Baby boomers – 10 steps to prepare for the next life stage

During 2011, waves of baby boomers around the world will turn sixty five. Some of them already in full time paid work may choose to ‘retire' completely from the workforce; some may choose to keep working full time; and some may elect to reduce to part time hours and keep on working. For those in the Western world, statistics show we're now living longer and people in their sixties may spend 25 -30+years in their next life stage. Given that is a huge amount of time, how do they want this time to look like and be like? What do they want from this time? And where do you even begin planning and preparing for this next life stage?

The label ‘retirement' is often used for this next life stage. The dictionary defines retirement as ‘to withdraw from life' and it's no surprise to find many people don't want to plan and prepare for their next life stage because the idea of withdrawing from a productive and busy working life is horrifying. It doesn't have to be like this. There is another way to view and do things. It starts now with the mind and the heart. Not later, but now.

1. Identify the ‘models' you are familiar with

What ‘retirement' role models have you had, that have influenced the way you view this next life stage? For example, did your relatives view age 60+ as a time to put their feet up, get their reward for a lifetime of hard work and aim for endless leisure? Or do you know people who went back to school, learnt new things and spent their time with paid and/or unpaid meaningful activities that contributed to their community? It's useful to consider the ‘retirement' models of previous generations as they reflected the societal norms of that time. Some residue of these norms is still around today and they may not be relevant or attractive to you because they don't reflect the norms of today. The point is this: you can actively create your own model. You don't need to be bound by the past, what your family norm has been or what your friends think about things. There are no rules.

2. Listen to your heart

If you're not in the habit of listening to your heart – that is, what you really feel about things you want or stay clear of, then it's time to do so now. Give yourself permission to get out of your head and free yourself from any shoulds, oughts and must-dos in your thoughts and language. Think about what would make your heart sing, make you feel alive, capture your interest and feed your mind and soul – and note how you feel inside. These feelings are the clue to what your new future could look like, sound like and be like, on a daily basis.

3. Recognise society's views of aging

It's pretty ghastly. It's largely portrayed as a negative time represented by: potential poverty (the limitations of living on government superannuation); ill-health (take a note of the television adverts for incontinence products, denture paste, arthritis treatments and funeral preparation); gradual or sudden decline (the advertisements for male and female menopause medications; funeral preparation; tips to avoid dementia; retirement villages); frail elderly (media reporters ask people their age and label them accordingly – elderly seems to be anyone over 60!) and, huge drains on the health system (the elderly take up most of the budget, tutt, tutt). These views are widespread, stereotypical and any stories about positive aging, hardly rates a mention. Yet despite all of this, opportunities exist to actively challenge these negative stereotypes by creating a positive, different future. Yes, our bodies physically age and change, that's unavoidable, but aging is also about attitude and mindsets. A negative or positive attitude, outlook and approach to things, is a choice.

4. Replace what's familiar

We gain five main benefits from our work that combined, give us an overall sense of satisfaction and purpose. In our work we get: structure (start/finish times and stuff in-between); purpose (we have a focus to our day, doing something worthwhile or productive); remuneration (we are rewarded each payday); socialization (lots of people to interact with, develop friendships with, connect with); and status (we use a label to explain what we do – we have a place in the world and it gives us a sense of self worth). If we want to have a rewarding, purposeful, enjoyable next life stage, the five benefits we get from work need to be replaced in some way. Worldwide, the number one illness for ‘retirees' is depression, typically caused by workplace-related losses and personal losses, such as health, mobility, loved ones, missed opportunities and money.

5. Identify what's really important in your life

You need to know yourself well, know your values and what's important to you i.e. working, family, friends, travel, adventure, giving to others, leaving a financial inheritance. You need to know your needs (what you actually need to feel safe, secure, comfortable), your fears and self-limiting beliefs; and also your hopes, dreams and passions. If you're feeling bold and fearless, think about your vision statement – what's your mantra going to be for the next 25+ years?

6. Do your sums

The biggest fear people have is they will outlive their money supply, so do your sums. Know what your personal and lifestyle goals are and your current financial situation. Know what you actually need to live on and what you think you might need to live on in the future. There may be a difference between the two. Get sound financial advice. Ideally, planning for a sound financial future should start as soon as we start working however that isn't a reality for most people. Get on to it as soon as possible to ensure you can have the means to implement the next life stage you really want.

7. Do a health check

Good health is a priceless treasure. Our enjoyment of the present and the future can be quickly derailed by health issues, so if you haven't already done so, take stock of your health. Get regular checkups. Attend to health issues as they arise. Aim to be fit, well and active throughout your life, so you can enjoy the life you've planned or want to have.

8. Dare to dream

Now is the time to dream a little then a lot. Let your imagination fly and recapture all the things you've always wanted to do or experience. This next life stage is ideally the time to do what you've always wanted to do. Don't just dream it or dismiss it out of hand. Make a plan to do what is most important to you. Remember the Bucket List film? What's on your list?

9. Think it, ink it, do it, review it

Develop a cunning action plan to bring your ideas and desires to fruition. Allow your plan to cover the short, medium and long term then, get into gear and implement it. The plan won't work unless you do.

10. Make it happen

The mantra for this planning phase and the next life stage could be ‘if it's to be, it's up to me' with a side dish of Nike wisdom on the side – just do it! Now!

It has been said that nowadays, age 80 is the new 70; age 70 is the new 60; age 60 is like the new 50 and so on. This is because many people are thinking and operating in a way that is very different to the typical, negative stereotypes and mindsets. Instead, they are vibrant, active, contributing beings. They make choices to be fully engaged with the world around them, their work (paid and unpaid) and interests. They ignore the stereotypes of the past and created a next life stage that meets their needs, one reflecting their interests and passions. They've planned well and not left it to chance or left it too late, to make it happen.

Dwan & Associates Ltd ©

February 2011