By Ron Carson
Will you still be relevant when you’re no longer working? That’s something many people wonder as they near retirement. While the simple answer is yes, you may find that the toughest audience to convince is yourself. That’s because grieving the loss of a workplace identity is far more common than most people think.
While we all experience different roles and identities throughout our lives – such as parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, or social identities based on race, religion, or ethnicity – one of the most common ways we self-identify is through our occupations. One reason is the sheer amount of time we spend working versus engaged in other activities. Another is because work can provide a sense of accomplishment, self-worth and confidence. Whether you’ve spent 30+ years as a teacher, farmer, small business owner or the CEO of a major corporation, coming to terms with your new identity as a retiree can be hard. In fact, for many, the lack of a clear identity in retirement can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation. That makes it important to spend time thinking about your post-work identity, well before you retire.
Why you need a plan for life after work
Transitioning from a lifetime of work to life in retirement is a significant milestone. Yet, it’s important to remember that retirement is not a single, isolated event. Rather, it’s the beginning of a new phase in your life’s journey that may last even longer than your working years. While that makes it critical to ensure you will have the income you need to support your desired lifestyle for another 20 or 30+ years, the first step is defining what that lifestyle will look like. How will you spend your time? Who will you spend it with? What type of activities and experiences will bring purpose and meaning to your life?