You get a fascinating perspective serving as estate planning counsel for 29 years, as I have. You get to see people make major transformations, and then eventually transition into a place that they’re not quite sure how to act – namely their retirement years. I represent retired physicians, attorneys, CPAs, business owners, and executives of publicly traded institutions, among others. When these individuals first retire, they are excited to exit the busy world that wore them down over the years.
Some choose to slow down, golf, play bridge, travel and enjoy themselves. I don’t begrudge them at all. They’ve certainly earned it.
But there’s something else that I’ve noticed. When a hard-charging, ambitious, determined individual suddenly has nothing to do, things seem to change. After enjoying a “sabbatical” of several months they don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.
That’s when it gets interesting. Some will become consultants, an occupation that allows them to pick and choose the work they get involved in, while others dive into philanthropy and charitable causes. Some vigorously pursue hobbies left neglected over the years, while many spend more time with their grandchildren than they were ever capable of spending with their children.
Some, however, seem to run out of future. When this happens, a noticeable change occurs. Health often declines, as does mental acuity. They don’t seem to enjoy life as much anymore. They haven’t found a new purpose that engages them. I believe that if you take a look at four freedoms that everyone wants to achieve, no matter the age, it becomes easier to never run out of future.
These are the freedoms of time, money, relationship and purpose.
The first is freedom of time. There are two aspects to each freedom. Freedom from and freedom to. Retirees are free from the day to day grind that consumed their lives for many decades. Now they are free to engage in those activities that they enjoy doing. Those retirees fortunate enough to maintain good health don’t spend a great deal of time in doctors’ offices, instead they are able to choose to take the time in those activities that they find motivating.
The next freedom is that of money. Most of the retirees that I encounter have done a good job of saving, and therefore have the freedom from obligations such as mortgages or those found when raising a family. I have three daughters, one who just graduated from her Master’s degree, another who is going to enter professional/graduate school in the coming year, and a third beginning her college career this fall. I’m looking forward one day to being free from college tuition expenses! Most of those a couple of decades older than I are free of those types of expenses. The retirees I work with also have a freedom to spend their money on those things that provide fulfillment and energize them. Some choose to go back to school simply for education’s sake. Others like to travel, become philanthropic or enjoy helping their children and grandchildren with life’s expenses.
Once you gain freedoms of time and money, that opens the possibility of freedom of relationship. Again, we can be from those relationships that we find toxic or exhausting and can enter relationships that we find satisfying, loving and supportive. Finally, there is the freedom of purpose. This is the highest freedom that can only be obtained once we’ve achieved the other three freedoms. Here we find our meaning. Our why. It can mean many different things to many different people.
When we consider our freedoms in this fashion, it’s impossible to run out of future no matter our age. If you find yourself stuck in a routine that you can’t seem to break out of, I suggest that you consider these four freedoms, and what you want to be free from and free to do. That might just be the thought process that begins an entirely new and exciting chapter in your life.
© 2018 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.