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Retirement Advice is Great…Until it Isn’t

Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright, once said, “No enemy is worse than bad advice.” And yet, we often turn to friends when seeking advice, though much of this is probably to either reinforce our own opinion or say we’ve done our due diligence, when we may wind up going with our first inclination anyway. When it comes to how to spend your time in the “slow go” or “no go” days of your career, whether engaged in traditional retirement or not, it’s important to not rely solely on the advice of friends, as of course, they are not you, and their lives and experiences differ from yours as well as their skills, strengths, and financial circumstances.

That’s not to say that it’s not good to take a consultative approach when deciding how and where to focus yourself in this “third act” of your career. It’s often helpful to hear various viewpoints to help you make informed decisions. It’s just that your friends may not be in the best position to take an objective stance and could get into the mode of problem solving, when what you’re seeking isn’t necessarily a “right answer” for a particular problem. We often fall into the trap of “everything’s a nail and I’ve got a hammer,” jumping to wanting to fix things that may not need fixing, when all we’re looking for is a sounding board with an open ear.

Consider incorporating a well-rounded strategy to decide what you want this next phase of your life to look like, meaning rather than just focusing on your friends and family for support and input, expose yourself to additional sources of help too, whether a coach, financial planner, estate attorney, CPA, counselor, or another advisor to support your goal setting, action planning, and creating a vision for your future. This will provide you with additional perspectives and information so you can be confident you’re taking the steps that are right for you as you make this transition, allowing more objective parties to play a role in service of your success.

There are some great books/resources available too, as you consider the “non-technical” aspects of retirement or slowing down a bit in your career or considering a change of direction. Here are a few of my favorites (and no, no one is asking me to plug these; I just think they’re helpful):

When considering what you’d like to do in your late career/active retirement phase, it can also be helpful to engage in some focused brainstorming with friends and/or family, so it’s more than just going on advice alone. Since there are many facets to what it could look like, including where you live and how, think in terms of the various “pillars” of life. These include:

  • Intellectual: How will you keep you mind active and sharp so as not to decline and to keep you intellectually stimulated and learning?
  • Physical: How will you stay physically active to gain or maintain good physical health?
  • Social: How can you ensure you have good connections with people, so you don’t become socially isolated, potentially leading to loneliness, depression, and a downward spiral?
  • Spiritual: How will you engage with your spiritual side, whatever that looks like for you and feeds your soul?
  • Occupational: How can you stay engaged to use your skills and strengths you’ve built throughout you career, perhaps channeled in a different direction?
  • Emotional: How can you ensure you have good mental health and loving relationships?

Having a plan that touches on each of these aspects can go a long way toward a balanced, healthy, happy life as you enter the later years of your career or decide to slow down a bit. Remember that nothing says you have to be fully retired in the traditional sense of a life of leisure, unless that’s what you aim to do. Whether out of financial necessity or desire, the vision of retirement from past generations is now very different, if it even really exists at all anymore.

Be sure that if you do seek advice from friends on what your later years will look like, it’s in balance with additional objective information and support, so you can be confident with your plan of action.

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