What’s Your Next Chapter? Questions for Any Age

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“… so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

What will I do with myself every day in “retirement”? Many 45 – 65-year-olds struggle to answer this. But what if, for you, “retirement” is a long way off, or, has been going on a long time already? What if you just want to know how to spend your mid-life? Or your 80s? Since I was 20, I have relied on the What Color is Your Parachute? book series to help with this kind of question. There is the original one for career-hunting, and a “Retirement” edition. They may sound different, but both books essentially ask the same questions…When have been the times in my life that I felt most fulfilled? What accomplishments, big or small, brought me the most joy? What places have I lived where I was happiest and why? What kinds of people do I enjoy being around the most? How much alone-time is necessary for me? It turns out that, in many respects, planning for “retirement” is not much different than planning for any other decade.

But what about money? While retirement might be a time of “financial independence,” that term can vary by degrees throughout our lives. Many people start a new chapter in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or 70s. They must feel financially independent, at least for at time, in order to do so. If you are not there yet, what’s one thing you could do? Take ownership of your purpose. Some people hand over that ownership to a financial professional when they ask, “Here is the sumtotal of my financial decisions over my life so far… What kind of life (income) can you get me?” Some people even shop financial professionals this way and choose the one that gives them the highest answer.

What if, instead, you did the homework to determine what kind of life you want first? Then you could go to the financial professional and ask, “What are the chances I can lead this life, and not run out of money? How big or small are the changes I might I have to make to get there?”

When you determine your purpose first, you can align yourself with someone who can guide you to get there. You don’t give up ownership to them, because they help you know the impact of your decisions. You could wake up every day with purpose, knowing exactly what you are meant to do. That’s not retirement. It’s independence, no matter what age you are.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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