We’ve all seen retiree success stories.
Jim is a great example. Around his 60th birthday, something significant happened in Jim’s heart. While still doing his not-so-thrilling engineering job, he seemed to come alive!
As most of his colleagues were slowing down, Jim began pursuing new hobbies with gusto.
“Who is this guy?” people whispered. “We thought Jim was just a tech geek. Who knew he could do creative things like paint landscapes and learn piano?”
Here’s the best part: When Jim finally “hung up his calculator” at age 67, he walked into a retirement that has been full, active, and meaningful.
Then there are the others. Take Bob. When he turned 60, Bob start slowing down. Five years later, when he drove away from the office for the last time, he seemed done.
Bob’s lethargic, yet restless. It’s like he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. All this free time with no responsibilities and a nice income, but he doesn’t seem to enjoy it.
What’s going on? Why the difference?
A Typical Work-Life Cycle
Consider the typical working life of the typical employee. In the beginning, you invest a lot of time in your career. It can be a little bumpy at first. Usually, there’s a period of rapid growth.
As you get the hang of your job, things improve. You gain the competency. You learn more about your position. You sharpen your skills and become more familiar with your role. You see some success.
But at some point, your professional growth begins to plateau and you almost reach a standstill. The job’s not that challenging anymore. You can almost do it on auto-pilot. And so you start to phone it in.
To use a baseball analogy, many workers in their 50s “round third base and immediately start sliding for home.” (NOTE: Sliding for a whole decade isn’t exactly fulfilling.)
Here’s the thing: If you’re not careful, this going-through-the motions mindset can continue until and into retirement.
How many retirees have you met–like Bob–who seem directionless, perhaps even depressed?
There’s a better way.
Reinventing is Reinvigorating
It’s found in being extremely intentional about reinventing yourself. Not professionally, but personally.
In his book Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, author Bob Buford talks about the sigmoid curve, a mathematical concept used to show the natural life cyle of things. Buford uses it to illustrate our professional and personal performance over time.
Specifically, he points to four typical phases that employees undergo in their working careers.
Phase 1 is Introduction. This is when you begin a new job. You work hard but there’s often little success or reward. Mostly you’re learning.
Phase 2 is Growth. During this phase, your career begins to take off. You develop skills and become more accomplished. You have a sense of energy and success. Each year brings improved revenue and growth.
Phase 3 is Maturity. When you reach maturity in your position, the passion and intensity you felt during that uphill climb part of your career begin to die down. Your energy levels drop. Because you’ve essentially mastered your job, you put everything on cruise control.
Phase 4 is decline. With less energy and motivation, you no longer achieve the results that you once did (and maybe you don’t even care). Interestingly, this is often the time when many decide to retire. The problem? They don’t have any other goals or passions. So rather than retirement being a time of deep satisfaction and meaningful pursuits, it becomes frustrating. It’s just a season of restlessness.
How More People Can End Up Like Jim
When you reach a point in your career or life where you start to feel stagnant, or you realize you’re just coasting, you need to pay careful attention. We call a moment like that a strategic inflection point.
A strategic inflection point is a realization, “I need to reinvent myself before I begin to experience negative complications.”
How can you reinvent yourself? What can you do?
- Take up a hobby like Tai Chi.
- Learn to speak a foreign language.
- Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
- Sign up for a sewing class.
- Take classes at the local community college.
- Audition for a play at your community theater.
It’s important to be aware of where you are on the sigmoid curve, especially as you near the peak. And it’s imperative to formulate a strategy for how you will create a life of significance after your work-life is over.
The longer you wait in your career to begin “reinventing yourself” for your new life in retirement, the harder it will be (and the longer it will take) to find a life of meaning.
In other words, be like Jim, not Bob.
If you have any questions about getting the most out of retirement, our team at Christy Capital Management would love to help. Give us at 866-331-7749.