208. Beyond Financials: The Skills We Need To Navigate Retirement in the 21st Century

Lou Blaser (00:00:01) - You're listening to Second Breaks, a show exploring how we can thrive through our midlife transitions. I'm Lou Blaser, the publisher of Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living and personal growth. Check it out and subscribe at midlife cues dot com. That's midlife C-U-E-S, one word, dot com. All month long we are exploring modern retirement on the podcast and trying to answer the root question What does it mean to retire in the 21st century? As we covered in episode 206, retirement is going through a massive reinvention at the moment. The conventional idea of retirement is on its last legs, with less and less people claiming it as the golden pot at the end of the rainbow. For a variety of valid reasons, not all of which are financially related, an increasing number of people are eschewing the idea of leaving the workforce for a life of rest and leisure, and slogans like Never Retire have gained traction in recent years. There are pockets of people who are outright calling it dead. It's time to retire retirement, they call out passionately.

Lou Blaser (00:01:33) - And this sentiment is understandable given that the conventional ideas around retirement, including the stories that we've told ourselves time and time again about what an ideal retired life is supposed to be about. Like those ideas, they no longer meet the needs of the modern world. But I don't believe that proclaiming never retire is a practical solution either. There are some realities, some of them harsh realities, we need to embrace here. First, if you work in corporate America, there's a high likelihood that you will end up retiring from your job at some point, whether you choose to or not. Second, corporate practices, ageism, and the advancement of technology will result, unfortunately, in many forced retirements. And third, as we get older, there may come a point when physical challenges will prevent us from being able to continue working even if we wanted to. Not to mention there are people who still want to retire young. Talk to people who follow the principles of FIRE, Financial Independence, Retire Early, and you're going to get a different point of view on retirement.

Lou Blaser (00:02:55) - So instead of retiring retirement, I say we need to reframe it. We need to change the definition and expectations. And we need to actively reshape what modern retirement means so that it can work for us. Retirement from our corporate careers is a major transition that many of us will go through. It doesn't mean that we're going to stop working after that. It just means that we are leaving our primary corporate career or a life of full-time employment in a company. What we do after leaving that life is where the reshaping of retirement needs to happen because less and less people will opt for sailing into the sunset of leisure and relaxation. At the same time, I think it's naive of us to think that simply assuming that "I will continue to work" is a good strategy, either. If you're a midlifer or like me, it's best to accept that there are going to be changes along the way and that we may not be able to just continue to work the way that we've always been working or that work will continue to look like the way that it's always looked like for us.

Lou Blaser (00:04:10) - I mean, the reality is how we work, what success means, what we need from work, all that kind of stuff. Those things are not going to be the same for us as we get older. Our bodies are different now. We are armed with a boatload of life experiences and hard-earned skills. We have different priorities, we want different things. And so it's important that we carefully think and plan for this transition point, even if we think that we are going to continue working. And by planning, I don't just mean financial planning, which is where the emphasis has been so far, again, to support a life of rest and leisure. We need a more holistic framework which is the subject of our next episode in the series. But first, before we talk about a framework, I want to talk about the skills that we need to navigate this transition. A framework isn't going to help us if we are not equipped with the right skills to implement it. So today, I want to talk about the seven skills that we need to navigate this transition, in the 21st century.

Lou Blaser (00:05:13) - All right. So why do we need skills or these particular skills? So I think by now it's the third episode of the series, we've agreed retirement is simply not the end of a chapter. It is a transition to a whole new playing field. I kind of liken it to moving from outdoor soccer to indoor soccer or vice versa. There are similarities, but also distinct differences, and it requires a slightly different set of skills from the players. So to navigate this transition successfully, we need to practice and get better at certain skills to match the demands of this new playing field. Now, I'm not saying that these skills are completely foreign to you. I bet you already have some level of expertise in them. It's more about honing and mastering them because they're going to be even more important in this next chapter of our life. Now, depending on what your corporate role is or was like, these skills may not have been as important or said differently, other skills may have been more of a priority when you were building your career or climbing the ladder of success.

