Retirement Redesigned

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Monday, July 15, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

The Identity Challenge

This post is a duplication of our newsletter, The Weekly Reset, where we review a key theme each week. In the spotlight this week: The identity challenge. How has your retirement shaped your identity?

A note from Johann

In retirement, your identity changes

It is no longer based on what you have done for a living

We define so much of who we are by our careers and what work we have done. Suddenly, at retirement, you are no longer an executive, a manager or a consultant, and your position in a working hierarchy is no longer described by your title. For many retirees, this is a dramatic change and an uncomfortable new reality.

The change that we face reaches into our relationships, our finances, and our lifestyle. Suddenly, we are spending most of our days at home doing domestic chores instead of heading to an office. Where we had influence in our workplace, we now mostly get in our partner’s way. It’s a big change to come to terms with.

But there are benefits as well. The children of retirees are mostly independent and self-supporting by the time their parents retire. Fortunate grandparents have the joy of grandchildren and the sense that life’s greatest challenges are mostly behind them.

The most successful retirees are the ones that understand that they have to craft a new identity and to make it work for them. The less successful ones constantly long for their past and bemoan the trails of elderhood.

Professor Teresa Amabile from the Harvard Business School addressing “How Retirement Changes Your Identity”, says that retirement requires a complete restructuring of your life. Instead of focusing on the challenges of redefining our identity, we can embrace this time as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.


Our top pick this week:

How To Head Off A Post-Work Identity Crisis

Elderly couple driving down the road smiling at each other

“Will you still be relevant when you’re no longer working? That’s something many people wonder as they near retirement. While the simple answer is yes, you may find that the toughest audience to convince is yourself. That’s because grieving the loss of a workplace identity is far more common than most people think.

While we all experience different roles and identities throughout our lives – such as parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, or social identities based on race, religion, or ethnicity – one of the most common ways we self-identify is through our occupations. One reason is the sheer amount of time we spend working versus engaged in other activities. Another is because work can provide a sense of accomplishment, self-worth and confidence.”

Click here to read the whole article on Forbes

Our Spotlight video:

The Identity Challenge

We look at one of the common challenges we face in retirement – our identity. So much of who we are is wrapped up in what we do for work that we often associate our identity with our profession. When you retire from being a teacher, an engineer, an accountant… who are you? As with most challenges, it also presented us with an opportunity to redefine ourselves and find new personal meaning outside of our previous working lives.

Click here to watch the full video on our youtube channel

Weekly Spotlight

Other highlights for the week:

Life After Work: Finding and Embracing Your Identity

Two men in a garden

“No matter why you’re not working—retirement, career pause, caregiving—there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for this phase of life after work. And that’s a very good thing!

Much of the dialogue around retirement planning is focused on financial preparedness and health care. While these are important areas to consider, life after work encompasses so much more—and retirement isn’t the only reason for such a transition. It’s a shift in focus and a season to explore other things. It’s a time to reevaluate priorities and try something new. It’s an opportunity for personal growth that requires a different kind of planning.

So, what activities would you pursue once you’ve taken a step back from work?

Want to keep working, just not in a full-time, career-level capacity—or chase an entrepreneurial venture you’ve been dreaming about for years? Want to volunteer, serve on an advisory board or hang out with the grandkids or your adult children more often? Travel cross-country or be a tourist in your own town? Do all or none of the above?

The short and simple answer: whatever you want! The post-work life is yours to customize—as unique as the work and life experiences you’ve had thus far. And the adventure begins with finding your identity beyond the workplace.”

Click here to read the article on The Hartford Extra Mile

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Wildcard Pick for the Week

How Retirement Changes Your Identity
Click here to listen to the podcast by The Harvard Business Review

Most Popular Quote of the Week

No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself – Haruki Murakami
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No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself – Haruki Murakami

Weekly Question

This week’s question:
How would you describe your relationship with food?
Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group

Last week’s question and findings:
How do you cultivate a clear sense of identity outside your profession?
Our favorite answers:
• So many more identities as I reflect on what matters most… wife, mom, daughter, sister.
• I’m redefining my values and thinking about what I still want to achieve.

To get more information and resources like this in your inbox weekly, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.