The Power of Thinking About Retirement

Karen O'Brien |

Individuals and retirement planning experts alike are recognizing that a successful and satisfying retirement experience depends on more than a healthy nest egg.  In fact, retirement should be thought of as a major life transition that deserves thought and preparation in all areas of life.

Nonetheless, many approach this stage of life unprepared for the many social and emotional challenges they will likely experience.  One reason is that a great number of individuals are unhappy in their work lives, and so focus more on what they are retiring from” rather than what they are retiring to.”  They see retirement as the finish line and give little thought to what life will really be like once they quit working.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those individuals—both men and women—who have found their careers to be so fulfilling and all-consuming that they find it hard to imagine life “after work.”  They dread this stage of life that they equate with a loss of identity and purpose.  As a result, they are not motivated to engage in planning and preparation for their retirement years.

However, an alternative to either of these viewpoints is gaining traction—it is the belief that “retirement” offers countless opportunities for growth, learning, and contribution.  Instead of not working,” these individuals view retirement as the time in life when they are free to pursue whatever kind of work” (paid or unpaid) they find to be the most satisfying and fulfilling.

In fact, research has shown that degree of thinking about retirement” is the most powerful predictor of taking retirement planning action steps.  In other words, as you begin to think more and more about your retirement years, you will form a picture in your mind of the retirement lifestyle that will motivate and inspire you.  In addition, you will discover that the clearer and sharper this picture becomes, the easier it will be to take the steps necessary to bring that vision to reality. 

Always keep in mind that visualization is a very powerful tool.  It is a key factor in your ability to achieve what you want in life.  In a sense, you have the power to mentally rehearse many different retirement lifestyle options, and then decide which version you like best.  When you imagine what you want to achieve and what you want to experience, these images will become the foundation for your retirement goals

Luckily, there are many tools that can help to stimulate your possibility thinking and powers of visualization.  Here are just two examples of the many resources available to you:  1) Renewment is designed specifically for career women, and 2) Chapter X is designed specifically for career men.

1. Renewment ( is defined as a “forum and community of career women ages 55+ that supports their transition from work to retirement and continues for a lifetime.”  Co-Founders Bernice Bratter and Helen Dennis describe what they observed and what motivated them to establish this organization:

    • “This is the first generation of working women who can expect to live decades beyond retirement with no role models.”
    • “Working women have faced a void — lack of structure, productivity, meaning and redefinition of self.”
    • “With no clear role models, women have taken it upon themselves to find new pathways and solutions for a fulfilling future.”

Through “Renewment,” Bratter and Dennis offer women a way to connect:

“Whether you are still working, contemplating retirement, already retired, or simply making a career transition, Renewment groups connect you to other women in (or approaching) this transition. 

In addition, they are the authors of the book Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women.

2. Chapter X is the title of a new podcast series launched by Michael Kay, CFP®.  He explained that “navigating your next chapter after traditional work requires a new kind of bravery—especially for men.”  Therefore, he and his guests speak straight to how to overcome the conditioning of the hard-charging career years and explore what will bring men fulfillment. 

For example, Kay wrote, “Chapter X can be filled with meaning and mastery and new beginnings if we man up and face some truths about it head-on.”  He went on to explain that this includes accepting the following realities:

    • “What worked to make us successful up to now may well be the opposite of what we need to pursue success in this next stage.”
    • “We have to let go of independence and dominance as the primary goal and seek to become more interdependent with the people and constituencies we value.  And that includes having a team to support us.”
    • “There isnt a blueprint to follow—its more of an empty sack to be filled. We can and must, if we are to live fully, build a personal roadmap as we decide what this new life should include.”

There is a lot of truth to the old saying that “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  For this reason, it is important to envision and articulate the various elements you want to include in your unique version of a satisfying and fulfilling retirement lifestyle.  In addition, on your path leading to and through retirement, always engage in possibility thinking and remain open to new pursuits and opportunities.


                                                                            Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, Inc.