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retirement as a life transition

Image by Zoe van Poetsprins NL on Unsplash

I’ve written elsewhere that I discourage everyone from using the word “retirement.” I call this the “R-word.” I would rather see people talk about a “life transition,” because the emphasis should be on moving TO not FROM.

When I saw this article about planning a retirement wardrobe, my first thought was, “Gimme a break!” That’s kind of what you’d expect from me. I’ve never thought of myself as having a wardrobe…just a bunch of clothes hanging in the closet.

I like the fact that this article encourages readers to ask, “What will I be doing in my next life?” If you have no idea, you will probably be miserable. So you ask, “Will I be working? Will I need business clothes?”.

You could turn this question around. Ask, “What would l like to be wearing in the next phase of my life?”

One reason I liked being a college professor was that I didn’t have to dress up as much as I would for a corporate job. I didn’t have to wear high heels. Much of the time I taught in sneakers and sometimes jeans.

Back then, moving up in the corporate world would have meant uncomfortable suits and high heels. No thank you.

Planning a wardrobe forces you to look to the future. You can’t just say, “I’m going to retire.” You have to say, “After I retire, I will do X.”

That’s a short jump to, “Why call it retirement? Why not just say, “In my next phase of life, I will do X.”

You’re also reminded that one transition leads to another.

You may decide to live in jeans and sneakers…and then you decide to write a book and now you’re being asked to speak. Now you wish you still had at least a few “business casual” clothes hanging in your closet.

You may decide you’re bored stiff with life in a small village.

Or you realize you hate the cold and leave for the sun, losing your sizeable investment in parkas and boots.

You may decide to prioritize exercise and develop a new body…which can change what you wear.

“Wardrobe” can be a good starting point for any transition because it’s linked to lifestyle. But it’s not the only possible starting point.

I once met a guy who went to the pound and adopted a large dog. He found he loved the dog so much, he wanted to find a new career where they could be outside together 24/7. He left a high-level corporate job to become a real estate investor, flipping houses.

Another forty-something guy with a Ph.D. became a flight attendant so he could visit the places he studied.

I’ve met lots of people who began with a place. They wanted to live near the ocean, the mountains, or a specific city. Or they wanted the freedom to pick up and take off spontaneously.

You don’t need to retire to get the life you want. You need to recognize what you want…and further recognize that the life you want may not be tied to an artificial age-based transition known as “retirement.”