Retirement Readiness: Identity Beyond the Workplace

20 Mar 2024

Retirement Readiness: Identity Beyond the Workplace

What defines you? Your faith, your family, your community, your talents? For the majority of U.S. white-collar workers, the answer might be their job. In fact, a 2014 Gallup poll showed that 70% of college-educated workers derive a sense of identity from their career – meaning their job isn’t just something they do, it is actually how they view who they are as a person. When it comes to retirement readiness or retirement planning, this can become a serious dilemma. The feelings of irrelevance and inadequacy from walking away from a career can be real and intense.  With the majority of workers equating their work to their self-identity, retirement can feel less like an exciting life milestone and more like a death in the family. In this blog post, we will arm you with a few ways to help you break the cycle of career-centric identity and get set up for retirement readiness. 

Self-Reflection Matters 

How you think and believe will inevitably have an impact on how you feel and what you do. Most of the thoughts you have throughout the day will understandably be related to your job.  And, if you are in a high stress position, when you go home it is tempting to have one of two different types of thoughts: 1) more thoughts about work, or 2) veg out mindlessly to not think of work. Either way, this means the vast majority of your thoughts in a 24-hour period could be geared toward your work and not you as a person. Psychologists believe we can become hardwired to believe our “inner voice”, the stories we tell ourselves – and if you are constantly thinking to yourself things like “you are a great engineer,” or that you “still haven’t accomplished enough as a pilot,” or “maybe I’ll retire after I am finally recognized for my research,” then there’s a chance you may be finding your identity in your work. 

Rather than ruminating on work or engaging in mindless activities after the workday, carve out some time to work on you. Journaling or prayer are both excellent ways to incorporate reflection into your daily life. Through reflection, one can more clearly see their life’s purpose, and it is imperative to have guiding principles as you embark on your retirement journey. As you reflect on the bigger picture, you are reinforcing ideals and an identity outside of your work.  

Balance is Key

One of the best ways to focus on interests outside of the workplace is to be intentional with your family, friends, hobbies, and other passions. The trick to being intentional with balance is prioritizing – don’t just hope for balance, but instead create a system to plan for and schedule out your activities. To truly maximize your life, focus on seven key areas of balance: 

  1. Family 
  2. Social Connections 
  3. Spirituality 
  4. Mental Mindset 
  5. Physical Wellness 
  6. Financial Discipline 
  7. Career

Every quarter, you can list 2-3 action items for each area of your life, and those action items can then get scheduled, added to your task lists, etc. We often want to do all these things, yet we cannot find the time. I am of the opinion that time management is a myth – it’s all about priorities, we all have the same 24-hours in a day. Until you get intentional on those other six areas outside of your career, it’s unlikely you will take any significant action to step outside of work and grow in the other areas of life.  

Your career is probably the one area in life where true accountability exists due to the nature of business. Unfortunately, accountability in your personal life may require more self discipline, so you will need to create a system that best works for you. Oftentimes a spouse, close friend, or mentor can serve as an accountability advocate to help keep you on track.

Rediscover Passions and Interests

One of the age-old images of retirement readiness often looks something like this: an elderly couple sitting on the porch in rocking chairs – grandpa whittling on a stick and grandma crocheting. This is the stereotypical embodiment of “retirement.” But who really wants to do that for thirty years? Where’s the purpose, the impact? The word retire itself even gives sort of a negative connotation in a way – to quit, to cease, to withdraw. Rather than viewing retirement as the end, we need to reframe what retirement really is: freedom with your time and finances.  

Retiring might mean the end of a job, but it doesn’t have to mean it is the end of your career. If you are an expert in your field, then other endeavors such as consulting, writing, research, and speaking can still be on the table. In addition, do not overlook the value of mentoring – younger generations in your field need the insight and guidance that experience brings. If you find yourself not looking forward to retiring because you really love your work, then consider parlaying those skills into a retirement gig. Doing so keeps you engaged with purpose without having to keep a strict schedule or answer to a corporate agenda. 

On the flipside, you might be ready to kick up your feet and never open a laptop again. That is great! But remember, one can only play so much golf. It is important to not only have hobbies but also skills and activities that bring purpose to your life and others. Fun hobbies are great and much of your retirement calendar can be filled with things like golf, fishing, playing bridge, or tennis. But one of the biggest advantages to hobbies like these is the social connection – be sure to find a group and get plugged in! 

If you are like most Americans, you have probably neglected your health in some way in favor of more time at the office. An excellent passion to pursue in retirement is fitness and physical activity. Now that you have time to get active, it’s easier to get the ball rolling and get in the habit of working out. 

Outside of the more traditional hobbies, consider volunteer work as a way to spend time during retirement. These are activities that can motivate you to get out of bed every morning and seize the day because there is an obvious and identifiable impact, especially if your volunteer efforts align with a passion of yours. 

Make a list of things you think you may want to do during retirement and make a fictitious calendar to see what that might look like. Or take it a step further and take a week or two off before retirement to “practice” being retired. Don’t like how it went? Adjust and fill your calendar with other activities and try it again. It is much better to arrive at retirement with a confident plan with excitement than planless, doubtful, and unsure. Start doing some of the work now, so you don’t end up sitting on the porch whittling while you try to figure out what to do.

Reconnect with Relationships 

This one may seem obvious, but relationships are what life is all about. A lot of your social activities may currently revolve around work, and maybe that friend group is great in retirement, too. But it’s likely that your social connections have evolved over time due to the seasons of life. When you had young children, you likely spent a lot of time with your children’s friend’s parents. And as you got further along in your career, you may have spent more time with coworkers and colleagues.  

What about that childhood friend you just reconnected with on Facebook? What about your old college roommate that you only see once every few years? Remember, retirement is all about having the freedom of time to pursue what you want to pursue. Consider taking the time to reconnect with some of these relationships. Renewed friendships are a wonderful thing in life and what better time to happen than in retirement when you have the time (and money) to have fun! 

Make a point to include reconnecting with someone on your “action list” when doing your quarterly life balance reflection. You may be surprised how much joy that brings to your retirement transition.

Retirement Readiness

Embarking on retirement is less about closing a chapter centered around your work and more about flipping the page to a new section of your life brimming with untapped potential and exciting experiences. Recognizing that your sense of self stretches beyond your job title allows you to step into retirement with a mindset geared towards adventure and self-enrichment. It’s a time for you to reignite old passions, forge deeper connections, and live out the balanced, meaningful existence you’ve envisioned. Retirement isn’t the finish line; it’s the starting block for a new race filled with your personal achievements, recreation, and the joy of living on your own terms. By strategically planning, welcoming new changes, and maintaining focus on all aspects of your well-being, you can transform your retirement years into a period of renewal, happiness, and dynamic personal growth. We hope you approach this next phase with enthusiasm and an open mind, ready to seize the myriad of possibilities that retirement holds for you. 

Please remember to contact BentOak Capital (“BentOak”), in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you want to impose, add, to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services, or if you wish to direct that BentOak to effect any specific transactions for your account. A copy of our current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available upon request or at 

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.  

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.  

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member: FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through BentOak Capital, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial.

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More about the author: Brandon W Garrett