Lou Blaser (00:06:40) - I often say that climbing a mountain demands mastery of certain skills, climbing down from the summit demands another set. Navigating retirement, particularly in this fast-changing world that we're living in right now, demands certain competencies. First, retirement in the 21st century is so different from previous generations. Our world has changed dramatically, is changing dramatically. And retirement, for better or worse, offers a plethora of possibilities and paths to explore, to seize these opportunities and make the most of this next chapter, we must equip ourselves with the necessary skills to handle whatever lies ahead. Secondly, honing these skills allows us to navigate the complexities of this transition with confidence and grace. It's like acquiring the skills to maneuver in unfamiliar territory. And finally, honing these skills ensures that we can maximize our potential for fulfillment and happiness in retirement. Which, again, is at the end of the day, is really what it's all about, right? It's about setting ourselves up for success, whatever that word might mean for us at this point in our lives.

Lou Blaser (00:08:11) - Thriving in this new phase and creating the experience, the retirement experience that really is in line with our values, what we want, our aspirations, our passions in this phase in our life. So these skills become like the compass that guides us through a purpose-driven, balanced, and rewarding retirement experience. So let's talk about the seven skills. So there are seven skills. First, which I think is super important or maybe the most important. That's why it's number one on my list is positive mindset. So as we know, retirement isn't going to be about sipping margaritas on a beach, which sounds very tempting. It's a major life transition that can stir up all kinds of emotions that we may not have anticipated. But instead of denying the challenges or pretending everything is going to be rainbows and unicorns, a positive mindset helps us face reality head-on. It's about having a realistic and healthy attitude. So like no toxic positivity here. It's about finding the silver linings and seeking opportunities for growth. With a positive mindset, we see and acknowledge the hurdles, the difficulties, but we don't let those things define us.

Lou Blaser (00:09:42) - We focus on strengths. We focus on our achievements. We focus on our assets, the the strengths, our strengths, the wisdom that we've gained over the years. By maintaining a positive outlook, we're able to handle the twists and turns as we get older. I mean, it's not about plastering on a fake smile either. It's about, you know, when we experience the setbacks, we're able to better bounce back or bounce back faster or easier. We are able to adjust our plans as need be and keep our spirits high as much as we can. Not to mention there is awesome health benefits that come with positivity. Studies have shown that a positive attitude can improve our physical and mental well-being. So by cultivating a realistic and optimistic mindset, we're not only setting ourselves up for a fulfilling retirement but also taking care of ourselves in the process. So to round it up, skill number one is all about cultivating a positive mindset without falling into the trap of toxic positivity. It's about acknowledging the challenges, staying resilient, and embracing the opportunities that retirement brings.

Lou Blaser (00:10:58) - Okay. Skill number two, adaptability and resilience. So a lot of people think that retirement is like a door we go through and then we go from situation A to situation B. But the reality is that it's a series of transitions and twists and turns that require us to adapt and adjust ourselves and our plans. Like everything changes around these days, right? So technologies change, societies change, our relationships change, friendships change, people move about. Life throws curveballs along the way. By mastering adaptability and resilience, we can weather any or most of the storms that come our way. Being adaptable means embracing change with open arms. I know that for a lot of people, that's easier said than done. I realized that. That's why I think that this is a skill that we need to hone. We need to practice. It's about staying flexible and willing to acquire new skills as things change, right? This this phase in our lives. This transition point may bring unexpected career shifts or opportunities that we never imagined, and being adaptable allows us to seize them, to see the opportunity, even if we're not expecting them, or especially when we're not expecting them.

Lou Blaser (00:12:29) - Right. So by being adaptable, we can discover new interests, new passions beyond our primary careers. By honing adaptability and resilience, we are setting ourselves up to thrive in the face of change. Retirement then becomes an experience of discovery and self transformation, where we navigate the unknown with confidence and grace. All right. Skill number three: Curiosity and Learning. In this ever-evolving world, maintaining a curious mindset and a hunger for knowledge is vital, right? We're not going to be kicking back and settling into a monotonous routine when we retire. That's not the plan. We don't want that, right? So we're looking at embracing new experiences and exploring new waters, continuing our journey of lifelong learning. I believe that we all have an innate human desire or thirst for knowledge, for learning, and curiosity feeds that thirst. It opens doors to endless possibilities. By cultivating curiosity, we keep our minds sharp and engaged. We ask questions. We seek answers. We dive into new subjects with enthusiasm, whether it's learning a new language, acquiring a new skill, diving into a passion project.

