Understanding unretirement: Seven questions you should ask yourself right now about your golden years

Understanding unretirement: Seven questions you should ask yourself right now about your golden years

Retirement is changing in profound ways. The dream of a luxurious retirement packed with golf resorts and cruise ships has proven elusive for many Canadians.

It was probably never realistic, but in important ways, baby boomers are only just now coming to terms with a future they hadn’t banked on. It’s a future that includes working longer, saving more, and planning more carefully. It’s not the retirement our parents enjoyed, and that’s not all bad. Canadians are living longer than ever. Armed with a more pragmatic view of their senior years and a bit of financial planning, today’s retirees have opportunities to write an exciting new chapter in their lives.

Guess what new retirees say their biggest surprise is when they finally leave work? “Seven days of fishing or golf just isn’t as much fun as they thought it would be,” according to Eileen Chadnick, principal and certified coach at Big Cheese Coaching. That’s why a retirement plan should take more than financial questions into consideration.

“After the immediate [retirement] honeymoon, a life filled exclusively with leisure stops being leisurely,” says Chadnick. “All rest, no stress, no challenges becomes really very unbalanced. People need to find balance or they will get bored. People who don’t have a plan — who don’t have activities and ways to engage all aspects of their personality — don’t do well in retirement.”

Chadnick counsels her clients to begin thinking about that plan soon after their 40th birthday. If that’s already passed, start now. It’s especially important to begin early if you decide you’d like to do something in retirement that’s dramatically different from what you do now. Some see retirement as an opportunity to begin a new career, for example. If that requires training, work it into your plan.

“How do you shift gears? You need to get your mind around that and prepare to think about other possibilities for yourself,” she says. “I think people make the mistake of waiting until it’s too late.”

What are you supposed to spend all that time thinking about? Chadnick prepared this checklist of seven questions:

  1. What will be most important to you in retirement? What will give you a sense of purpose? What will be your passion?
  2. What kind of work do you want to do, if any? Will it be strictly paid work or include unpaid, volunteer work?
  3. Do you want to remain in your existing career, or do something entirely different?
  4. Leave aside the financial importance of work for a moment. How important will work be to you in terms of intellectual and social fulfillment?
  5. In the absence of a work schedule, how much structure do you want in your day?
  6. How will you replace some of the good stuff of work: intellectual engagement, challenge, and growth opportunities? If you’re not getting the social interaction you had in your workplace, how will you stay connected?
  7. What do you need to stay motivated, inspired, and engaged? What do you need to stay healthy, vibrant, and resilient?

Visit to download Kevin’s new-book Understanding Unretirement.

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