At a recent meeting, I related a story about a gentleman I knew who was describing his version of retirement. At 63 years old and with more money than he could ever need, he had absolutely no plans for retirement. When pressed about why – because he clearly didn’t need the money – he said he would rather continue running his company until he was no longer able because retirement was a death sentence.
This wasn’t the first time I heard this sentiment. I’ve heard this more than a few times from clients who have built their own companies and from work-driven executives that poured themselves into their work with little thought about what’s next. Retirement shouldn’t seem like a death sentence, but for many people it is.
It needn’t be that way.
Purpose = Pleasure
Over the years during which I have helped thousands of retirees, it has been easy to identify upfront those who will become the most successful at this next stage of life. I have clients who travel the world and others who put their energy into new hobbies such as learning a new instrument or language. I see retirees taking up gardening or woodworking to occupy their time. Your mind is the only limit when it comes to what’s next.
However, I notice that the people who have gained the most pleasure in retirement actively serve others. They may have poured themselves into their work and businesses in a prior life, but they now take more pleasure and have a greater purpose pouring themselves into helping others. They do this by creating a mission-driven retirement.
Creating Your Mission
To create your mission, determine what attributes and assets you have that work best for you and those you may serve. If you have trouble envisioning that mission, try this exercise: Sit in a quiet spot and think about all of the best times in your life thus far. Now, picture your retirement life. What revs your engine? What activities or tasks would make you jump out of the bed in the morning, eager to get the day underway? What are you most passionate about?
Next, think about all you have to offer. What gifts are you blessed with? I know an accountant who was a great carpenter in his spare time. In fact, he likes it better than accounting. Why? Because accounting was his profession, but carpentry was his passion. Now, after decades of poring through numbers, he was poring through boxes of nails to find the right ones to use as he helped build houses for those less fortunate. He’s also started a nice little side business at home.
Identify Your Resources
This former accountant pictured his mission-driven retirement. He thought about the gifts God placed in his life and how he might use one of them – carpentry – for the benefit of others. He’s never been so happy to be so tired.
I know another person, a former small business owner, who accumulated substantial wealth during her working years. She could just give to causes about which she is passionate, but wanted to do more. She wanted to not only give to charitable endeavors, but to give more.
So, she started her own foundation and works to secure matching contributions from individuals and businesses. She is passionate about this and her ability to organize is a gift she wants to return to as many people as possible. This is her definition of an ideal day. This is her mission.
If you have a hard time identifying the gifts and resources God placed in your life, maybe you’re only looking in the most obvious places. Dig a little deeper.
One last client – I’ll call him Jim – lived what seems like an uneventful life while he was working. He is financially comfortable in retirement, but not enough to give back as much as he would like monetarily. He didn’t think he had any skills that screamed they be used, but said that his children and many grandchildren gave him the most joy in life. His gift, it turns out, was sharing his love and devotion to God with his children.
What did God want him to do with these gifts? He returned to an activity he was passionate about a long time ago – conducting bible study for grade-school children – and he and his wife became foster parents. He translated his love of children and of God into a passion that will now define him for the rest of his life. We help him take care of his finances so that they last.
We All Have a Purpose
What would God want you to do with what He has given you? What will your mission-driven retirement look like? If you don’t know yet, it’s probably because you haven’t dug deep enough.
The business owner who believed retirement was a death sentence. He thought about how he loved talking about running a small business. It was his passion. And he realized that if he retired, he could give more time to his family and his church while teaching young people about entrepreneurship. He became a good steward of the gifts he was given. He found his mission-driven retirement, and you can find your mission, too.