Lou Blaser (00:14:09) - Curiosity ignites our intellectual fire and keeps us forever young at heart. Not to mention, it's good for our brains. It's good for keeping our brains healthy. But it's not just about acquiring knowledge. It's about the joy of discovery. With curiosity, retirement becomes an adventure of new interests, you know, hidden talents. We can tap into our innate curiosity to uncover passions that we never knew existed, connect with diverse communities that may not have been available to us or we may not have had time for before, and foster meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals. Most importantly, learning goes beyond personal growth. It contributes to our overall well-being. Studies have shown that continued learning boosts cognitive function. Like I was saying, it's good for our brains. It enhances creativity and promotes a sense of purpose. By staying curious and embracing new challenges. We keep our minds vibrant and our spirits energized. Now, who wouldn't want that right? That's exactly what we want as we transition into our next chapter. All right. Let's we're going to dive into the fourth skill.

Lou Blaser (00:15:34) - Technology proficiency and digital fluency. This is a game-changer, my friend. And one of the biggest differences between how our parents planned for their next chapter in the 20th century and how we need to plan for ours in the 21st century. Technology has revolutionized the way that we live, the way we work, and connect with the world around us. If we want to continue to thrive in retirement, technological proficiency is non-negotiable, especially if we plan to continue working in some capacity. Let's face this technology is everywhere. It's the engine that drives remote work, online businesses, the gig economy. By mastering technology, we gain a competitive edge and open doors to a world of opportunities that we may not have known existed when we were cocooned in our corporate roles. Technological proficiency isn't just a nice-to-have skill, it is a must-have for anyone, young or old, who wants to remain relevant and engaged in the 21st-century workforce. Skill number five: Time Management. When we leave the structured corporate life, we say goodbye, thankfully, to rigid schedules and routines.

Lou Blaser (00:16:55) - Suddenly we are the ones in charge of how we spend our days. But here's the thing: without proper time management, retirement can be quickly become a blur of unfulfilled aspirations or goals and missed opportunities. Mastering time management allows us to create a sense of purpose, structure and balance in our days. It's about setting clear goals and prioritizing the activities that bring us joy and fulfillment and using our time wisely to pursue our passions, to do the things that are important to us, to the activities that make for a meaningful day, for a joyful experience. But we're not talking here about filling your calendar again with all kinds of activities. It's also important to plan and think about downtime and self-care. I mean, all of us who were workaholics when we were in corporate America, we know that we may not have planned for downtime and self-care a lot, so we've learned that lesson. It's time that we incorporate some of those learnings as we transition into retirement. This is a time to also enjoy the freedom to relax, to recharge and savor the simple pleasures of life.

Lou Blaser (00:18:22) - Effective time management helps us strike that delicate balance between productivity and leisure, ensuring that we have the space to rest, rejuvenate and maintain our overall well-being. Like I said, we've learned this lesson already, right? And so let's make sure that as we transition in this new chapter that we we show to ourselves that we've learned this lesson. So as we embrace new hobbies, new opportunities, time management becomes more crucial, right? So whether it's starting a new business, volunteering for a cause we're passionate about, or just spending time with loved ones, managing our time effectively ensures that we make the most of every precious day. All right, friend. Let's dive into the sixth essential skill: Networking and Building Connections. In the 21st century, retirement does not have to be, cannot be, a solitary journey. It's about fostering meaningful relationships, expanding our networks, and creating a web of connections that can enhance our retirement experience. The reality is, as we get older, loneliness becomes a real issue. And as we leave our corporate careers, that automatic sort of circle that we are part of is part of our corporate career sort of disappears.

