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Retirement Planning Is About More Than Just Finances

September 19, 2017


More often than not, we discuss retirement as a time of relaxation and enjoying the fruits of our labor.  We work towards these “Golden Years” and count down the days until we can retire.  However, for many individuals, retirement brings unanticipated challenges and emotions.  Most everyone prepares for retirement financially – but they do not prepare for the emotional, mental and spiritual impact they may experience. 

"Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for." —Victor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning is psychiatrist and neurologist Victor Frankl's account of his ordeal as a concentration camp inmate during the World War II. Frankl found that those who survived longest in concentration camps were not those who were physically strong, but those who retained a sense of control over their environment.

I recently attended a presentation about "The Blue Zones", places in the world where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on earth.  Several of these blue zones exist, and in each of these places living to 90 or even 100 years old is common.  These people aren’t just living long either – they're living healthily – without medication or disability. 

The speaker raised this question:

Besides the year you were born, what year are you most physically vulnerable?

The answer?

The year after a person retires.

As a professional life coach, I've noticed that my clients facing retirement are also facing something that is perhaps more frightening than anything they've ever faced before: the unknown. Frankl would cite the feeling of losing control over one's life, or having nothing to live for, as being the primary factors contributing to that vulnerability.

A woman whom I worked with several years ago was confident that she was going to retire from her job as an elementary school teacher in a 3-year time period. What she wasn’t sure about was:

  • her feelings about retirement; and
  • what she was going to do with her time when she wasn’t in the classroom.

We spent 3 months together in retirement coaching - discussing her possibilities, defining personal goals and learning to work through obstacles as they arose. She told me as we worked together that this helped her make progress and feel less stuck. She was thrilled when she realized that not only would she be ready to retire financially, she also felt a sense of peacefulness and calm. Knowing that when the time came she had more options than she’d ever realized freed her to truly experience the joy, possibility and personal fulfillment that could come through retirement. She could volunteer in the classroom on a regular basis, she could help out as needed, or she could take a complete break and see where that led her.

As a life coach, one of my favorite tools to use is the Wheel of Life. The wheel contains eight sections that, together, represent one way of describing a whole life. Working with the Wheel of Life measures my clients’ level of satisfaction in different areas, helps illustrate what balance in their life can look like, and is a powerful jumping-off point and conversation starter.

Many people hire career coaches, athletic coaches, business coaches, acting coaches and financial coaches. Why not prioritize your life and hire a Retirement Coach to help you plan for your next phase?

Karen J. Carr’s professional and life coaching business, Revitalize Coaching in Minneapolis, MN, has been dedicated to supporting individuals in creating better clarity since 2001. She works on issues together with her clients so they can make decisions for themselves, on their own terms, and with the guidance of coaching. You can contact Karen here for a complimentary consultation. You can learn more about Karen and her services at her website: revitalizecoaching.com.