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Defining Meaningful Retirement

/ / Sass Savvy & Success

“Retirement” seems to be a time when many of us boomers take time to reflect on what we can do now that would be ‘meaningful’.

Need a bit more income…

Giving back is a common theme, however that often morphs into volunteering and many of us still need a bit more income to make ends meet comfortably.

Not long ago I had a discussion with a friend who, with her husband, has recently retired.  They have some plans but my friend is used to having her days pretty structured and likes it that way.

For the almost 30 years I’ve known her, her offerings to the world have been ‘meaningful’.  First as a stay-at-home Mum, expanding her caregiving to her dementing mother and a career in service to the more frail of our neighbours.  Everything in her repertoire defines big-M meaningful.

Now that she’s retired and looking for something else, she’s stymied.  She and her husband want to do a bit of travelling so she’s reluctant to commit to more demanding endeavours.

Turning ‘meaningful’ inward…

I was thinking the other day that perhaps my friend deserves to turn her ‘meaningful’ inward.  What I mean is that there is not a person out there who could suggest she hasn’t contributed to society and, thus, the world.  How about if she redefines her next plan to be meaningful to herself, personally.

For example, she loves dogs and she loves to walk.  She doesn’t want another dog for a variety of reasons (one of which is the so-very-broken heart she experienced when the last one passed away) but she could get her dog-fix and her walking in at the same time if she became a dog-walker!  Is this meaningful to the world at large?  Not really except she is a reliable poop-scooper!

I can, however, see this as meaningful to her.  It would be meaningful to her travel account. It would also be really meaningful to the dog owners who need and would appreciate her services.

Dogs are usually a pretty flexible group and would adapt to a change in schedule if my friend went travelling for a couple of weeks at a time.

The proverbial brass ring

The older I get the more I realize this time of life is our last try for the proverbial brass ring.  If service is the way you choose to spend your time, that’s great.  If you view this time of life as your opportunity to make life all about yourself, that’s just fine too.  No one should be mean or nasty, whichever their choice, I certainly don’t mean that. 

To choose a new job or undertaking that fulfills an old dream, or allows you to do something fun, or accomplishes very little except some overdue R&R, then that choice sounds pretty meaningful on one level or another to me.

Permission… but curious

This post is partly to give you permission to design your own life as you enter and navigate “retirement”; and partly I’m curious how you would enjoy spending your post 9-5 life if you could do anything you wanted to.  No money issues, no family commitments, no health problems, what would you do?

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1 year ago

I think you are exactly right in that retirement can mean different things to different people and should be about doing whatever is fulfilling to YOU! I love your dog walker example. It would be a perfect way to get some exercise, help someone out, be kind to animals and make some extra money. My daughter is working for a pet care service called “Rover” and loves it.

Christie Hawkes
1 year ago

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since I am approaching retirement (a couple of years out). I also want the flexibility to travel. I’d love to earn a little spending money (mostly for my own peace of mind), but do have savings and pension to rely on. I want to feel that my life continues to be meaningful, but I also want it to be full of joy–fun for me. What I haven’t yet figured out is how to put that all together. Hmmm…. I’ll be returning to read more comments in hopes of something sparking an idea… Read more »

Leanne |

It’s funny because I just commented on something along these lines on Molly’s post. She has all these books she wants to write in retirement and I envy her the fact that she has a creative outlet. I love the freedom and flexibility of not being in the workforce, but (like your friend) I’m also thinking about what I can do to make 2020 feel a little bit “productive”. I’d love to be able to paint, or create, or write a novel, but none of those things resonate – so I have my thinking cap on atm to see what… Read more »