Guiding your life’s biggest financial moments

Personal Finance

Finding a purpose in retirement

In my January column, I promised to respond to a request from reader Michael Brletich. After two years of a pleasant retirement, “my sense of purpose remains elusive,” writes Brletich. “I would appreciate any idea you might have on how to find a goal in retirement. “

It’s a tall order, Mr. Brletich, and a very personal one, but I’ll try. First of all, let me make sure you are not alone. In a joint retirement study conducted by Edward Jones and Age Wave, 31% of those surveyed who had been retired for less than five years said they struggled to find a purpose.

Typically, the solution falls into one of three compartments, says Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave. “For a significant portion of the population, this means getting involved in your place of worship or spiritual activities,” says Dychtwald, co-author with Robert Morison of What retirees want. “For others, it means using your talents in the service of others. And for some, that means doing what you’ve always wanted to do.

How to find your niche? Start by talking to other retirees to gather ideas. “Ask yourself what gave you purpose before and what you can keep in your new life,” says Mary R. Donahue, co-author with Alexandra Armstrong of Your next chapter.

Then, make a list of all the things that pique your interest and organize them according to your preferences: Do you want to continue working for pay or do you want to make a contribution to your community? Would you like to work with young people, old people or another group? Do you like spending time in front of the computer or outdoors? Do you prefer structure or flexibility? How would you like to try your hand at something completely different?

Donahue organized her categories on a vision board, using pictures and other visual reminders of things she would like to do in retirement. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For her retirement, Armstrong, president emeritus of the financial planning firm she founded in Washington, DC, chose several nonprofits that would value her knowledge of investing and finance.

The point is to focus on and visualize your interests. “If you can imagine it, it helps him become real,” says Donahue, a psychologist. (Note: I am in the process of compiling my own list of possible post-pandemic volunteer activities.)

Keep the faith. Don’t underestimate the role of religion in helping you find purpose. “Older people tend to become more active or to revert to the religion of their childhood, or to seek new religions,” says Donahue. “It’s a way of coming to terms with the whole experience of life.”

In addition to spirituality, faith communities provide opportunities for socialization, volunteering, and other activities. by Kiplinger reader Douglass Lewis is active in A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, an interfaith ministry that sends several hundred young adults to national parks to work in the hospitality industry and lead weekend worship services for visitors and residents. of the park. “The experience is stimulating and rewarding for these young people,” says Lewis.

Lewis’s work combines religion and mentorship, another rewarding avenue for retirees. “So many people leave behind fulfilling careers and wonder how to make their retirement so meaningful,” says Marci Alboher, vice president and author of The Encore Career Handbook. “One way is to be a mentor or a coach. “

Alboher says the best way to find mentorship opportunities is to talk to people in your area (or sign up for the communication feed on She is a consultant for Girls Write Now, a group of New York girls interested in writing. According to Alboher, “It’s a way of finding purpose by connecting across generations. “

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