Will you be happy to relax after retirement, enjoying your hard won leisure and a less stressed life? Or do you see retirement as a platform from which to jump up–instead of off–the cliff? An opportunity to take the experiences and lessons you learned and engage with the world in a different way? We are in the latter category, of course, and we started Lustre to challenge barriers to the engagement we want. But we have met lots of people who think we are overwrought and should just chillax, as they are doing.

So we started to think about whether you could tell who would feel which way. Why do some people want to continue being engaged and having responsibilities outside their immediate family, and others not? Does either group have any common experiences or perspectives? And can you tell right away which path you will take? Is it fore-ordained?

No. There are some signals, and you can probably get a sense about where you will come out. But until you retire, it is difficult to know for sure.

Gender plays some role, we believe, though not because of sex per se. Women and men may fall on either side of the divide, but we are willing to bet (admittedly without data) that more women than men are on the activist side. In the 1970s, entering the working world required women to be pretty activist about their goals. While men grew up, for better or worse, knowing that they had no choice but to work, women were expected to work, if at all, only as a stopgap between leaving school and having a family–our real career being that of wife and mother. Those of us who wanted into the working world had to fight for access, and that gave our careers great value to us–they were not inevitable, we had the luxury to choose them. And it wasn’t just getting the jobs that was important, it was the work itself. We both loved our jobs, even though–or maybe because–they involved stress and hard decisions, and constantly changing landscapes.

For us, all this means we are not planning to give up the excitement of being part of the world. Retirement was never about relief from stress or boredom–though happily some of the boring bits can be put aside. Retirement is more about using the platform of our careers to take off into new adventures. We can imagine, though, that for someone who really did not choose as we did, and who worked for decades at something that did not stimulate and satisfy her or him, retirement might be a welcome relief. 

No matter where you are on the love-your-job scale, it may take a while to figure it all out. Erica was pretty comfortable right away that, although she would miss her work, she would be able to figure out how to create a retirement that gave her just as much satisfaction. Karen was not so sure, and initially thought she wanted a full time job. Her thinking realigned after a few months of rest and thought. Both of us enjoy having time to do other things. But neither of us wants to spend thirty years just playing. We want and need purposeful engagement. We are energized by our new venture, and we are working pretty hard to make it a success. 

Bottom line–there are some telltale signals about your reaction to retirement, but they are not infallible, and you will not really know until you have been retired for a bit. Your thinking will evolve. So don’t make hasty decisions.  Wait a while, relax, think about yourself and your options, then start to consider what you want to do for the rest of your life. You figured out your career. You can figure this out too. When you are ready.

To read more, please visit the Lustre website.