gold” of my life is still in progress but continual discovery of new gold nuggets continues to thrill me.
In an earlier blog I wrote about the elements of a Life Plan. I have one more to add, i.e. to have an “elder plan”.
The end of life has many possibilities…you pass away in your sleep (I don’t hear about that much anymore), you have a serious disease (cancer), your mind goes (Alzheimer’s) or your body goes (you can’t walk). The duration is anywhere from instant to months to years. Modern medicine has found a way to prolong our lives. I watched this in a nursing home where I volunteered, I participated in it with my parents and am now experiencing it again with my 86-year old father-in-law.
The plan needs to consider a few elements:
- Where do you want to live? If you want to live in your current home, modifications may be needed: stair lift, wheelchair accessible bathroom, etc. If you can’t live at home do you want to be in a nursing care facility or be with a family member? These potential decisions need early thought and discussion just like you would consider a will.
- What can you afford? Nursing care costs average $50,000 per year but can easily exceed $100,000. In-home care givers can cost over $20/hour! Will you buy long-term care insurance or fund this through personal savings?
- How will you spend your time? If your mind goes, there probably isn’t much to think about. When your body goes, I hope you love to read, think and talk.
These decisions can be complex and emotional. Don’t wait until you have an emergency for grandparents, parents or yourself. End-of-life demands some early planning.
Writing your Life Purpose statement is the centerpiece of your Life Plan. When you write your thoughts and choice of words get clear.
Here is a simple purpose statement formula: I will use my VALUES/ STRENGTHS/ GIFTS to EXPRESS MYSELF (and interact with others).
An example: “I will use my creativity, compassion and empathy to help others see the greatness within themselves.” Eventually, you might want to have a short version too, e.g. “Discovering greatness”.
Start by getting key words on paper. The sentence(s) can come later. Let each word have a special meaning that describes who you are. Seek timeless ideas, not goals.
I don’t think it’s possible to get your purpose statement 100% right in a day. You have to “test drive” it. To check whether you’re on the right track, consider the following:
- Are you thinking beyond yourself? Purpose is about who you are and how expressing yourself makes the world a better place.
- Does it fit all or most of your life roles? Notice how the above example can work as a parent, coworker or friend.
- Do the words touch your “heart, mind, body and soul? You will want to share your purpose with others in words or deeds.
There are many ways to write a Purpose statement. My 250 words are meant to tease you to take action. Consider reading The On-Purpose Person or The Power of Purpose. Here is a good article.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. – Winston Churchill
Volunteering is something that can add value and meaning to any phase of our lives but there are special times when this value is strategic…a deliberate choice to move us toward our personal vision. Here are some examples:
- As a parent. Parents who volunteer become role models to their children and show that service to others is a normal, essential and wonderful part of life.
- While unemployed. Unemployment can add time and flexibility to your life. Choosing to serve at this time keeps you active, adds rhythm and purpose, allows you to build new skills and network with others.
- When retired. This is the perfect time to try new things and experiment with new roles and skills. The “second half of life” can move us beyond our traditional view of success because we have less to prove yet much to offer.
- When feeling down. There is nothing better that thinking of others when we are feeling down. We see that “we are all in this together”.
- To refill your spiritual fuel tank. Finding God through service complements prayer or a church experience.
Volunteering can be formal or informal. Formal is when you do it as part of an organization. Informal volunteering can be done almost anytime, for example, helping an elderly neighbor shovel the snow or bringing a meal to a neighbor that is dealing with a death.
Where is service on your personal value system? Be clear on the “why”.
The “skill” of budgeting includes: 1) the ability to develop a short and long-term spending and savings plan, 2) tracking/controlling expenses and 3) having the discipline to save for long-term needs. As you can see, I want to emphasize long-term. A budget may be called a spending plan or cash flow plan.
There are various timeframes that require planning:
- Short-term. This looks at next month. Do I have enough money to pay the bills?
- Medium-term. This looks at the entire year, a 12-month-by-month plan. Am I prepared for periodic expenses?
- Long-term. This is a 20-30 year-by-year plan. This is another element of your Life Plan. Am I on track for life goals?
A primary purpose of a budget is to assure we save. We need to save for medium-term needs, e.g. buying Christmas gifts, vacation or an emergency fund AND we need to save AND invest for long-term needs, e.g. college or retirement.
To develop these plans you will need to define your life and financial goals, e.g. I need $5000 to take a special family vacation in two years. The goal statement then leads to some math, i.e. how much do I need to save per month and some analysis, i.e. does this goal fit (do the numbers add up) with all of my other financial goals.
Using a spreadsheet for both the medium and long-term budgets will help with the math and analysis. The rows are the various budget categories and the columns the time frame (month or year).
Don’t forget to “pay yourself first”.