According to counselor Cathy Severson, founder of RetirementLifeMatters.com: A New Model for Aging, the old way of thinking about retirement established an expectation that if you had financial, physical, and mental health as a foundation for your retirement, the rest would fall into place. But "Plan B" involves quite a bit of self-reflection, and is ultimately "a shift from the primary goal of working to make a living" to "doing what you love." Severson uses her expertise in private practice counseling to deliver workshops on transitioning into retirement and working with clients to create "Plan B." In many of her workshops, she challenges participants to integrate five ingredients for growth in what developmental psychologists have labeled the "third age": play, stay connected, seek challenges, find meaning, and take care of yourself in a profound way. She believes that these principles serve as a call to action for the baby boomer generation. "We're the wealthiest, most educated group on the planet," she says. "We need to move beyond building homes and families, and give back in a way that is more than just stuffing envelopes."
Joan Fitting Scott, the author of Skinning the Cat: A Baby Boomer's Guide to the New Retiree Lifestyle, put it best when she said: "The myth of retirement is the rocking chair model. The reality is that people are getting busy." Getting busy covers the gamut from visits to grandchildren and travel to volunteer service and caregiving…and maybe even a new career. But whatever retirement path you choose, she says, "Don't beat yourself up for slowing down." She learned from her own transition that pursuing a more active retirement lifestyle doesn't mean you can't sit in the rocking chair for a few minutes now and then.
Scott believes that the boomers will "do retirement in an activist way," just like they have lived their lives. Baby boomers have been both witness to and participants in dramatic social and cultural change, and their retirement will reflect that, she says. In fact, only 17 percent of the dozens of baby boomers she interviewed for her book said that they wanted a traditional retirement. Her research also indicated that people who plan for their retirement are happier and enjoy the golden years more.
So if you're contemplating retirement, think of it as a time to seek out new adventures, whatever they may be. You'll undoubtedly experience those frantic days when sipping tea on the porch in a wicker rocking chair sounds nice, but honestly, how long could you really sit still in that chair?