What Are You Going To Do In Retirement?

Dennis O'Keefe |

I had a fascinating experience last Tuesday evening.  My brother invited me to be a part of his Zoom’d English as a Second Language class.  I was there to answer financial questions for these first-generation Americans.

We fielded questions about IRA’s, income taxes, how to roll over a 401(k), and many more.  It was an exciting time.

You probably didn’t know my brother teaches English to immigrants, did you?  That’s because it’s not his job.  Well, it wasn’t the job he intended to have at 22.  Or even 35.  

My brother was involved in research in an Ivy League medical school for many years.  It was a job he enjoyed and gave him many unique experiences.  But it wasn’t his passion.

Seven to eight years ago, Chris - that’s his name - came to me.  “Dennis - do you think I could retire in the next couple of years?  I’d like to finish my masters degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and teach full-time.”

How can I say no to that?  He didn’t say he wanted to play golf every day or catch every major game fish in North America.  Not that those aren’t noble pursuits.  He’s out there in retirement helping people become better Americans. 

He's also a world-class photographer. Notice him holding the camera in the photo above. Alas, he is unable to pull off the print shirt, wide tie, jean jacket, plaid pant look as well as I can. Stop laughing. It was 1975.

Chris and his wife, Cathy, had done an excellent job of saving their entire careers.  So we sharpened our pencils and crunched the numbers. Soon after, Chris left his secure employer to follow a dream.  (That, in and of itself, is a scary transition.  But that’s a blog for another day.)

Today, when you talk to him, the passion he has just oozes out of him.  Many of his students have become friends.  He’s eaten more authentic cultural food from around the world in the last five years than I’ve eaten my entire life.  Apparently, Taco Bell doesn’t count.

It made me think of several of my retired clients.  Some left with a direction in mind.  Some meandered a bit.  But so many found a new passion outside of their 30-year career.

One client is a dog-walker.  It helps pay the bills, gets her out and about every day, and connects her with her passion. Another started a business consulting. . . business. He gets paid to help small businesses get and stay on track. Several others have taken up selling real estate.

Another client spent several years picking up furniture at people’s homes to help support a local charity.   Others are active with Meals on Wheels and other types of local outreach. Many others are volunteers at their local YMCAs. 

Some retired almost exclusively to help raise their grandchildren.  Each and every one has a purpose and all are truly inspiring.  

This is in stark contrast to the few I have watched waste away in retirement.  I recall one man who worked for the phone company for 50 years.  Fifty years!  It has to be some sort of record.  

This man was practically forced to retire.  And less than a year after leaving his job, he was gone.  His entire existence revolved around getting up, going to work, coming home, and waiting to go to work the next day.

Another gentleman took a lucrative retirement offer. . .  and became a shut-in.  All he did was watch TV all day long.  There was nothing in his life.  

Retirement was a surprise to him.  I don’t believe he ever considered that he would retire.  When his employer threw thousands of dollars at him and all of his friends were leaving for their own retirement, he felt he had no choice.  

Why do I mention all of this?  Because as part of your retirement planning, you have to find your passion.  

You might have a passion to help others like my brother.  You might want to build something.  (My dad, the son of a carpenter, went on a woodworking binge after he retired.) 

You might want to start a business.  You might be planning on babysitting your grandchildren.  Or you just might want to golf your way through the great sportfish of North America.  

But if you don’t have a passion you can pursue, you won’t be satisfied in retirement.  You will be like those old married couples you see in a restaurant early on a Saturday night.  You know the type.  They look completely bored and you know that this dinner is the highlight of their week.  They are just marking time.  

Do you need a single passion?  Heck no!  You don’t even need to stick to a specific passion once you retire.  You’re retired!  So what if you don’t like to fish or make macrame plant holders or race motorcycles.  You have time.  Go try something else.

Because that’s what retirement is all about.  It’s a time to start over.  You have the resources.  (Assuming you’ve done your work to plan for retirement.)  You have the time.  Use it.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog this week. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us at dennis@successfulmoney.com or call us at (800) 453-3209.  If you don’t already have a copy of my book, The Biggest Financial Mistakes Retirees Make, you can order it on Amazon or click here and we will get a copy out to you, free of charge!  

To receive blog updates via email, click here.

This blog is the opinion of Successful Money Strategies, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any investment advice or service.  Statistics and other figures are accurate at the time of original publishing.  Any advice herein should not be acted upon without obtaining specific advice from a licensed professional regarding the readers own situation or concerns.  Always count your change.