Written by our very own client, Jerry Brimeyer
Fog. That’s the only word I could come up with a few years ago to describe it when I started thinking about retirement. It felt like working through a fog trying to figure out how my wife and I could “afford” retirement. And just as thick a fog about “what would we do” living in retirement once we got there.
But we knew the “afford” fog needed to clear before we could even think about the “what would we do” fog.
Worries like these kept us awake and started becoming our bed partners:
- Would we run out of money before we died?
- How could we handle all kinds of possible risks and challenges that might come up as we age?
- What if our health went south?
- What if the economy went south?
- How do we choose where we live; did we want to stay here (or move south)?
- How do we choose how we live?
And we had a dozen more questions like these.
Fortunately, someone suggested we see a financial advisor. So, in May 2015 we had our first meeting with Phil Lockwood. Not a single question was stupid or unreasonable, he told us. After a few more meetings, he had designed a financial plan that made sense, was balanced, and considered the real possibilities of what could happen and how we would deal with it.
Since I would retire before my wife, suddenly, the second fog hit me… the “what would I do” in retirement fog. I had actually been considering that for a few years when retirement felt more like a pipe dream. But now it was real, and I could only describe the bluntness of it like this:
You’ve worked your entire life to finally reach retirement. Then, all of a sudden, there it is, staring you right in the eyes and screaming, “Okay, here I am. Now what in the world will you do with me?!”
The questions came like an avalanche– “what will I do? …how will I find meaning? …where do I find my purpose? …how do I find a social network? …how will our life work out, together now 24/7 with each other? …how will I fill each day, each week?” Or will I just become a slug?
I thought or hoped retirement would come natural, or be all figured out for me, or it would figure itself out, but it doesn’t.
The more people I talked to who were thinking about retirement, the more who told me they felt exactly that same way.
Exactly. The. Same. Way!
So, I decided to do some research. I wanted to see if anyone had put together a program to help people “learn” retirement – to find a best way to turn retirement into a wonderful experience that it seemed like it should be, filled with purpose, interpersonal connection, meaningfulness, constructive achievement, diverse experiences, joyfulness and contentment. I wanted to find a class to learn how to clear the fog of retirement anxiety and replace it with the ingredients that would lead to a retirement life very well lived – the Signature Chapter of my entire life.
I found no program.
So, I decided to create one.
I had a sense that I knew where to find the answers for how to build it. I had an MA in Educational Counseling and had spent the last fourteen years of my working career as a certified leadership coach for the company I worked for. I reviewed a number of coaching, motivation, and psychology books, and interviewed a lot of people. Together, with a business partner, we spent three years pulling together the best cutting-edge concepts and assembled it all into a nine-hour program that we’re very proud of. We named it A Workshop for Designing Your Retirement Life – Very, Very Well Lived.
It is a values-based program which means if everything you do in retirement is, in some way, connected to expressing your most important values, you will live a very purposeful, meaningful, satisfying life – a life that has a rich feeling of rightness. Our values are all those things that are important to us. For many, that might include connections with our family and friends, doing things for others, exploring curiosities, enjoying certain activity types, and participating in personally meaningful pursuits. Each person’s real values are uniquely different, and harder to uncover than we think. They are usually buried inside our many life stories and narratives. In our workshop, we use a number of experiential exercises to get to those life stories so we can expose the real values hidden within so we can learn to live out those values.
Among the exercises, we do several that are intended to identify our life purpose which is closely related to our unique values. We also take a long look at the types of things occurring in a normal week that we love doing, and those things we detest doing. Again, they reveal the stories that hint at values.
One of the most popular exercises is to journal our High Dream for retirement – our best case scenario of how our best retirement life would look. We also look at Low Dream – our worst fear for retirement. The more awareness we have for these, the greater choice we have for creating what we do want (our high dream) and noticing when we start unintentionally slipping into our low dream.
Another popular portion of the workshop is working with The Life Wheel. This is a tool we use to identify eleven major areas of our life – Health, Spiritual, Family, Money (relationship with money; not how to invest), Friends, Personal Growth, Fun and Recreation, Significant Others, Physical Environment, Service to Others, and Meaningfulness. We rate our current level of satisfaction for each, then our aspired level. And that’s when the fun starts. We work together (or solo, if preferred) to arrive at plans. For example, we teach simple and effective networking approaches to expand our number of close friends if that’s an area of focus.
We have other aspects that we explore in the workshop that are all important components of creating a wonderful retirement life. We keep it light and fun, just like retirement should be. Not dark, dramatic and heavy like the fog that many of us experience as retirement gets closer.
If you’re interested in attending the workshop, you can learn more at www.SignatureChapter.com. In central Iowa, the workshop is being offered through DMACC’s continuing education program. In other areas of Iowa, we have coaches that are facilitating the program. Please reach out to us through the website to get more information.
Let your retirement become everything that it can be. We’re 100% certain that we all deserve that. And isn’t that why we all worked and saved for so long?