Discover Your Retirement Identity
Being an accidental retiree is one of the most uncomfortable situations I have ever been in. But now I am not. So, what is an accidental retiree? It’s a person that retired earlier than expected due to health problems. Nothing is so disconcerting than knowing you need work but knowing you cannot. But, in truth, I am not alone in experiencing this circumstance.
Being an accidental retiree is more common than you might think. A study done by Boston College showed that about one-third of people preparing for retirement took early retirement because of an unexpected health issue.
It’ll never happen to me!
About eight years ago, if you asked me how I would describe myself, I would have said I am a dad, a husband, and a financial advisor. But that all changed quickly. I became an accidental retiree by unexpectedly not being able to work. To begin with, I had a long-time moderate illness that suddenly got worse. And the remedy became worse than the illness. So within a short time, who I was, that is, my self-identity changed. And to this day, I am still building it back.
In short, some people are struggling with how to transition from work life to retirement life. A large part of the change is in personal identity. In other words, how you feel about yourself. Understanding what happened to me might help you if and when you decide to retire.
Here is the short version. I became an accidental retiree because I went through a series of health issues that coincided with an unsuccessful surgery. For about five years, I identified better as a retiree than a financial advisor. As a result, I dropped from serving over a hundred clients to serving only about ten.
You can never go home again.
In reality, I will never completely be the way I was. However, I have recovered well enough to work and enjoy life. Given these points, one of the biggest shocks of being an accidental retiree is financial. But that is a story for another day.
I bring the identity issue up to you today because, even if you are the kind of person who doesn’t want ever to retire, you may need to at some point. Look at your past. For years, you have worked at your job. And suppose one day in the future, you voluntarily or involuntarily are faced with the fact that your work life will be over. If you think about the years you put into your career, much changes when you retire.
It is not a fond memory when I describe myself as an accidental retiree. I very quickly went from looking forward to daily work to struggling to work. I want to help you not have that happen to you. But, unfortunately, I can’t stop physical things from happening to you. Still, I can help you prepare mentally for whatever growing older brings. Here’s what I mean.
If you have a passion for your work life, recreating that passion when you retire will give you a life you love. Let me show you what I mean by describing a job someone loves. We all have had parents. If you were lucky enough to know them, how would you describe them as a mom or a dad?
Moms are a great example.
For example, my Mom was a loving, caring person who was concerned about me until the end of her life. So, if I were to describe my Mom’s identity, would I only say my Mom was a person with a child? Surely not!
My Mom was a person who provided unconditional love, support, and guidance to me. My Mom had a strong sense of responsibility and put in the time and effort necessary to ensure that my siblings and I were healthy, happy, and safe.
Being that, how does this apply to you? When you retire, you don’t want to wake up every day and wonder what purpose you now have in life. So if you can describe your life on the same level of connection I did for my Mom, your retirement life will be wonderful.
How to make the connection
Here is how you begin to gain that level of connection to your future identity. Let’s start with how you describe yourself now. What do you do for a living? If you are a writer, do you describe yourself as a person that writes? Or are you a person who crafts stories to move hearts and minds? Do you write to entertain, educate, and inspire? Do you see what I did there? We went from a bland description of a job to a description of someone’s lifelong passion.
I have noticed that some people have a hard time transitioning to retirement. I have often heard some people say that they will never retire because they don’t know what they will do. And if you never want to quit working, that is your personal choice.
But unless you want to end up like I was and be an accidental retiree for part or the remainder of your life, you should have a plan. That plan is to create an identity as a retired person that you genuinely look forward to.
So how do you not end up an accidental retiree? There are lots of approaches. For example, look at some of the things you do now that you would like to do more of if you had the time. For example, suppose that you love to learn and travel.
You are not only a person that learns and travels. You are a lifelong learner and curious traveler that is exploring the world.
The Top 26 Challenge
To help you figure out who you will be in retirement, I have created The Top 26 Challenge. The Top 26 Challenge is a strategy to test drive your life in retirement before you jump in with both feet. Or, if you’re already retired, you can use the challenge to explore changes.
If you look at the list of 26 aspirations and goals and are still trying to figure out how to use those to test drive retirement, here is an idea. Try using an AI writing generator. One that has a free introduction is Rytr at https://rytr.me. If you sign up for the free introduction, you can put in one of the 26 aspirations or goals, like a bio profile. Additionally, ask the AI to produce the response with passion. The AI writing generator will then give you one to three responses. You can tweak that response to help you figure out who you want to be as a retiree. Drop me an email if you get stuck and you’re worried about becoming an accidental retiree. I’ll see if I can help.
As always, to end today, remember that this information is for educational purposes only. This information is not investment, accounting, or tax advice. For those things, you need to find yourself a good fiduciary advisor. 😉
Have a great week,
PS, here are some other great topics from my blog that may interest you.