The "R" Word - Redefining Retirement

The "R" Word - Redefining Retirement

July 17, 2023

We are thinking a lot about retirement lately.  But not in the traditional sense you would imagine when you think of a financial advisor working on a retirement plan. In a few of our recent meetings, clients have shared that the word retirement doesn't work for them

One of our clients said, “I don’t like the word retirement. I want to remain active and engaged and I don’t feel like that word describes what it’s going to be like when I stop working full time.”

Another client pointed out, “I hate the word retirement! The main word is tire, like you’re tired!”

And another client said, “The moment you say you are retired, your bones start to rot.” 

As you can see, our clients have strong opinions about the “R” word. It has caused us to pause and reflect on how we can talk about that life stage - if we don’t call it retirement, what do we call it? 

We loved reading what Serena Williams said about the “R” word in her Vogue article “Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis on her Own Terms – And in her Own Words” published in August 2022. She said, “I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

As financial advisors, the world “retirement” is important to us because it’s crucial to ask deep questions about that part of our client’s life.  We ask them to share what they envision that time in their life will look like – where will they live? Who will they spend time with? How will they spend their time? etc.  These are important questions to ponder and answer. One of the things that we really enjoy about the process to prepare for retirement is that each client response is different because it is informed by their own unique values, experiences, and goals. 

We love digging into the answers and helping our clients articulate a clearer vision for designing their future lives and their legacy.  We spend time honing in on well-defined numbers that inform their financial needs for a meaningful and fulfilling retirement. We emphasize having clarity to take action. That clarity comes from helping clients form a vision and exploring, describing, and tracking the numbers that will make their vision real. 

We are currently working with several clients who are on a two-year runway – which means two years in advance of their planned retirement date.  In the two years leading up to their retirement date, we identify all their sources of income, track spending and itemize expenses. This helps achieve clarity. When we have this information, we know what to solve for and this attention to details provides clients with peace of mind about making this major life change. The combination of the visioning and tracking of the numbers are the fine-tuning work that is necessary to develop and execute their retirement income distribution strategy i.e., how we will create a paycheck for them using their own assets. “What happens with all this when I retire?” is one of the most common questions we are asked.  

And now we need to fine tune the word we use to describe that part of life.    

Perhaps the discussion asks us what is the essence of retirement?

What can we call it to honor the transition it represents?

We brainstormed the following list of possible new titles:


Next Stage

Second Act

Third Act

Work Optional

Financial Independence

Turns out we are not the first to try to figure this out. There are organizations working to define and redefine this life stage. MIT has created an AgeLab that is dedicated to studying all aspects of aging. They have done research on what they call the “8,000 days” of retirement - which makes sense because the timeframe that people call retirement could span more than three decades. 

Another organization devoted to helping people of retirement age make an impact is CoGenerate. They write: “The decades of life beyond 50 becomes a time of social contribution and impact — and we leave the world better than we found it.”

Lawrence R. Samuel, Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, “Rather than embrace their parents’ model of seniority defined by retirement, baby boomers are now considering or pursuing many different options, a version of life I call Boomers 3.0. Instead of heading en masse to retirement communities much like “Del Boca Vista” (the fictional condominium complex in Florida of Seinfeld fame), 60-somethings are going back to school, starting new relationships, exploring their creativity, taking new spiritual paths, embarking on “encore” careers, forming new communities, fighting for causes in which they believe, giving their time and money away, and yes, bucket listing. For financial and other reasons, a good number are working and staying in their current homes as long as possible, seeing no compelling reason to do otherwise.”

Another word we encountered to describe this time is “Jubalacion” which is what Spanish-speaking countries call this part of life.  The word jubalacion (jubilation in English) originally meant making a joyful noise.  It comes from Latin “jubilant” – “calling, hallooing”.  This seems like it could be a great new word to use!

What word is chosen has something to do with how YOU define Retirement.  What will you call this stage of life? 

We would really love to hear your voice in this discussion topic. Please share your thoughts with us!