To prepare for retirement, I’ve been reading “Your Retirement Quest” by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. I started in the summer and really enjoyed reading a single chapter at a time and then discussing the ideas with my husband. At first, it was easy to look at each of the 10 secrets for creating and living a fulfilling retirement. Each chapter explains the secret, shares some stories and examples, and asks three questions. What will you stop doing? What will you continue doing? What will you start doing?
I’m realizing that taking the time to do this now makes sense. I can understand that preparing for retirement and living in retirement are not the same thing. With so many choices and decisions on the line, especially the ones that result in an impact on your financial security, it could be simple to be impulsive. The message I took away from this book is to be thoughtful, intentional in your planning, and to give yourself the freedom to dream about a new kind of life.
There was one chapter where I started the work and then somehow I got really stuck. It was Chapter 7: Purpose and Values. As a project manager, I know that “purpose” drives everything. If you don’t know why you are doing something it is impossible to come up with a plan. It is even harder to identify the outcome you want and you will never know if you were successful unless you first create a vision.
A purpose statement is “why” you are doing something. Your personal values always come into play because they establish your commitment to “how” you will do the work. The vision is the outcome you are hoping to achieve. It is taking the time, in the beginning, to clearly identify either what you aspire to be (personally) or what will exist (a deliverable or a product) as the end result of your project.
The authors ask you to consider a long list of values. They start by suggesting that you think about how you would answer this question: “You are 85 years old and your great-grandchild, who is sitting on your lap, asks, “What has your life been about? What would you say?”
Then on page 92, there is a long list of personal values. This was the easy part. I showed the list to my husband and said circle the first 5-8 words that resonate with you. He humored me and it took him less than a minute.
His words were: Adventure, Commitment, Competition, Fairness, Faith, Family, Loyalty, Pleasure, and Prosperity.
What was interesting to me was how well these words create a picture and describe him and what he values.
Next, the words I chose were: Adventure, Faith, Family, Friendship, Gratitude, Joy, Loyalty, and Service. We did this completely separately and the words I chose are truly the values that are important to me.
Wanting to see where we overlapped was next, so I wrote our words on a big post-it in two columns. In the middle, I wrote the words that were the same and drew a heart around them. These represent the values we both share.
We are very different people. We have differing styles for the way we prefer to communicate, process information, and approach life. Like any healthy couple, we don’t love exactly the same things all the time. But at the core of our relationship, we do overlap.
The four words we had in common are Adventure, Faith, Family, and Loyalty. What was great about this exercise is that those four words are a pretty good picture of our marriage. We love to travel and meet new people and try new activities. Our faith is the foundation for our marriage and we both have huge families. We work hard to keep positive relationships with everyone in our life and we’ve been loyal to each other for 45 years. We also clearly value loyalty to our employers and jobs. He stayed with the phone company for 39 years. I will have stayed with the county in the same department for 44 years.
But here is where it was hard. What do you do next? How do you create a lofty, aspirational Vision Statement that describes your purpose and values for retirement from a few quickly chosen words in a book?
How do you figure all of this out? Do you need to figure it out or just wait until something comes to you? Right now I’m just confused. I want to have all the answers and just get it on paper. But as of right now I’m realizing, a little impatiently, that this part takes time. This part is important and requires some thinking. I’m usually in a rush to just get to the answer. So for right now I’ll just stay stuck and see what happens!
My husband usually tells me to “just enjoy the process and quit trying to get to the end.” He says “Embrace the Journey.” I’m finding this is harder than it sounds.
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.