After a long shift, Maria removed her personal protective equipment and reflected on how different she thought her retirement life would be.

At her retirement party three years ago, she shared that, after 34 years working as an emergency room physician, she was going to relax. Maria and her partner had planned diligently with their financial advisor to help ensure they were financially prepared to retire, but failed to focus on what she would be doing in retirement that would bring her joy and make her feel fulfilled.

It didn’t take long for Maria to realize she had missed something critical: Her purpose in retirement. Before she chose to retire, Maria found purpose in helping her community by working in the ER in her community. As a new retiree, Maria was one of the 33% of Canadians who say they struggle to find purpose in retirement.*

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the need for front-line medical professionals like Maria was more dire than ever. She felt a strong urge to help her community in this time of need — it would give her purpose. After discussing the risks with her partner, her family, her friends and her financial advisor, Maria decided to return to work part-time. She and her partner didn’t need the extra income, but she liked the idea of having the choice to work flexibly.

Although retirement didn’t turn out how she had originally envisioned, Maria was grateful that she had planned sufficiently to afford the freedom to choose how she wanted to live.

How can you find purpose in life after retirement?

If you’re like many Canadians, you find purpose in being deeply committed to building your career and focusing on what matters most to you — maybe family, friends or hobbies. But when you retire, where will you find your sense of purpose?

This issue is of real concern to many. When retirees stop working, it can create a void, often more social than financial.

When asked what they most miss about their work life, 39% of retirees say it’s the people and social stimulation, with only 22% saying the pay.*

The Four Pillars of the New Retirement

In research with experts, focus groups and surveys of retirees and adults spanning five generations, we revealed four key ingredients for living well in the new retirement. We call them the four pillars:

  1. Health
  2. Family
  3. Purpose
  4. Finances

Read the full study.

Working with your financial advisor to prepare for retirement can help provide freedom to explore possibilities that provide fulfillment and joy — and purpose — in retirement. Your advisor can help explore your retirement vision: what, when, where, with whom and how you want to retire. Understanding your retirement vision can help you and your advisor determine how much you’ll need to retire. You can then work together to determine a strategy to help you achieve your retirement vision. Here are some considerations that might help you determine what your retirement will look like:

  • Will you continue to work? The new retirement no longer means the end of work, but rather having greater freedom to choose whether and how much you want to work. One-third of those planning to retire are interested in working in some capacity in retirement.* And workers over age 65 are significantly more likely to say they are working out of choice rather than necessity. Many people work part time, work gigs or consult in areas of expertise or interest. According to a 2019 poll by Angus Reid Institute, seventeen percent of Canadian workers are currently engaged in the gig economy. In fact, the shift toward gig work happens well before retirement, especially with Boomers.
  • What may it cost to pursue your hobbies? Retirement could be your chance to devote more time to activities you enjoy or would like to try for the first time: golf, pickleball, boating, writing, painting, woodworking — the list is almost limitless. Depending on the cost of those activities, your retirement funding plan may be very different.
  • What do you want to stop doing? You’ll also want to think about what you want to STOP doing in retirement. What do you want to outsource? There could be costs associated with outsourcing too – you may want to plan for that.
  • Will you volunteer? By the time you retire, you'll have an accumulated wealth of knowledge and experience. More than half of retirees (54%) wish they personally could put their life and work experience to better use helping their community.* So why not share it with others by volunteering at charitable or nonprofit groups that you support?
  • Will you continue your education? Have you ever wanted to learn more about science, literature, history or the arts? Or even take up a new musical instrument? You wouldn’t be alone: 97% of retirees agree that "it's important to keep learning and growing at every age."* You can find a world of opportunities at your local college, university or continuing education centre.

While these options differ in many ways, most of them share two things in common: First, they give you a chance to create some of the same types of social connections you enjoyed when you were working full time. Second, they can give you reasons to be excited about your future — and when you're driven by a sense of purpose, that future can be a bright one.

Talk to your advisor about how you can work together to understand your retirement vision and ensure you're on track to having the freedom to live purposefully in your retirement.

* Source: Edward Jones/Age Wave Four Pillars of the New Retirement study