Lou Blaser (00:19:54) - So we have to create a new sort of circle to surround ourselves with or to be part of. Building connections is key to thriving in this new chapter of our lives, whether it's for new opportunities, personal growth, or finding like-minded individuals, it's critical that we continue to network to create new relationships, to widen our horizons. Leaving behind our corporate careers should not mean that we leave behind the power of connections. In fact, in retirement, we have the freedom to build relationships on our own terms. We can engage with people from diverse backgrounds, explore shared interests, and create a community of support and inspiration. The beauty of networking I find in retirement is that it's no longer, it's not limited to one field or industry. We have the freedom to connect with individuals from various walks of life now, opening ourselves up to fresh ideas, right, new perspectives. We can create as diverse of a network as we want. We can create a rich tapestry of connections as we want to enrich our retirement experience. All right, skill seven.

Lou Blaser (00:21:14) - The last one on the list is Emotional Intelligence. In the 21st century, retirement isn't just about financial readiness and practical considerations. It's also about understanding and navigating our own emotions and the emotions of people around us. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others. In retirement, this skill becomes even more crucial because retirement can bring up, as I said before, a whole load of emotions: excitement, apprehension, styles and everything in between. Having emotional intelligence allows us to embrace and process these emotions, acknowledging their presence without being overwhelmed by them. It's about developing self-awareness, also self-regulation, to ensure that we make choices and decisions that are in line with who we are, who we want to be, our values, the things that are important for us. Emotional intelligence enables us to cultivate empathy also and bring strong relationships into our lives. It allows us to understand and connect with others on a deeper level, fostering a sense of belonging, support and mutual understanding.

Lou Blaser (00:22:34) - So having emotional intelligence allows us to create an environment of compassion, respect, and meaningful connection. In retirement, emotional intelligence also helps us manage conflicts and navigate like difficult situations, especially within the family and loved ones, because people have different expectations of what they want for you to experience in your retirement versus what you may want to experience in your retirement. So it helps us communicate effectively and, you know, find common ground, especially with people who are important to us. Right. You know, with emotional intelligence, we are able to approach conflicts with empathy. We're able to find resolutions that can preserve relationships and promote harmony. And who wouldn't want that and any stage in our lives. I've often said that climbing down a mountain demands something different from climbing up. I actually wrote a short essay about this and I'm going to link it in the show notes. My point is that modern retirement requires us to master a different set of skills, the ones that I've just discussed. Not only is the world vastly different, it is changing at an even faster speed than we have ever seen before, that we can ever imagine.

Lou Blaser (00:23:58) - We also need to accept and embrace one thing. We are older. We are not the young, idealistic 23-year-old entering the workforce and taking the world by storm. Perhaps our ambitions have changed. How we apply our drive and passion may feel different too. But we still want to grow. We still want to thrive and continue to be relevant. Retiring from our corporate careers does not change any of that. What we need to do is to adapt to our new realities. Take care of ourselves while opening up to new opportunities and leverage the wisdom that we have earned and learned from our years of experience. Next up we're going to talk about a framework for modern retirement. I'm so excited to be talking to you about that. So the skills that we discussed today lay the foundation so that we can effectively create the retirement experience that we want. Thank you, my dear listener friend, for joining me in this third episode in the Modern Retirement series. Actually, if you're still listening, thank you so much.

Lou Blaser (00:25:08) - Because I don't know if you can tell, but I've had a cold, and I'm still actually coughing and you could probably hear it in my voice. So thank you for bearing with me. And I hope that it wasn't such a bad listening experience altogether. If you found this episode useful, I would really appreciate it if you'd leave a rating or review on Apple Podcasts or if you would share it with a friend or two who might benefit from the topics that we have been talking about. I will be back with a, I want to say I'll be back next week, but really, it depends on how my voice holds up because I lost my voice for a couple of days, so I wasn't able to record. But if I can, I'll record so that the next episode will air next week. Either way, there will be an episode with the last episode on our series. It's all about the framework for modern retirement. Until then, keep on making your dent, my friend. Cool Beans.

208. Beyond Financials: The Skills We Need To Navigate Retirement in the 21st Century
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