What should retirement look like for women over 60?

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant. First published on the Over Sixty website [Link: www.oversixty.com.au]

Why is it that some women struggle with 'what's next' and how to spend their time in retirement? The prospect of retirement should be an exciting time with so much freedom, but for many women this can actually create a sense of anxiousness. It is unchartered territory – what ‘should’ our retirement look like, what are we ‘supposed’ to do?

The Baby Boomer women are really the first generation, as a majority, to experience retirement directly, rather than indirectly through their husband or partner. Couple that with the fact that the women approaching retirement now tend to be healthy, active and have a whole ‘lotta’ living ahead of them, and what we find is that we don’t necessarily have the role-models to show us what is possible or to guide the path for us.

Image: lady overlooking mountains.
Sarah was approaching the age of retirement and could quite comfortably afford to retire, but the truth was she wasn’t quite ready. Well-meaning friends would frequently ask when she was planning to retire or ask why she was still working and it would create a slight sense of dread within her. She had plenty of ideas of how she might fill her days such as travel, volunteering, going to the gym and tracing her family tree. But the challenge was – what was the ‘right’ thing to do? Would travelling be a selfish thing to do in that it meant she wouldn’t be at home to help care for her aging parents-in-law? But if she didn’t travel now would she miss the opportunity to see places she had always dreamed of while she was still healthy and able to get around easily? Further to that, how much was the right amount of time to volunteer, and was there anything wrong with just wanting to laze about with a good book every now and then? She had so many questions!
To some degree she envied her husband in that he slotted straight into the retirement lifestyle playing golf three times a week, working in the garden and helping to renovate their daughter’s apartment. He seemed to have a purpose to each day and not a worry in the world.
Whilst Sarah’s mother provided a very empathetic ear to her worries, she didn’t have first-hand experience or wisdom to impart. Sarah’s mother worked as a teacher for a couple of years after she married, but only until she started having children. For her that was the ‘done thing’ of her generation and so she never truly experienced the transition to retirement later in life. What Sarah needed was someone to show her what was possible.

The good news is that there is no one right way to live your retirement, as what might light up one person may be another’s worst nightmare. I’m sure you’ve seen amongst your friends and family that some people love traveling while others far prefer the comforts of home, and some thrive on trying new things whilst others prefer to do more of what they already know.

There is no ‘best’ way to live retirement.

The important thing is to take the time to reflect and prepare for the possibilities that life in retirement has to offer you! To get started you might like to grab a pen and paper and jot down:

  • the activities/interests that you currently enjoy
  • the activities/interests that you enjoy but would like to do more of
  • the activities/interests that provide a sense of satisfaction
  • who you like doing those activities/interests with
  • any non-negotiables

Within this list, what is it that lights you up? There are plenty of fantastic opportunities that life after work can offer, and the most important thing is to determine what is meaningful to you when you think about the lifestyle you desire, not anyone else. Discuss any commitments or expectations of you that might feel a little overwhelming (e.g. caring for loved ones or not travelling because your husband doesn’t want to) - are they real or assumptions and is there only one way (in terms of the how and when) to meet them?

With 20-30 years ahead of you in retirement, know that your path will likely change (a couple of times!) and that what you decide now might just be the first chapter!

If you approaching retirement or starting to think about it, and worried about the "what's next', wondering:

  • How you’ll stay relevant and connected to people
  • What to do with the amazing skills, energy and ideas you have
  • How to prevent slowing down too soon and getting old before your time

you may be interested in a one-on-one planning session. I would love the opportunity to work with you and you can find out more here.