How do the dizzying ramifications of the pandemic, politics and the global financial market affect the 75+ million US retirees in the New World Order—including nearly 10 million women who were trailblazers in the workplace back in the ’70s? Erica Baird and Karen Wagner, two successful lawyers now retired, are the cofounders of Lustre.net, an online community for modern career women devoted to redefining retirement. Baird and Wagner are anything but “invisible” and definitely don’t consider themselves “retired,” in the mainstream sense of the word—instead, they are role models for how to “style retirement” today and are full of opinions on how their demographic should be treated. Here, they share four take-action strategies for confronting this major transition and shaping a new path forward:
1. Take charge of the next third of your life. Retirement can be overwhelming, but it’s less daunting when you recognize that it’s not the end: it’s the beginning of a new beginning. It’s OK if you don’t have a plan, but you do have to face a new reality. Upon entering retirement in your 60s, you might not realize that you’re quite likely to live—in good health and in great mind—for another 30 years. This new paradigm is unprecedented and presents exciting opportunities. You are part of a brand-new demographic. You are also a member of a generation of trailblazers. If you embrace this new paradigm, you can blaze a new trail that allows you to continue to be a vital member of society and, in the process, change entrenched mindsets and expectations about retirement.
2. Create your new identity. Retirement doesn’t define you; however, it does change the way society perceives you and the way you might perceive yourself. During your decades in business, you fought to come out as a woman and your work became an integral part of your identity. Now that you’ve left your 40+-year career, who are you now and what is your value? How do you show up in the world without your job to define you? Don’t let this identity crisis paralyze you. You forged a work identity, now you need to do it again. Your past achievements create a platform for your future. You have assets—skills, experience, different perspectives—that will help you shape the reinvented you.
3. Embrace your age as your power. Having worked for decades, you are now older and wiser. You are no longer interested in crashing the ceiling. You have arrived. And you have power that only age can give. You know you don’t want your grandfather’s retirement. You can use your new powers to create a different kind of retirement that suits you. You can defy stereotypes about age and create new images of older women. You can challenge assumptions about what the next third of your life should look like. Remember: we used our power to change the workplace when we started out. We’re starting new again. Now we have a different kind of power. Let’s use it again to change retirement.
4. Find your new purpose. Purpose plays an important role in retirement. It is a key part of being visible, valued and engaged in the world. It also has a key role in your reinvention. In the old retirement paradigm, with its short runway, purpose did not play a central role. In the new paradigm, the runway is long and options are not limited solely on the basis of age. In order to take down the barriers to our continuing role in the wider world, we all need to challenge current stereotypes, recognize our skills are no less valuable today than they were the day before we retired, and advocate for our perspectives and experience which are relevant today and to future generations.