The Word That Can’t Be Said!

My client’s daughter said in frustration, “Mom, why can’t you even SAY the word “Retire”?  My client was at a loss for words.  She felt very negative about “retirement” yet couldn’t explain her feelings to her daughter.  She asked in our next coaching session to talk about this quandary; she just didn’t understand her confusion and resistance.

I had a number of thoughts about why she might be having a negative reaction to “retirement”.  We discussed how the cultural stereotype is that people “retire from life” and move into ongoing leisure during their “golden years”.  That’s what family, friends and co-workers expect us to do. They don’t seem to understand why someone might not want to leave work for the foggy unknown that could last 20—35+ years.  Playing golf or gardening every day may work for a few people, but for most it’s not enough.  No one wants to give up on life.  Most people want to be involved in activities (paid or unpaid) that give them a sense of purpose.  Yet finding a new sense of purpose can be daunting.

After considerable discussion during our coaching sessions, my client understood her reluctance to retire.  Having seen people live “unsuccessful” retirements, she didn’t want to be one of them.  She was able to clearly explain to her daughter her concerns and deep desire to consciously design a very different and fulfilling “Next Chapter in Life.”  She is now enthusiastically exploring new possibilities.

Many people like my client are uncomfortable with the term “retirement” because for them it has negative connotations.  In fact, the term is outdated.  Unfortunately another name for this time of life has not yet emerged.  Some of the current terms are the “Third Chapter,” the “Third Act,” the “Second Half of Life,” or the “Next Chapter.”

The “baby boomer” generation is now retiring into the “Next Chapter of Life” at the rate of 10,000 per day in the USA.  I hear from many of my clients who are in this age range that they are either 1) excited about doing all the things they want to do  2) afraid of retiring because they have no idea what they will do with themselves  or  3) apprehensive about whether or not to retire because they don’t know when is the right time for them.

As a certified retirement coach, I have found that there are basically three ways in which people approach retirement.  The first is when people have developed hobbies, volunteer activities, travel plans and other areas of involvement before they retire.  The chances are much greater that they will continue to have a full and rewarding life.

The second is when they have been so involved in work that it is their primary (or only) identity.  Creating a new life with engaging activities can be challenging.  If people in this situation are curious and willing to explore potential interests, trying them on for size, discarding them when they don’t like them and experimenting with other interests until they find ones that light them up, they too can have enjoyable retirements.

The third group is lost without the external structure and job identity that comes from working in an organization.  They find themselves floundering when they are unable to develop a new identity and to structure their lives in this new chapter.  If they don’t find ways to make their retirement years rewarding, they may experience clinical depression and need psychological and/or medical assistance.

It is extremely important for people approaching the “Next Chapter of Life” to begin thinking, researching and experimenting, preferably 1—5 years before they actually retire.  If you or loved ones are approaching this time of life, many questions need to be considered including:

  • Have you clearly identified what your expectations are for the life you want to live after you’ve retired?
  • Have you discussed your expectations with your spouse or partner (if you have one) to find out what his/her expectations are and whether they match yours?
  • If they don’t match, how will the two of you reconcile the differences?
  • Do you want to move to another town, city or country?
  • Do you imagine living in an apartment, house, condo, RV or boat?
  • Do you prefer paid full time or part time work doing something that you love?
  • Do you want to have one or more forms of volunteer work that you enjoy?
  • Would you like to have a “Portfolio Life” with an interesting variety of work, activities and leisure?
  • Do you want to turn a hobby into a business?
  • If one (or both) has/have health problems, how can you design a meaningful life that takes the challenges into consideration?

Where are you in preparing for the “Next Chapter of Life?”

If you haven’t begun the thought process, I strongly encourage you to begin soon!


Lorrie’s Learnings is a monthly e-article which shares my awarenesses, learnings, contemplations and anything else that comes to the mind of this life coach! Let me know the articles that give you new perspectives/thoughts/feelings, confirm what you’ve been thinking or move you into action. To receive Lorrie’s Learnings straight to your email inbox, click here!