After the Rat Race, What Next?

By Jennifer Huget
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

So you're about to retire. You've got your finances in order and your health care in hand. But have you written a mission statement for your life? Sat down with your spouse and written post-retirement job descriptions? Discovered your retirement path? If not, you'd best get busy.

Now that life expectancies have rocketed up into the 70s and above, many retirees are looking at 20 or more years of post-career living. That time can be happy or hellish, depending in part on the kind of planning you do, according to experts in the hot new field of retirement coaching.

Here are some of their top tips:

Tip #1 What's Your Line?

Figure out what you're going to say when people ask you -- as they inevitably will -- what you do for a living. You can't call yourself a welder or an astronaut or a barista anymore. It's important to pin your answer down, the experts say, because it is tightly bound to your sense of identity and social status. Once you've figured out what to say ("I'm a full-time granddad!" or "I dabble in watercolors"), practice saying it out loud. Really.

Tip #2 Pick a Path

Nancy Schlossberg, author of "Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life," identified six retirement styles that are tied to personality types. Are you a Continuer (wanting to do more of what you've been doing, but in a different context), an Adventurer (looking to do something new), a Searcher (taking advantage of this opportunity to finally find your niche), an Easy Glider (content to go with the flow), an Involved Spectator (still in the game but happy not to be a key player), a Retreater (ready to just give up; not a propitious choice), or some combination thereof? Thinking this through opens your eyes to the zillions of possibilities before you, says Schlossberg (clearly a Continuer; the Florida resident is a professor emeritus of the department of counseling and personnel services at the University of Maryland).

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