Is it time to retire the word retirement?

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If you are 40 years old or older the word “retirement” probably causes mild sweats to ignite. Why? Because we see retirement as a time of forced stepping out from the workforce into the abyss. It brings up questions: Will I be able to financially afford to live on savings? How will I emotionally adjust?
My belief is that the word “retirement” will be retired and replaced by a concept of life transition. And baby boomers that are approaching or have stepped out of their adult career are leading the way. They aren’t going to the golf course or garden; they are staying in their career or have re-entered the workforce to seek additional fulfillment.
Recent surveys indicate that 62-65 percent of baby boomers either plan to work after age 65 or don’t plan to retire ever. The widespread concern over inadequate retirement savings is a dominant factor, but there also are a good number who just enjoy working.
The challenge is what if your employer doesn’t want you to stay. This situation is very real and begs for new ways for us to successfully think about the transition.
Transition psychology
There are endless resources to help us determine if we are financially able to retire and support our desired lifestyle. It is a more daunting challenge to figure out whether we are psychologically prepared for retirement.
Counseling psychologist Nancy K. Schlossberg, Ed.D., came up with the psychological portfolio phrase as a way to get people to think of retirement as a career change — not just leaving something, but also beginning something new.
In a study of 100 retirees, Schlossberg found that retirement is not one transition, but many, and that coping with these transitions depends on:

  • The role of work and family in the life of the individual.
  • The timing of retirement.
  • The degree to which work has been satisfying.
  • The degree to which retirement is planned for.
  • The expectations one has about retirement.
  • The degree to which a meaningful life is established.
  • One’s health and sense of financial security.

In other words, many factors contribute to helping people negotiate the retirement transition. (Learn more about her study.)
Weigh the factors
Before you make a final decision, consider some questions:

  • What do you enjoy about your current work and position?
  • If your job is stressful, what do you hope to achieve by transitioning?
  • Does your job also meet your social needs and if so, how?
  • If you have a spouse or partner, what does he or she hope this change will bring to you as a couple?
  • What are your spouse’s or partner’s concerns about your transition and its impact on his or her lifestyle?

The answers may help you to build a plan that addresses the multiple phases of your transition.

Kate Dewey is the President of The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of the Pittsburgh Foundation. Kate has more than 40 years of experience with nonprofit organizations, foundations, public agencies and corporations at the local, state and national level.