Retirement On Your Own Terms
Author: Lisa Stornaielo
As the 2022 US Open came to a close, one of the highlights leading up to the tournament was Serena Williams announcing her retirement from the tennis world. My ears perk up whenever I hear retirement stories in the news as I am fascinated with the topic and love to listen to stories of how people are managing this major life transition.
I was particularly interested because she wrote an article in Vogue magazine entitled Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis On Her Own Terms—And In Her Own Words, where she shared her personal story. The article was insightful as she shared her fears and desires and the incredible struggle it is for her to imagine a life beyond tennis. She wrote, "I don't want it to be over, but at the same time, I am ready for what is next."
Here are three things that struck me as I read this article that aligns significantly with what we have heard in our research.
- Retirement needs a reboot
- Retirement isn't all rainbows and unicorns
- Retirement is an opportunity to show the world (and yourself) that you're more than your job
Retirement needs a reboot.
"I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn't feel like a modern word to me. Maybe the best word to describe what I'm up to is evolution. I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis toward other things that are important to me." Serena Williams
The original Social Security Act of 1935 set the minimum age for receiving full retirement benefits at 65. In 1935 the average life expectancy was 60 for males and 64 for females.
Today, the minimum age for full retirement benefits is between 65 - 67. The average life expectancy is 78 for males and 82 for females, and many more people are living healthy, productive lives into their 80s and 90s. This means there is much more time spent in this next chapter. Due to advances in healthcare and technology, people are living longer and have an opportunity to live richer and more productive lives.
Our common vision of retirement signaling the end of being a productive and contributing member of society doesn't make sense anymore. This creates an amazing opportunity for transformation. People living fulfilled lives in retirement see this chapter as an opportunity for a new beginning.
Think of all you've accomplished in the first 25 years of your life. You learned how to walk and talk, you went to school, got a job, made friends, traveled, and some even got married and started families. Think of all the opportunities that could lie ahead for the next 25 years.
Retirement isn't all rainbows and unicorns.
"One thing I'm not going to do is sugarcoat this. I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way. …but I'm going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it's not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It's the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it's not. I'm torn: I don't want it to be over, but at the same time, I'm ready for what's next." Serena Williams
Many people enter retirement; happily, they take a much-needed rest and unplug from the rigors of 9-5 but after about three months, if they have not planned for their life in this next chapter, ask themselves is that all there is. Many of these people had a financial plan but not a life plan for how they would spend their days. Many become disillusioned about retirement, sad, and even depressed. They struggle with imagining how they will find meaning and purpose in their lives and how they will fill their days.
Those living fulfilled lives in retirement balance their lives across a series of segments to make sure it feels fulfilling and meaningful for them. It is hard work and transformational because they have to identify what they WANT to do vs.HAVE to do. Some struggle to imagine the possibilities of this newfound freedom and have to reject the notion of simply jumping back into the same routine.
Retirement is an opportunity to show the world (and yourself) that you're more than just your job.
"My whole life, up to now, has been tennis. Over the years, I hope that people come to think of me as symbolizing something bigger than tennis. I admire Billie Jean because she transcended her sport. I'd like it to be: Serena is this, and she's that, and she was a great tennis player and she won those slams." Serena Williams
Even someone as rich and famous as Serena Williams struggles with this. People's identities are strongly tied to their careers, and leaving a career that you have worked in for 20, 30, or 40 years makes you worry about who you will be once you leave that job.
The good news, your identity is bigger than your last role in your former employer. You are not starting from scratch; you're starting from experience. This next chapter is a wonderful opportunity to reimagine yourself and relook at who you are more holistically. It is not time to lose your identity; it is time to enhance it and transform it into the full one you've always wanted.
Many people are living rich and fulfilling lives in retirement, but, just like other times in your life, you need to spend the time to put together a solid plan to make it happen that goes beyond just your finances.
People can find the same sense of fulfillment and purpose in retirement as they had throughout their careers while enjoying all the perks of retirement. They need to shift their mindset and find the space to dream and imagine so they can design a retirement that excites them.
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