What's Next? Are You Ready to Reinvent?

It starts in grade school.  Family members, friends of family members, neighbours, and others start asking you questions about your future life.  Questions like - what do you want to be when you grow up?  What courses are you going to take in high school?  Are you planning to go to university, to college?  Then you reach 50 and they start asking - when are you going to retire?  When are you going to stop working and take it easy?

And throughout these many years and in response to these many questions, you, oftentimes, answer with a mere "I don't know".

As boomers, we want to be seen as trend setters.  We have moved through the various stages of our lives breaking new ground, setting new rules, changing the way our society views those over 50.  We have spent our adult lives achieving results, building networks, contributing to our communities, and seeking ways to redefine ourselves and our generation.  So now we have reached that life stage often referred to as 'the second act' or the 'encore career stage' and we find ourselves with skills and expertise, built up over many working years, that we want to continue to use.  We need to be intellectually stimulated, contributing in a significant and recognizable way to our community and our society.  So now, what's next?

Think about reinvention rather than retirement.  Think about reinventing your retirement.

What does it mean to reinvent yourself?  To reinvent means:

  • to make major changes or improvements to something
  • to present something in a different or new way
  • to make over completely; re-make or re-do
  • to bring back into existence or use i.e., reinvented the concept of neighbourliness
  • to do something again, from the beginning
  • to change (something) so much that it appears to be entirely new
  • to recast something familiar, or old, into a different form.


Why not think about your 'second act' or 'encore career' as reinventing what you already love to do, what you already have the expertise to perform, what you enjoying doing the most?  But how do you go about reinventing yourself?

Oftentimes, when we contemplate leaving a life of full time employment or retiring from the first act, we tend to think in limited terms.  We focus only on the financial aspects of the next stage.  Financial independence and the money to enjoy it during this stage of our lives is important, no question about it.  Retirement does cost money.  We will continue to spend, at a reduced rate, but we will, nevertheless, continue to spend.  What's more important
is what type of lifestyle we will have to fund.  Without fully understanding the lifestyle we want to maintain during our 'encore career', it's difficult to know how much money we will need.

When it comes to reinvention, start by developing a lifestyle plan, using the five-step lifestyle planning process.

Step 1 - Conduct a self assessment.
Complete a personal inventory of your life's experiences.  This inventory will help to identify what you do well (expertise), what you may not do well but might want to improve, what you enjoy doing, what you do not enjoy doing, what new things, skills, activities you would like to learn or try.  Once you have this inventory completed, validate it with your family, friends, colleagues and others whose opinion and counsel you admire.  Then review the
results of this inventory with your significant other.  Be prepared to listen.

Step 2 - Answer the four big questions.
1)  Will I continue my work or change my work?
2)  Will I stay or will I move?
3)  What will I do with my increased leisure time?
4)  How will my decisions affect those that are closest to me?

By answering these questions, you will be able to clarify what exactly it is you will be doing during your 'second act', how you will be filling your days, where you will conduct this 'encore career' and who will be there to spur you on.  When answering these questions, you may end up with a long list of 'things you want to do' or a wide variety of activities you want to tackle.  There is generally no shortage of ideas.  It's a matter of how to build them into the reinvention plan so they are achievable and enjoyable.  So on to step 3.

Step 3 - Assess your options and set your goals.
Review the choices you have made when completing step 2 and evaluate them against your self assessment.  Do your current plans match?  Develop new plans to match with your skills, interests, likes and dislikes.  Then brainstorm more ideas with others - colleagues, significant other, family and friends.  It's also a very good idea to brainstorm with those you know whom have recently retired. 

Do some research.  Check into publications that speak to retirement, 'second acts' and 'encore careers'.  Then practice your reinvention plans.  Try out new hobbies, different work schedules, other places to live.  You may find what you thought you would like you do not enjoy.  Practice sessions help you to build the a worthwhile and enjoyable plan.

Step 4 - Develop your transition schedule.
To finetune your plan and set the transition date, you need to ensure you are financially able, that those affected by your plan are aligned with your plan, and that the timing works for you personally - to start leveraging your likes into your next life stage. 

Consider push and pull factors.  Push factors are those things pushing you to reinvent such as work dissatisfaction, health issues, personal and family situations.  Pull factors are those things that are attracting you to reinvent yourself.  New work opportunities, increased leisure time, spending more time on your interests are all pull factors.  In making the decision of when to move, pull factors should be greater than push factors.  This will ensure you are being pulled toward reinvention because your interests, needs, desires are stronger than any other considerations.

Step 5 - Revisit and revise you plan periodically.
Things will change during this stage of your life.  You have a plan but, sometimes, life just gets in the way and throws your plan off course.  When this happens, return to step 1 and revisit the process.  Annually is the best time frame.  Periodic review of your reinvention plan will allow you to incorporate personal and financial changes as they occur.

Once you have completed your lifestyle plan, look to your financial situation and scope out what you will need to support it.  This is when a financial advisor becomes very valuable.  They are the ones to help you decide how best to fund your dreams. 

No matter what you decide to include in your plan, being able to confidently answer the question 'What's next?' will see you well on the way to the stage where you get to do what you enjoy. 

Donna and colleagues, Faye Wales and Mary-Lou Emmett, have developed the Getting Ready 2 Reinvent process.  It is available as a workshop for delivery by them or the licensed material can be purchased for individual and client use.

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