Retirement: What Do I Do Now? 

So far this month in our blogs on retirement we’ve looked at factors that may influence when you retire, some considerations with your “why” in retirement, as well as aligning your expectations with reality.   

Now we need to talk about the most popular topic, and in many cases what people wrestle with the most in retirement…what do I do now? After all, for most of your adult life, your full-time work has occupied most of the hours in your day, and for most people, the work expectation was stipulated by the needs of whatever organization employed you. In fact, I would suggest that even for self-employed people, navigating around work expectations in retirement can be quite different than what they had experienced most of their working career. 

What’s been interesting to me, is that when I had thought about retirement in my 30’s and 40’s, I often recall thinking, ‘Wow, I’m going to have all kinds of time to do all sorts of things.’ I never really put specifics around “all kinds” and “all sorts,” so as I found myself at age 56 leaving corporate America for something else, I didn’t have an action plan. Based on some sound advice, I took advantage of the opportunity to give myself a four-month sabbatical to figure out exactly what I would be doing. 

You have probably heard the adage, “Aim at everything and you’ll hit nothing.” I certainly have found that to be true in life. Anything worth doing is worth having some goals to accomplish. Something to aim for. If I don’t establish some goals or objectives, I find myself frittering time away on things that aren’t even the most important things to accomplish.   

Establish Some Goals

The first opportunity I’d suggest for you to consider is to establish some goals on what you might like to accomplish in this season of life. Among all the factors affecting your retirement (financial situation, health, family scenario, skills, passion, and purpose), each of us will have some unique angles to consider. 

As you consider those goals, I’d encourage you to include spiritual growth, both as separate and distinct goals and also weaving them into the other goals you establish. Scripture tells us in Psalms 90, verses 12 and 17: 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” and “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”    

Additionally, Matthew 5:16 further states, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And I love how Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”   

If there is ever a time to commit to good works, it’s in this thing called retirement! 

Ok, so hopefully you’re looking at setting up some goals for your retirement, and you’re grounded on having spiritual growth be present within those goals. That provides some framing, but we still want more specifics! 

Utilize Helpful Resources

For those specifics, I’m going to refer you to a blog we published 3/23/21 entitled ‘This or That.‘ The results of the exercise will give you more clarity about whether you want to do “this” or would you prefer to do “that?” 🙂  Allow yourself some time to work through this exercise. Our brains are amazing tools, and with the input of prayer, Scripture, and this exercise, I promise you some useful results! 

I’d also encourage you to separately consider your Unique Distinctives, another blog that we published on 3/29/20. By thoughtfully reviewing your skills, abilities, gifting, passions, values, and experiences, you’ll start to decipher more clearly some vocational callings for this next season of life. 

Additionally, similar to looking for a new job, you must network, network, network! Nothing replaces good ole information gathering from people who have been there, done that! I know that with each person I asked about “life after corporate,” I received at least one constructive nugget of information.   

Redefine Value

Last, I would advise you to work hard at divorcing compensation from value for this season of life, if your finances can permit it. What do I mean by that? I mean that for most of my corporate career, my “scorecard” of sorts was reflected in my compensation. If it went up, it was good year. If I was making more than some peers, it was a good thing, etc. Yet, the value you’re able to contribute in whatever you choose to do now probably is immeasurable! So don’t let it be a yardstick for you! 

After all, what is the value you provide to your family that’s greater than the time you can contribute to them? If you have grandchildren (we’ve got 3!), what is the return on investment for the time you spend with them?   

If you can work for a worthwhile nonprofit, odds are significant you’ll either volunteer or be paid a fraction of what you were paid in your career. Does that reduce the value you add through your work? No! BUT, the Enemy will play that through your mind (if you’re like me) many times over. Don’t let him have his way – – you are serving the Lord Christ! (Col. 3:23) 

So…what do you do now?!? The sky is the limit! Go get ‘em! Blessings! 

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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