This blog was based off the September 2022 Powered by Purpose Speaker Series event presented by Steve Whitty and Dr. Aimee Beckmann-Collier.

SteveAimeeRetirement may seem too far down the road for some people to even consider planning for it now, but there are big benefits to thinking about how you’ll spend your retirement years well ahead of time. Regardless of how close you are, taking the time now to intentionally explore where your interests lie can not only assist you with planning a purpose-driven retirement, but it can also help you better aim for the financial and physical health to carry out your vision for the future.

Planning for retirement doesn’t mean mapping out a definitive, tightly structured route of what you will and won’t do. There is no “right” way to spend your retirement years. The goal should be to think through your interests and motivations now so you can also explore different options in advance. Additionally, by paying more attention to your personal purpose, you’ll start living with it in mind and either continue actively living it out throughout retirement or later redefine it to better reflect how you want to spend your time in later years.

Follow the Science on Well-being, Flourishing and Happiness
There is plenty of social science and research to help guide you through considering a future life that leads to well-being, flourishing and happiness.

Gallup has identified five areas used to score individual and community well-being, including: career, social, financial, physical and community. When planning for retirement, consider how you will fulfill each of these areas for a sense of well-being when your lifestyle may look different than it used to.

To flourish in retirement, consider Marin Seligmans PERMA theory of well-being:

Positive emotion – how you increase positive emotions by spending time doing what makes you happy
Engagement – finding activities that fully deploys your skills, strengths and attention for challenging tasks
Relationships – being in contact with and caring about other people while also feeling cared for creates a sense of belonging important to emotional well-being
Meaning – a sense of meaning and purpose about something bigger than yourself
Accomplishment – what and how you will strive for achievement

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, points to social connections as one of major keys to happiness, including building relationships, maintaining and deepening positive feelings, practicing gratitude and kindness toward others and giving up grudges. Additionally, the Center emphasizes that physical activity and exercise, spending time in nature, getting adequate rest, practicing mindfulness and spending money wisely are all beneficial our bodies as well as our minds.

Activating Purpose in Retirement
Understanding your purpose is important at any age – improving where we focus our time and energy and increasing our overall sense of well-being. To really identify your purpose requires taking time to look inward at what motivates you and makes you happy. What that looks like in your 20s and 30s could quite possibly look different in your 50s and 60s.

Some questions to ask yourself as you plan for retirement: What is your relationship with work? How goal-oriented are you? Does a to-do list energize or scare you? The answers may help you better define how you will want to spend your time and energy when you’re free to plan your days in ways you’d like to enjoy them.

Personality tests, like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram and Clifton Strengths Assessment, to name a few, can help you dig a little deeper into your unique personality. Even if you’ve completed assessments before, the way you approach things may have changed over time. They can help you better understand how you’re wired—and also how your life partner is wired, if applicable.

As always, you should also pay attention to things you should say NO to… what drains you of energy, what doesn’t bring you happiness or what things aren’t aligned with your purpose? It’s equally important to understand what doesn’t work to bring you happiness as it is to know what does.

What’s Worked for Us
Here are a few additional pointers about planning for retirement from each of our perspectives:

  • Approach this discovery as “How can I keep growing?”
  • Think of retirement planning as a creative process—it’s a great time to experiment.
  • Don’t think “retirement”, think semi-retirement (you’ll still have commitments and obligations.)
  • Engage with the nonprofit community to find other opportunities. How can you use your skills to help your community?
  • There are many resources for how to “design” a good life in retirement—tap into them!

  • Don’t over-plan your first year of retirement—take a gap year!
  • Be open to what may “fall out of the sky.” Some of the greatest things are unexpected!
  • There is some importance to routine and ritual for focus and productivity.
  • Figure out what’s meaningful by asking, “Who am I? What is essential in my life?”
  • Expect change. Life circumstances will shift (opportunities and challenges alike.) Use them as chances to learn, grow and create value.
  • If you have a life partner, don’t forget them in your planning—they have needs/wants, too!

Retirement Planning Is Continuous
Above all, stay flexible in your planning. It will be an on-going process, so keep your mind open to all the possibilities. Research and take advantage of available resources. Here’s a list of places to start:

Powered by Purpose from United Way of Central Iowa

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
From Strength to Strength
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Happiness By Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think
The Purpose Driven Life

Most of the authors listed above have podcasts – Google them!

Ted Talks/You Tube
Search “Purpose”, “Preparing for Retirement”, etc.

About the Authors
After more than 30 years of employment with Principal, Steve Whitty retired yet keeps busy as a Strategic Advisor to Navigate Wellbeing Solutions plus through continued work on social impact/non-profit causes via innovation work and Board service. Dr. Aimee Beckmann-Collier is Director Emerita of Choral Studies and the Ellis and Nelle Levitt Distinguished Professor Emerita of Conducting at Drake University, where she taught from 1989 until 2019. In retirement she founded and conducts the Drake University alumni choir, among other activities.

Topics: Mental Health, Purpose, Powered by Purpose, Health & Well-Being

Jessica Nelsen

Written by Jessica Nelsen

Jessica Nelsen is the Community Impact Officer for Essential Needs and Health & Well-Being at United Way of Central Iowa.