Traveler?  Innovator?  Student/Artist?  Writer?   Pension brings new roles as we shape our life interests and activities.  If we retire from our past, who are we?   How do others see us?  What does this do to our IDENTITY?  What's the bullet we need to dodge +/- age 70?   Where will we uncover our greatest happiness?   <>  Continuing our 9-part pension series from recent surveys and interviews we've been touching:  (i) LIFESTYLE ...  (ii) PURPOSE...   (iii) LEISURE....  (iv) TIME.   Now onward as we talk about, "Who am I?"

Your response to Survey Question #5: 

Key Role(s) when I retire:  Who Am I? 

The question is simple enough yet it’s one many never consider until the day they wake up without a job.  Over the years if you asked someone who they are, they may well have answered in terms of what they “do” ... their career or business.  In fact the dangerous time for mental health among men is the five years on either side of age 70, depending on when they’ve retired.  Women, it may be fair to say, have often cultivated a broader sense of roles and identity.  So many changes, losing titles and the specialized knowledge that pertained to career or business experience.  On pension, who are we?  What are we ...when titles, labels, career is in the past?

Pic _ graph 5 _ 105 on LEISUREHappy to share with you, most of our respondents have positive views for their identity in retirement.  (Research and broader studies from the U.S. suggest more difficult transitions often arise so our topic is vital and will prove key to our long term health and satisfaction.) 

#1 answer among all our surveys (>50%) highlights our identity within family:  marriage or partner, parents, grandparent.  Important to note that this response is strongest from those who have "given all" into business and professional careers, perhaps neglecting time that family may have missed over the years.  These people want to make up that time,  re-capture and connect vitally with their families.  The appeal to have time with grandchildren is perhaps top of mind.

#2 turns on our creative capacities as 50% see expanding roles as “Traveler, story-teller, sharing new ideas”.   Retirement can be a vigorous time with new roles and identities.  We’ve spoken about travel above, and now you want to tell others and share the experiences.  Perhaps also you’ll take a class in sculpture, or use lifelong skills to help mold a volunteer organization, or travel in some form of mission and human development.  Your insights on life and the world around us can expand what Maslow described as the highest stage of personal development, self-actualization.

36% also see a reinvention into new career ventures.  (Like Pat whose story opens p.39 in A Lifetime Of Wealth.)  Would you consult, become the solo entrepreneur (Seniorpreneur),  take your past experience into new areas, become angel and mentor in a new business with child/children, or develop a new market opportunity?  Never before have we seen such growth of senior entrepreneurism!

Only 14% see a future role as caregiver.  Reality may prove higher;  indeed we can expand on this theme in our next section (Q.6).  More of us, for sure, will find “caregiving” as one of our roles in future.   It's already beyond numbering, how many today are caring for parents, dependent child, dependent spouse.  It's a role that, unaided, can test our strength and exhaust our resources.  Burn-out and despair ...unless financial and holistic planning are already secured in advance.  This is a vital piece of our financial planning and preparations to 80, 90, and beyond.

7% say they'll be “Keeping my old title; I used to be….”   Perhaps it’s difficult to say in advance.  When we’re telling our life story someday, or answering someone’s question about who we are, will we be inclined to describe the kind of work and career we have had?  How much of our work identity will continue into our self-perception for the rest of our lives?   Story is told of George Eastman of Eastman Kodak who saw no identity other than his role in the corporation:  he penned his final letter, “My life is over, why wait?”

But life is resplendently full of change and opportunities.  Did we not grow from children to adults? ..from students into our careers?  ..from one experience and set of responsibilities to the next?   And who’s to say our lives cannot continue expanding in new ways, new meaning, new contribution, new identity, new value along the way!

What does this mean for your pension choices?

Pic _ Pension 5It means nothing less than aligning your pension with the person (or couple) you are today, and how your identity and experiences can grow over the years and horizons to come.  You’ve described (as above) your role in family and as grandparent, as traveler and story teller, as creating new roles and activities for yourself whether in volunteer or paid positions.  Also at times perhaps caring or being cared for, and wanting the personal and financial means to ensure such times can be resourceful, a human and rich journey into the meaning of life and mutual support for each other.

Eric and his wife were facing “sickness and health” even before retirement.  Their story and pension-decision is already in print (p.40 LOW).  In their circumstances it was a choice for life, that commuting his pension gave flexibility to increase their income and immediately manage the outrageous costs for his wife’s care and comfort.

On a happier note, family roles and identity may have little or nothing to do with your specific pension choices.   One couple is taking care of their grandchildren three days a week;  they can do this whether the pension is a flat- or a flexible-model.  Another couple has been helping their children’s doctoral education from pension values;  sure enough, it’s the flexible, personalized pension that provided their freedom to draw higher sums when most needed.

Will you be a traveler?  Will you be investing in such life-experiences that when you come home you’ll be telling stories, sharing pictures, relating events that surely were quite costly …but your pension and other savings aligned to pave the way for this kind of life and the identity it gives you?

Again then, personal identity in life and retirement is fundamentally tied into pension decisions and holistic financial planning.  What you want to get out of life and who you become in our retirement seasons, will vitally factor into decisions for your pension.

Time for professional support?  Is someone needing assistance, confidence, to gain the future of their dreams?  Phone or email me  ...connect with us today at...

Brian Weatherdon, MA CFP CLU CPCA CRC, MDRT.   905-637-3500 x 223
627 Guelph Line, Burlington, Ontario. L7R 3M7.   1-877-937-3500 FREE x 223
Ret.Coach SEALCertified Financial Planner.  Certified Retirement Coach. 


  1. Great article, Brian. Indeed, changes in identity and roles accompany retirement. Our jobs typically define much of our identity, thus retirement from a job can create a gap and affect self-esteem. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You could learn things that inspire your creativity, pick your own challenges or maybe contribute to an organisation whose goals match your own passions. Boomers, if you haven’t fully discovered your new role, you now have the time to explore it! H.P.

  2. Definitely traveler, story-teller, sharing new ideas!

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