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Which of These Retirement Paths Will You Follow?

The author of 'Too Young to Be Old' has identified six paths


(Reproduced with permission from Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age. Copyright © 2017 American Psychological Association. All rights reserved.)

Regardless of where you are in the retirement planning process, it might be time to think about your future path. Through my research, I have identified six major paths retirees follow.

It is important to note that a path may not always be a straight line. People change paths, combine paths and pursue paths in their own unique way. You can identify yourself by the type of path you choose.

The 6 Paths Retirees Follow

Here are the six major paths retirees follow:

At some point, any of us may be a searcher. We might retire, then adventure into a new path and when that has played out, we might search again.

1. Continuers modify their activities while continuing along a similar path. A retired teacher identified as a continuer: “I continue writing and speaking but no longer teach or work for an organization. As my daughter said, ‘The only thing retired about you is your paycheck.’

Continuers maintain their former identity but in a modified way. Mort, a retired museum director, occasionally curates an art show. Larry, a retired roofer, will help out his old firm in an emergency. Continuers stay connected to their former work and their former identities while developing on new fronts.

2. Adventurers see retirement as an opportunity to pursue an unrealized dream or try something new. Jane, a retired teacher, turned her hobby of raising goats into her new life. She bought a small farm and raises angora goats. She is making yarn and selling it at craft fairs.

3. Easy gliders have worked all their lives and decided that retirement is the time to relax. They take each day as it comes.

Sam, a retired bank teller, now plays golf and poker and babysits for his grandchildren. For some, the joy of having no agenda and no pressure makes for a relaxed and rewarding life.

4. Involved spectators still care deeply about their previous work. They are no longer players, but they receive satisfaction from staying involved.

For example, Steve, a retired lobbyist is no longer physically able to walk the halls of Congress, but he still follows the news and stays on top of current events.

5. Searchers are retirees who are looking for their niche. At some point, any one of us may be a searcher. We might retire, then adventure into a new path, and then when that has played out, we might search again.

Think of all the times you have asked yourself, “What’s next?” Searchers try out new activities during this trial-and-error period.

Searchers and adventurers are similar, but not the same. Searchers keep looking. Adventurers are actually doing something new and different. The searcher might end up becoming an easy glider, an involved spectator or an adventurer.

6. Retreaters come in two versions. Some step back and disengage from their previous routine, using a moratorium to figure out what is next. Others get depressed and become couch potatoes.

You can ask yourself which path you want to pursue. You can follow any path or a combination of paths.

After a retirement workshop, a woman told me: “When people used to ask me what I was doing now that I am retired, I said fliply, ‘I am not dead yet.’ Now I will say: ‘I am a continuer.’”

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Nancy K. Schlossberg
By Nancy K. Schlossberg
Nancy K. Schlossberg is co-president of TransitionWorks, a consulting firm; professor emerita at the College of Education, University of Maryland, College Park and served as president of the National Career Development Association. She is the author of nine books, including Retire Smart Retire Happy. Her website is transitionsthroughlife.com.

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