Retiring SmartWake up to this reality: Chances are high, absent a serious illness, that today’s 60-year-old will be alive at 80. “The longevity factor changes everything. People in good shape at 65 will probably live another 20 years,” says Howard Stone, coauthor of Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life.
When retirement occurs in the early-to-mid-60s — norms at many businesses — that leaves a lot of years to be lived. “You need a plan,” says Roiter, who urges us, starting around age 55, to begin planning the next third of our lives with a focus on what really matters to us. “Retirement is your chance for a new life.”
Finances — economic losses perhaps triggered by the tumult of the past several years — may be prompting many to prolong their work lives, suggest the retirement experts. Even so, career changes will loom for many, and that can be a giant plus. In retirement, “you finally get to do what you want to do,” says Sharon Lamm-Hartman, Ph.D., a career coach in Cave Creek, Arizona, who says that she now fields many more inquiries about retiring smart. “It definitely has become an issue for more people who want to make the most of their retirement years.”
Ask Mike Tesch, who just may stand as a poster boy for smart retiring, 21st-century style. A successful creative director — he has been included in multiple lists of the industry’s 100 most creative people — Tesch retired at age 66 and, almost immediately, he drifted back to what he had wanted to be a lifetime ago, when he was a kid graduating from Pratt Institute in New York with dreams of being an artist. Back then, the need to make a living intervened and pulled Tesch onto Madison Avenue. Once he retired, Tesch began creating fine art that he wanted his name on. Quickly, he lined up gallery representation and now, at age 71, he paints a new picture every couple weeks. “My mind today is more flexible than it’s been in years. I am doing exactly what I want.”
“It’s not a case of retirement getting redefined. That has happened; it has been redefined,” says Dennis Niewoehner, 64, a retired Colorado real estate developer who has authored The Transition: Winning the 4th Quarter of Life. “What Baby Boomers want in retirement is life fulfillment.”
What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Stumped about your interests? Keep thinking. “There is something everyone wants to do once they are retired,” assures David Corbett, author of Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After Fifty. He adds that he has worked with clients who, after long corporate careers, have reinvented themselves as sheep farmers, cheese makers, nonprofit-agency executives, even world-peace advocates. The exact choice does not necessarily matter. What does matter is picking the next act that “is fulfilling to you,” says Corbett.
Another point to ponder: Are you ready to live to 100? Just when you start thinking about a long retirement, suddenly it may be getting even longer. “The 100-plus age group is the planet’s fastest growing,” says Dr. Eric Plasker, a Georgia chiropractor and author of The 100 Year Lifestyle. “85,000 people in the U.S. are over 100, and none of them planned to get there. You may not have a choice about getting there. Your 100th birthday just may show up one day.”
That’s terrific news, if you’ve prepared for it. Few have, suggests Plasker, whose core suggestions boil down to just this one shocker of an idea: Starting right now, live as though you will be alive past 100 years of age. That means eat right, exercise right, think right, and, throughout every part of our existences, live right. “Do that, and your quality of life will be that much better,” says Plasker, “for the years and years most of us will be living.”