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To Give and to Grow

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Retirement Plan

Are you a baby boomer? The oldest boomers began to retire thirteen years ago, and the youngest will be 65 at the end of this decade.  

I started paying attention to the sunset years when my father retired in 1994. One reason was that the baby boomers were to begin retiring in twelve years. The other was that after spending most of his career in large grocery store management, my father started a new gig as a Walmart greeter. After a few months at Walmart, he offered modest advice to the store manager. The manager shut him down. The tone of his voice was clear, “We don’t need your advice, old man!”   

The concept of retirement has radically changed over the last few decades. Many people do not want to quit their jobs and spend all their time fishing, golfing, hunting, or going on cruises. They are looking for flexible work, entrepreneurial, and/or volunteering activities that will not consume their entire week – work that’s meaningful and makes a difference to others. 

Bill retired at the age of 67. He’d been talking about retirement for over twenty years. Saying things like, “I can’t wait to escape!” Six months in to his retirement, Bill was bored out of his mind, golfing and fishing. But he slogged forward and even started hunting again.  

Then one day Bill twisted his ankle on the golf course. His friend Dan stopped by to check on him. Balancing a bag of ice on his sore foot, Bill said, “I didn’t think retirement out.” Dan replied, “You didn’t think it out and you didn’t try it out, Bill.” 

Dan went on, “Remember how many students Professor Cal told us would drop out in their first year in engineering? And do you remember why?” 

Bill answered with a chuckle, “Because they didn’t have a clue what engineers did day in and day out.” 

Transitioning to the Golden Years 

According to Investopedia, the full retirement age (FRA), also known as the regular retirement age, for the sake of Social Security benefits, is based on one’s birth year. 

  • 1960 or later: FRA is 67 
  • 1943 – 1954: FRA is 66 
  • 1955 – 1959: FRA is 66 plus two, four, six, eight, or 10 months, depending on the year of birth.

Okay, let’s retire the word retirement. Think of this life stage as one’s Golden Years (GYs). 

Many factors must be considered when planning for the GYs, including financial, lifestyle, health and well-being, legal, estate planning, and long-term care. Our focus today is on preparing for entrepreneurial, employment, and/or volunteering activities. In other words, part of what you’ll do with your time. 

Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”  

Unless you want to get punched in the face like Bill you must plan and try things out 

What age do you start? 

However old you are today! If you’re close to your mid-60s, you’ll need to compress exploration into a shorter time frame. Ideally, you’ll want to start in your early to mid-40s. Although you can begin exploring in your 20s, the early years are a time to exercise and develop your skills, talent, and strengths. It’s from this period that passions begin to surface for many of us. 

What non-work-related activities do you find passion in today? 

You may have spent most of your career in sales or management and didn’t like it. You go home and do woodworking projects. That sounds like a good GY activity. But you might still need to finance your life. Can you make money from woodworking? Will you still like woodworking if you charge for it?  

This is where the physical side of trying things out comes in. In your spare time, create and sell projects. For many people, when they charge for their work, the activity suddenly loses appeal. 

What work-related activities do you find passion in today? 

If you have a passionate purpose, start there. Our purpose most often fuels all areas of life. For instance, my purpose is to inspire and guide people to be who they are and to become all that they can be. Although I formalized this only a few years ago, when I look back over my career, I see that I lived it not only in every HVACR role that I had but also in other areas of my life.  

The key is to use our passion-related behavior in a different role. For example, as an owner or GM, you might love to teach others. Imagine hanging up the typical manager’s duties and focusing solely on becoming an educator. Try teaching for pay today. Start small. Create a curriculum, teach, and get paid in your spare time. 

Whatever the behavior or duties you are passionate about during conventional employment, try them out in a non-work-related environment. Again, the intent is to minimize or prevent that punch in the face. It’s important to try to know in advance how you’ll be affected by work for pay in your GYs. 

Ask Others 

Regarding the time spent in your GYs, everything you’re contemplating and/or planning has already been done by others. Start with your network.  Today, many people’s lives are on full display with social media. I wouldn’t base decisions on what you read or hear on social media, but it can alert you to people who are in their GYs and what they’re doing. Ask them. 

The Road Ahead 

Those thoughts I had in 1994 focused in part on learning from those on the road ahead of us. I was thinking about learning from what the older boomers would be experiencing.  

One of the most important things I learned in my decades long quest in exploring purpose was, if you’re not able to articulate one, use the default purpose of, To Give and to Grow.   

If you’re not yet able to identify entrepreneurial, employment, and/or volunteering activities to pursue in your GYs, use the North Star default purpose To Give and to Grow. 


Dave Rothacker
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Posted In: Leadership & Planning

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