There are six types of retirees, which one are you?
New retirees are like recent college graduates – they are alone after years of the same routine, and they must find a new path forward.
This is how Nancy K. Schlossberg, author and former counseling professor, sees it. And she should know it, having written about the retirement transition for decades and having changed paths herself several times over the past two decades. Now at 91, she is embarking on a whole new journey, acting as a consultant for the Zoom on Life Transitions programs.
She fell on the six types retirees, as she identifies them, when she herself retired more than 20 years ago. “I was a bit at sea when I retired,” she says. “My field was transitions and counseling. I expected it to be easy and it wasn’t. After researching, she decided to write about retirement, adjusting to a new lifestyle, and building on that next phase. She began interviewing retirees about the paths they took to get to where they are today.
Here are the six types of retirees, and what defines them:
This type of retiree ventures into the unknown and accepts a new job that he has never done before.
A man she spoke with was the head of a research group for Congress in his 60s when he lost his job. He took a boat trip and reflected, and remembered the death of his wife and child years ago, massage therapy helped him heal. He came home and told his wife he was planning on going into massage therapy. Another woman interviewed by Schlossberg was a housewife – the general manager of a small family business, as she describes women staying at home to help raise a family – and in the midst of a retirement transition because her children grew up and moved. She loved art museums, so she applied to be a guide.
Anyone can experiment with a new hobby or a new job depending on their interests. One way to break into the field is to become an intern, Schlossberg said.
“Then there were people like me, who continued to do some of what I had done but in a modified way,” she said. Schlossberg was no longer a professor, or had a paying job, but was following a path she was familiar with – conducting interview and research in an area she had been in for decades.
The easy glider
A man told him he was going to “laze around” like doing nothing and seeing where life would take him. “An easy glider is someone who has no agenda, who wakes up in the morning and asks ‘what should I do?’ and lets emerge every day, ”Schlossberg said.
This path does not work for everyone. Some people can feel crazy if they don’t have a new routine or goal in retirement. But for others, especially those in physically demanding jobs, it’s a way to relieve the little moments of the day.
The spectator involved
He’s the kind of person who wants to immerse themselves in a field, but not make it a full-time job. For example, a retired museum director who goes to art exhibitions all the time, or a retired political consultant who is still heavily involved in political events, such as voter registration. “They are really involved, not as workers but as spectators,” Schlossberg said.
Almost everyone is a seeker at some point in retirement, because they’re thinking about their next move. Someone can be a researcher upon retirement, or years after initial retirement, as Schlossberg did. She was a perseverant – writing book after book – but then realized she had had enough. After some time to think about it, she decided she would help organizations in other ways, like developing Zoom on Transition programs. “I had no idea that I would be a seeker again and then find at my age a new variation of a theme,” she said. “Everyone is going to be a researcher.”
When she first interviewed retirees, she considered it the most depressing transition. Essentially, the retreatant is a “couch potato,” she says, who “doesn’t know what to do”. But there are two types of retreatants: one who is depressed in retirement because it has no purpose, and one who “retreats” until he can determine his next steps. “It’s like taking time,” Schlossberg said.
Retirement is a time to explore. Determine what interests you, what does not interest you and how you want to spend your free time in this next phase. Experiment with a few different areas, such as volunteering or attending events and establishments that match your interests. “It’s very similar to being a college graduate,” Schlossberg said. “There are people who know exactly what they want to do and the same goes for retirees. But there are those who don’t know, and it’s time to explore, to seek, to go wild.
Schlossberg discussed in more detail with MarketWatch how people can determine which path is best for them and how to make the most of this transition, even during a pandemic.
Some people take advantage of retirement to develop careers that they would have wanted to pursue if they could decades ago, when money was scarce or there were more obstacles to achieving those goals. It is important for retirees to estimate how much these activities might cost before pursuing them, just to ensure that they are able to afford this new path as well as the necessities of retirement, such as housing, food, utilities and an emergency account. Their trip could even be lucrative and bring in more income.
“There is no simple answer, there is no formula for it,” Schlossberg said. “It gives you a sense of possibility. I think that’s what people like to hear about paths – because it’s about possibilities. ”
Market surveillance: Do you have any tips on how people can overcome feeling overwhelmed by these paths, especially if they identify with more than one retiree archetype?
Schlossberg: Some people can be helped by reading books or talking to a counselor or someone with a passion for careers.
We are living longer. I mean, who would have ever thought at 91 that I would still be working? It seems incredible to me. But we are living longer and have time to do things. Not everyone will live to age 91, but longevity makes a big difference. So seek help. For my part, I always try to think of a small project. One of them I did in between a few years ago was volunteering at a wonderful senior friendship center. Then, I was co-leader of a group and I still am. This is called the “aging rebels”. It wasn’t to make money, it was to think about issues that are worrying – like loneliness, lack of purpose, all the things that older people think about.
Market surveillance: Do you think the pandemic will impact people’s transitions into retirement?
Schlossberg: Much will be what is available to people as a result of the pandemic. It made the divide between rich and poor even bigger than it was, so I think there have to be short term goals and long term goals. The short term may be, what can you do now to make sure you have a roof over your head. The long term is, what do you want to do in the long term? I think you have to think about both at the same time.