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What is the point of it all?

By Beth Henary Watson


In a recent conversation, a client stated that in her future retirement she wanted to spend more time with her family.


This was not a vague, I-want-to-travel-someday wish of the type that often goes unfulfilled.


She named specific activities and individuals that carried on strong family traditions. I think she will make it happen.


This meeting stands out because such clarity and specificity of purpose is rare among prospective retirees, even those who plan to quit soon.


Most folks spend so much of their time working that they’ve let dreams, hobbies, and relationships slide.


Recreating purpose beyond a paycheck is one of retirement’s biggest challenges.


George Jerjian, author of Dare to Discover Your Purpose: Retire, Refire, Rewire, surveyed 15,000 retirees and found that money worries weren’t even in the top 3 concerns. Sure, income adjustment is usually a challenge, but more people struggle with identity-related issues.1


We have many clients who take pride in the expertise they’ve built over decades. They still like their profession and even earning money, but maybe regulations, the industry’s culture, or their coworkers get on their nerves more than they used to. Some dip their toe into retirement by going part-time, or step away from the grind but work as consultants, enjoying more control over their time.


“Doing something you love on a schedule you can’t control can feel the same as doing something you hate,” writes Morgan Housel in The Psychology of Money, a book I recommend.


I feel this. As a teenager I started writing and earned my first small check before the age of 20. I worked at magazines and newspapers, took contracts to write and edit policy papers for think tanks, and hustled at ridiculously low per-hour rates to pound out masterful freelance pieces on everything from new music releases and RV trends to the EPA and the Affordable Care Act.


Big jobs and careers in writing are out there, but not for me. I just don’t write or think fast enough.


In 2012, I decided to stop writing for money after a long, back-and-forth process to satisfy an editor who paid me $600 for about a month’s worth of work. It was liberating. Now I write to provide value for our clients and the public, as I have time and ideas. I sometimes help friends edit content they’ve written…no paycheck, thank you.


In the best of scenarios, your time after retirement should be spent pursuing your life’s work. The personal finance classic Your Money or Your Life clearly states the difference between work and a job: We keep jobs to earn money, but our work should more expansive, more defining.


There’s always important unpaid work going on in nonprofit volunteer leadership, in caring for children and elders, in advocating for causes you believe in.


Have you planned for a purposeful retirement? Has retirement been what you expected? Has it been better or worse?


I would love to hear from you!


Next I will write about the financial realities of retirement in the 401(k) era.

Beth Henary Watson is a Certified Financial PlannerTM professional Corner Post Financial Planning. In addition to her work in financial planning, she finds meaning in family, serving on the local town council, and learning new things. Email her, schedule a FREE Retirement Clarity call or text our office at (940) 325-9800.


Citation 1)  "A 67-year-old who ‘un-retired’ shares the biggest retirement challenge that no one talks about,", June 15, 2022.