In my recent book, Retirement Stepping Stones, I review how to find meaning, live with purpose, and leave a legacy. My purpose for writing this book was to empower retirees to own their path and create a next chapter rooted in their values. Since publishing my book, I’ve heard from many people who have used it as a tool with their spouse or partner to navigate the path to and through retirement successfully.
However, not everyone has a partner in crime to take on this transition with. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research study, 21% of men and 49% of women age 65 or older are single. So, what’s a solo retiree to do? How can they successfully plan a values-aligned retirement?
What Does It Mean To Be A Solo Retiree?
A solo retiree is anyone who is moving through their retirement journey without a spouse or partner. This could mean that they’ve chosen to be single through divorce or separation, or that they’ve never married. It could also mean that they’ve become unexpectedly widowed. For retirees in this situation, financial complexity can be enormously stressful. However, as we all know, savvy financial planning is only one piece of your retirement puzzle.
Solo retirees, depending on their personal situation and circumstances, can run into a number of stressors:
- They may be childless or be estranged from their children.
- Adult children may be unavailable to help emotionally or financially support them.
- Family relationships outside of their children or ex-partner may be strained.
- They may feel acute loneliness as they leave their workplace environment.
- There are questions that come up around leaving a legacy, and deciding how they want to make an impact in non-traditional ways.
- Their mental and emotional health may languish if they don’t have a strong community of friends and colleagues, or if all of their other friends are “coupled” and moving through retirement as a pair.
The Stepping Stones of Your Solo Retirement
I’d like to tackle how you can make a retirement plan that’s deeply rooted in your values. In this 5-part blog series, we’re going to cover the stepping stones to a meaningful retirement:
- Building a purposeful community.
- Caring for your physical and mental health.
- Defining a day-to-day lifestyle.
- Leaving a legacy and making an impact.
Each of these elements is equally important to a happy, healthy, well-rounded next chapter. However, your first step before you can tackle these “to do’s” is to get clear about what you value, and why. Ready? Let’s dive in!
Clarifying Your Values
In my book, I recommend clarifying your values before creating a retirement lifestyle plan. First and foremost, you need to figure out what a “value” means to you personally. For most people, values are literal things or broader concepts that they judge to be important. These values guide their decisions and help them decide how to spend their time and energy. Once you’ve determined your unique values, you can lean into them as part of your retirement strategy.
For example, you might value taking care of the world around you. If this is the case, you may focus on volunteering for recycling or neighborhood clean-up initiatives, investing in environmentally friendly brands, or even starting your own garden and selling your goods at a farmer’s market in the summers during retirement.
Of course, not everyone is living out their values on a daily basis. Before you retire, you may be stuck in a job that you’re not crazy about. You might have to work long hours doing something that pays the bills but isn’t your true passion or calling. That’s okay, too! Take time to think through how you’d love to spend your days if you weren’t tied to a job or situation that isn’t in alignment with your values.
Need help clarifying your values? In my book, I offer a brief list to get your brainstorming session started:
|Making an Impact
Once you’ve determined what it is, exactly, that you value most, you can dig into why you hold those values dear. Using our example above, let’s say you value and are really passionate about taking care of the environment.
This could be because you were raised in an environmentally conscious household. It could be because your grandparents had a small farm or a hobby garden, and you loved spending summers with them. Maybe you love to travel, and it hurts your heart when you see landmarks and national parks covered in litter. Whatever the case may be, getting a general understanding of where your values are rooted can also help you to make decisions about how they play out in your retirement lifestyle plan.
That’s because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways any one value can show up in your daily life. You can value education and have that look like signing up to be a substitute teacher, raising money for local schools, or helping out with a tutoring program at the local library. You might value personal development and choose to work with a therapist, take on a new hobby, or enroll in a class to improve a specific skill set that’s unique to you.
Understanding why your values exist can help you to structure a game plan for how you want to live into them in your next chapter.
Tune in next week for my next blog post, where I’ll be going over how to build a purposeful community in retirement as a solo retiree. This is a foundational element of your retirement lifestyle plan, and your first stepping stone. See you soon!