By Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant
You’re at a BBQ and someone asks you ‘what do you do’? When you’re in the workforce full-time, this is typically an easy question to answer. “I’m an accountant and I work for XYZ Accountants” or “I’m a marketing manager with a financial planning firm”. Straight away people know what you do and start to get a sense of who you are.
So what happens when you retire? For many the response is suddenly not so easy. “I’m a retiree” feels inadequate. It doesn’t command the same respect as being a senior partner in an international law firm, a nurse unit manager or an academic and suggests (rightly or wrongly) a less full and meaningful life. In short it doesn’t make you feel relevant.
For Judy* this was a genuine concern. At work she was known at the problem solver, the ‘deliver it on time’ person and a mentor. She was well respected by peers and managers – in fact they counted on her for considered and trusted advice in her area of expertise, industrial relations. She was involved in high profile assignments and it was not unusual for her to be called on if things were going ‘pear shaped’. What was going to happen when she retired? Any disagreements with her husband were unlikely to go before the Fair Work Commission and her adult children were more likely to require motherly (or grandmotherly) advice than IR input. What would she be uniquely known for now?
Let’s be honest, the retirement age was first introduced during the industrial revolution recognising that workers’ bodies were effectively ‘broken’ after a lifetime of manual labour. Retirement for this group was typically a short period of ill health and low physical activity in middle (not old!) age.
So how do you respond? What is the alternative to being a retiree?
The question I pose to you is what lights you up? What is it that you do on a regular basis that you get a kick out of? Or what is it you do on an irregular basis, and would like to do more of? If it is that you love dancing, why not start taking classes or join a club? Not only does it help to expand your social circle, but you can then say with pride ‘I’m retired and I love dancing’. It also provides an ‘in’ for others to start asking questions of you such as where you go dancing, why style you enjoy and possibly even for a few tips (because let’s accept that unless you are Latin American, dancing comes naturally to very few of us!). Before you know it, you’re being asked for advice!
It might be that you introduce yourself as a retiree and a [insert your interest/hobby or activity]. For example ‘I’m retired and I volunteer at the local hospital’, ‘I’m a retiree and I’ve just taken up paddle boarding – what a thrill!” or “I’m retired and we travel but at the moment we’re downsizing our house”.
Alternatively, it may be that you elect to omit that you are a retiree and instead introduce yourself simply with your new passion or past time. “I’m a mentor to young people at risk of homelessness’, “I’m currently studying psychology”, “I’ve decided to take on a part-time role and am enjoying learning about sales processes” or “I’m on the Board of a local not-for-profit’.
The beauty is that there are no rules – only you can decide how you define yourself in retirement and what brings you joy. Avoid worrying about what people around you might expect – their experience of retirement might be very different to yours.
If you think you struggle with this, my challenge to you (!) is to revisit the way you introduce yourself to new people.
There are a few ways you may like to do this:
1. Think about how you currently spend your time and how you might convey that to people – often we don’t stop, reflect on what we do and appreciate the value we add to the people around us.
2. Articulate that burning desire you have to do something new. Investigate ways to develop that interest (e.g. do some research, join a group or club, start practicing) and then shape your introduction around that.
3. Look to the lighter side – as you enter this next chapter of your life away from the responsibilities of work, have a laugh with it!
I’d love to learn from your experiences. Please share your challenges, or what you’ve done to create an introduction that you feel comfortable with, and proud of below in the comments box or on the facebook page.
Until next time!
Retirement Transition Consultant
The road to retirement can be a little bumpy, so rest assured if you are feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, you’re not alone. BUT, there are things you can do to smooth the way and create a retirement that you are excited to grasp with both hands!
Want to know how? Why not join me for my Bite Sized Retirement Transition Video Series! These six videos are practical, action-focused, and most importantly short & sweet. They are all only 3 minutes long because whilst planning is important, I know that you’ve got life to get on with!