Worried about defining your identity once retired?

Guest post by Katie Evans. Check out her website here.

It’s Saturday morning; you’re at a coffee shop and you get talking to the person next to you in line to pass the time. You talk about the weather, exchange names, and then they turn and ask you, “so what do you do?”

Most conversations with new acquaintances quickly turn to the topic of our occupation. We assign stories and make judgments based on people’s careers and therefore, our jobs often come to define a core part of our identity. So, what does this mean upon reaching retirement?

I’ve worked with numerous people over the years who are struggling with exactly this question.

Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

They’re financially prepared for retirement but uncertain about their purpose post-work and how this may affect them emotionally. The question I always ask is: how do you want to be remembered?

The topic of legacy can sound morbid but it’s a misnomer that this should only be considered late in life. Reflecting on how, and for what, you would like to be remembered is something you should do whilst you have the time to craft the story you want to. So often, we rush through our younger years without contemplating the bigger picture; retirement offers the perfect time to pause and envision. Identifying your answer is the crucial element to finding a sense of fulfillment and a new vocation during retirement.

Okay, but what if I don’t know?

The best place to start is to consider your values and what you are most passionate about. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:

What in life is most important to me?

  • Take this a step further by asking “why?” to each item you write down e.g. for money the “why?” may become security or freedom. Select the 5 most important why answers – these will be your values.

What are my 5 best talents or skills?

  • Consider both your resume and personal life. You can ask friends and family too as they may have an interesting perspective and highlight things you had not considered.

What causes am I most passionate about?

  • This can be on the global scale or local to your neighborhood and family. Try not to exceed 5.

Once you have completed these questions, review your list of answers and use this as inspiration to craft a sentence or two that encapsulates how you want to be remembered and the contribution you would like to make.

Next, you want to plan the next steps to work towards your ideal vision for yourself. You may want to start drawing word clouds or doodles to help you process ideas. This could include:

  • Volunteering for a cause. If there’s no suitable volunteering opportunity locally, could you set one up? Or, if travel is another passion, could you volunteer abroad?
  • Mentorship. This could involve teaching and sharing your experiences, or consulting within your industry of expertise.
  • Family. Supporting and nurturing family is a valuable contribution. Perhaps you were not around much when your kids were young and so you would like to spend more time with your grandkids.
  • Creativity. Do you have the desire to build, invent, create things to bring people joy or solve problems?

Once you have a strong sense of the legacy you’re working towards, the next time someone asks what you do, you can answer with passion and pride.

About Retire Early Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired two decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. As recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel, they have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk shows and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.
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