If I retire, what am I going to do?

Guest Post from Donna Stevenson,  Boomer Match To Business.

Throughout our life span, in our North American culture, we are often quickly ascribed certain characteristics based on the type of work we do or the position we hold in the working world.  Think about it.  We can reach all the way back to our childhood and recall situations where we were asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’  Then as we grew up and selected post secondary training or education, there were many situations when we were asked, ‘What kind of job can you get with that training (or education)?’ 

When we thought we had finally made it and landed a job, and hopefully, one that challenged and engaged us, whenever we met someone new, we would be asked the typical ‘cocktail party’ question.  ‘So what do you do?’  And now, as we move into the second or third or later stage of our working life, we are constantly asked, ‘So when are you going to retire?’  The worst part about this question is it usually comes in two parts – given the general expectation by, and from, the Boomer generation, the dominant and aging group today, that we will always find a way to stay challenged and engaged – with the second part being, ‘What will you do when you retire?

Pic _ wonderingWhat will you DO when you RETIRE?

It used to be, with our parents’ generation, simultaneously referred to as the Silent Generation, the Great Generation, or Traditionalists (dependent upon the nature of the literature), that to retire was an end in itself.  They worked their jobs, or pursued their careers, usually with one employer, or they owned their own business and when it came time to retire, that is what they did.  Retirement used to mean ... one not only quit performing a function in the working world, but more likely one also settled into a routine of family and friends, often finding the role of grandparent to be challenging and engaging enough.  But that does not appear to be the case with the Boomers.

What Boomers are doing is asking several questions about retirement, viewing retirement as another stage in their life, part of a continuous challenging and engaged lifestyle.  Now, at age 55-plus, Boomers are asking ‘What are my options?  Do I need to retire?  Can I retire and still be an active contributor to the world?  Should I stay gainfully employed, full time, until I ‘fall off the twig?’  or can I have the best of both worlds by reinventing my life?’  They may even be musing that they can continue to have a role in the world of work and indulge in the passions that were put aside while they fed their career.  Boomers still want it all.

Note the significant difference from the previous generation.  For Boomers, It’s about seeing retirement as just one of the available options as they move into the later stage of their life.

Most likely, we all have friends and family that retired ‘early’ and seem perfectly content in their lifestyle, filling their days with various tasks, activities, hobbies, whatever.  Yet for some of us, the thought of retiring, of stopping work, is abhorrent.  Why?  Because we really do not know what we would do if we were no longer connected with the working world.  As Boomers, we have ‘lived to work’ and continue to define ourselves by the job or position that we hold.  We continue to be defined by whatever our answer is to that question, ‘What do you do?’

We fear the impending wide open space of boredom, quiet, and little in the way of challenge or engagement.  But the reality does not need to be so black and white.  We can experience a ‘retirement’ lifestyle and still be involved with the working world.  It’s all a matter of ‘reinventing’ ourselves, stepping back and taking a good, hard look at what engages us today, what drives our passions, and then build ourselves a ‘retirement’ lifestyle that suits our need for challenge yet provides us opportunity to continue to contribute.

To do this, we should be reflecting on what we have accomplished, what are our passions, what those most important to us (family and friends) would want for us.  The questions that we should be responding to now are:

  1. What motivates me to reinvent and prepare myself for the next stage of my life?
  2. What worries me about transitioning out of my work role and changing my lifestyle?
  3. What will I do to keep myself challenged and engaged?
  4. How will these transitions affect other family members?  My friends?  My employees, co-workers, customers?
  5. What legacy will I leave for my colleagues and my family?

So you ask, "If I retire, what am I going to do?"   Well certainly don’t worry about not being challenged!  To reinvent takes a new kind of work -- along with a strong desire to succeed at the life you want to shape for yourself.  Take the skills and knowledge, the expertise you gained during the endless transitions of your working years and turn them now into the foundation for the next stage of your life.

Now click ahead to see,  Retire, Re-Wire, Renovate Your Life!

Donna Stevenson is creator and owner of Boomer Match to Business (BM2B), a company that specializes in matching boomers’ expertise with businesses requiring that expertise for short term assignments.  She provides a ‘reinvention’ lifestyle for boomers seeking to continue to develop the next generation in the workforce while pursuing their own passions.   www.bm2b.ca  --  905.662.5130  --  match@bm2b.ca


  1. You’re right Donna, as you express so well here. Boomers are different. They’re not quiet, and they want to enjoy life on their own terms. Many today age 50-70 are eager to re-invent their life, re-shape their identity, re-devise career while indulging their passion for new experiences. This is a vigorous and dynamic time of life!

    We are re-inventing life, career, and how we relate to world and community around us. The journey goes on and we’re destined to enjoy it ….particularly if we can ponder and answer the 5 questions you’ve offered here which can truly enrich this experience for us.

    Thank you Donna for your guest blog. Thank you for the BM2B community, your faithful following who help to keep our region fresh and vibrant. Special congratulations too Donna as you celebrate 20 years of BM2B. Happy anniversary indeed, and thank you for all you share!

    Brian Weatherdon

  2. Impressive!

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