“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” goes the old saying, a fitting question for women facing retirement in the 21st century. We have spent decades helping redefine workplaces, and changed the landscape of the modern work world by making inroads toward an array of jobs few women in previous generations were able to access, via roads often rockier than ours. As part of a generation that can expect longer and likely healthier retirement years, it’s never too early to ask ourselves what we want those years to look like.
Given that most retirement role models of the past were men (who seemed to relish their move from work by devoting their days to leisure activities and hobbies, tinkering around the house, sitting in front of the television or traveling to sunny climates), many women have had few examples and no clear expectations of how to experience their retirements, outside of continuing to be caretakers and homemakers.
What a difference a few decades make!
For most women, the plans or expectations we had when we were younger about what it would be like to age — into our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond — have changed. While previous generations could expect to work in a single field at a single career, then retire and begin the process of slowing down mentally and physically, many women today have opportunities to delve into “encore careers.” They are re-inventing themselves in their professional as well as personal lives — and redefining retirement on their terms.
As women live extended life spans and spend more years in good health, we are more active, more productive, more engaged, more employed and more employable than previous generations have been. Studies show our levels of activity help us enjoy retirement more, with fewer unspoken rules that limit us in what we’re doing during those years or restrict how we’re doing it.
Consider this question to jump-start your thinking about your retirement experience: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years (not so farfetched, as financial planners are increasingly projecting client lifespans of 100 years)? Do you want to work? Travel? Get more education? Will you be a caretaker? A volunteer? A mentor? Will you embark on a new career or creative project? How busy do you want to be? Who do you want to be to and for others? Who do you want to be to and for yourself?
We spend the bulk of our working years being shaped, or even limited by, social constructs, norms and expectations regarding what we can and should do. We also, whether we’re aware of such behaviors or not, may constrain ourselves by maintaining well-worn thought patterns and adhering to familiar behaviors. We do this to preserve continuity and order in our personal and professional lives; we can only do this for so long before our habits risk becoming entrenched.
As we age, we have opportunities to loosen our maintenance of our status quo outlook. We bring more wisdom to our jobs and our lives. We have experienced a variety of life’s triumphs and trials. We’ve gained resilience. We’ve also widened our perspectives about the world and ourselves: we know who we are and what is important to us.
We at The Humphreys Group suggest you face the challenge of creating a new construct regarding the retirement phase of your life. Reach out to work with our advisors as you continue to ask questions that matter to you. Resolve to make your own rules, and become your own role model for making the most of your retirement years. We are here to wonder with you, as the poet Mary Oliver wondered: What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?