What is Your Retirement Personality?

Older workers have vastly different plans for their retirement years.

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As you start to notice your age edging upward, it makes sense to feel the urge to start your retirement planning efforts. Our second act will occupy the next 20 or so years of our life, and a little preparation ahead of time might make the journey a bit smoother and perhaps even more fulfilling.

Retirement hopes and expectations often differ considerably from person to person. We have led different lives to this point, and are likely to be unique in our retirement experiences as well. Here are some ways you might choose to spend your retirement years:

Take it as it comes. This slogan depicts the nature of retirement in days gone by. Rather than a carefully laid out plan, retirement will be a time to relax, get away from the hustle and stress of work and see what the day has to offer. The focus is on living in the current moment. How many of our parents did any real retirement planning beyond taking care of their financial security? Upon reading my retirement book my dad recently commented, “Boy, I guess we were just lucky in our retirement. We didn’t do much of the planning you describe, and somehow we turned out just fine.” Yet, my parents are incredibly busy, with their shared and individual interests occupying all but a very few spare moments in their typical day.

As someone who has always had a certain fear of running out of things to do during my retired days, this course of action is a bit scary. I would be afraid that a year or two into retirement living I might become bored and disenchanted with the prospect of what is ahead for the next 20 years.

Perpetual doer. Those who retire with this motto guiding their second act plan to keep busy. Life has so much to offer, and they want to partake of everything they can while they are able to. Whatever they were unable to do while working is now theirs to experience. Take a look at their calendar and you will find little blank space. A bucket list of must-do items consumes their attention. When traveling, they will visit every possible point of interest despite any exhaustion hinted to by a partner or friend dragged along for the ride. Idle time is sometimes seen as wasted time, with fulfillment realized while in motion rather than at rest.

Being a perpetual doer requires a lot of energy along with an endless list of new and exciting things to do. It can be difficult to maintain this schedule as you age.

Work for life. This retiree is most happy while involved in the world of work. They tend to find happiness in regular interaction with others. Challenging projects stimulate them intellectually, and the successful completion of tasks is a source of satisfaction. It is not just about the money, but also the relationships that keep them coming back for more.

Those who follow this mantra do not necessarily have to be working full time. A part-time job can very well meet their needs. But the idea of not working again never crosses their minds. Until they are unable to carry on, they hope to stay at it in some meaningful way.

Another variant of this theme is phased retirement. Some people choose to reduce their work hours over time rather than an abrupt cutoff. For example, the engineering firm Stanley Consultants in Iowa allows employees to scale back their hours as they prepare to retire and move into a part-time position. With a gradual transition into part-time work or retirement, retirees can avoid what might otherwise be a shock to their lifestyle.

Combination of the above. For many retirees, the perfect retirement is a combination of these retirement styles. Rather than obsessing about doing something with every spare moment, they may seek a balance between productivity and relaxation. You can continue to pursue the items on you bucket list, but also take some time in between to catch your breath. There may be a place in our retired life for work, whether it be a project, consultation, volunteering or a part-time job. Perhaps our best chance to realize a fulfilling retirement is to mix and match the best from each profile to create our own custom version just right for us.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.