It is no secret that the baby boomers are a generation of influence. There are a lot of them, and they are credited with creating historical shifts in the narratives around economics, politics, popular culture, education and consumer behaviour. Sociological and economic theories have been developed to identify the shifts associated with this generation’s progress through the lifespan, and the economic well-being of the world is often tied to their activities.
Basically, how the baby boomers spend their time and their money has flow-on effects for everyone.
Now that the baby boomers are in the process of retiring, there are, naturally, consequences in terms of how resources are allocated and what provisions need to be made for an ageing population. However, baby boomer retirements also represent an unprecedented opportunity that, I believe, can have a tremendous positive impact on society at large. That opportunity lies in the capacity of baby boomers to use their new “time rich” status to contribute to their communities in ways that really matter, whilst boosting their own well-being, happiness and longevity.
When we think of the struggles of modern life, there is often a conversation about the amount of pressure people feel; the struggle and juggle of balancing family, work and other commitments; the sense of disconnect and loneliness experienced by many; and the sense that, in the rush to get things done, we often lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing. The prevalence of mental health challenges is high, and suicide rates in Australia continue to rise. Although there are many exceptions, there is a sense that, as a society, we are resource-rich but connection-poor.
What does this have to do with the baby boomers?
Although there are a number of economic consequences of the baby boomers retiring, it is worth noting that having less baby boomers working full-time creates an opportunity that has not previously existed. We have large numbers of educated, experienced, motivated and highly competent people with more time and less demands than ever before. So, whilst younger generations may be running low on precious commodities like time and energy, newly retired baby boomers are likely to have those to spare. Finding ways of connecting time rich boomers with time poor Gen Xers and beyond seems worthy of consideration.
The other great thing about baby boomers retiring is that, in addition to having more time available, they are likely to WANT to do things other than become glorified babysitters for their grandchildren. As lovely as it is to be able to help out with the grandchildren, this is a generation of doers and change-makers, and rightly or wrongly, they have a reputation for being ambitious workaholics. That reputation implies both a risk and an opportunity for baby boomers when they become retirees.
Like all major life transitions, retirement can be stressful. This is particularly the case for those who do not have a clear plan for what they will do instead. Presumably, most (if not all) retirees have done their financial homework and have some sort of plan regarding how they will pay for their retirement. However, apart from some vague notions of increasing the time spent pursuing hobbies and helping out with the grandchildren, many retirees don’t really know what they will do to:
- feel connected;
- derive meaning;
- make a contribution; or
- grow and learn throughout their retirement.
Hence, the need for retirees to design a purpose-driven retirement.
The reality is that when the novelty of not having to go to work wears off, there is the possibility that a gaping hole can emerge where one’s career, and to some extent, one’s identity, once resided. This hole places the newly retired individual at risk of negative health and well-being consequences. However, with proper planning, retirement can be a fulfilling, rewarding and highly impactful chapter of one’s life.
Filling a gap the size of a career can be daunting, but the benefits of investing in the process of designing your own purpose-driven retirement are without question. When you no longer exchange time for money, you have the option of exchanging time for other things like connection, contribution, meaning, joy, growth, and learning. This is where it gets really good – by doing things that you love, you gain a sense of meaning and fulfillment, and it is likely you are helping someone else at the same time.
I believe a purpose-driven retirement is underpinned by four pillars: clarity, confidence, connection and contribution.
Getting clarity about what matters most to you, how you want to connect, how you can contribute, what gives you a sense of meaning and joy, how you want to grow, and what you want to learn, is the first step in designing your purpose-driven retirement. Aligning those individual aspirations with other like-minded individuals or people who may benefit from what you have to offer then enables you to put that knowledge into action and get busy in your purpose-driven retirement. When you know how to contribute, you have the confidence to get out and make a difference.
Here’s what can happen when we have “time rich” people willing, able and interested in pursuing things that they find fulfilling…
Some notable initiatives have successfully utilised the knowledge, skills, abilities and willingness of retirees for the betterment of the community. For example, in Zimbabwe, the “Friendship Bench”, founded by psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, sees grandmothers providing support and connection to individuals suffering from mental health challenges (www.friendshipbenchzimbabwe.org). This program has been robustly evaluated, and an impressive body of evidence has emerged, showing the benefits to those who access this service, but also to those who provide it. Consistent with this, there is a plethora of research supporting a positive relationship between volunteering and enhanced well-being.
There are also many accounts of successful “silverpreneurs”, who founded businesses in their 50s and beyond. For example, Colonel Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken (“KFC”) fame, began his franchise at the age of 62. Like it or hate it, there’s no doubt that KFC is a highly successful franchise, and evidence that older individuals can enjoy tremendous success in new ventures, even if they are starting from scratch at a time when they could be forgiven for thinking about slowing down.
Third Quarter Thriving: Getting real about designing your purpose-driven retirement
It is clear that living a purpose-driven life in retirement and beyond is likely to promote health, wellbeing and longevity for the individuals concerned. Aligning their individual aspirations with worthy endeavours has a flow-on effect to the broader community, whether they are engaging in silverpreneur commercial activities or volunteering in ways that impact others. In this way, everybody benefits.
For this reason, I have developed a new program called, “Third Quarter Thriving”, specifically to support retirees to embark on a journey of self-discovery and design their unique purpose-driven retirement. To learn more about this exciting new program which is empowering retirees to live their best lives in their third quarter and beyond, please send me an email via the button below.
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