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Who Are You?

Mike Drak

THE PRODUCERS of retirement commercials would like us to believe that all retirees are the same. They aren’t. To be happy in retirement, we need a good handle on what our needs are—financially and otherwise—and then find ways to satisfy them each and every day.

That might sound difficult, but it isn’t. To help get you started, here are the three general types of retiree I discovered during my research on retirement:

1. Comfort-oriented retirees. These folks like to avoid stress, instead favoring a safe, predictable retirement. They no longer have any goals. Retiring was their big goal and, now that it’s behind them, they just want to rest and take it easy. Comfort-oriented retirees don’t need much to be happy. Just the basics will do: food on the table, a roof over their head and some level of financial security.

My mother was a comfort-oriented retiree. She lived a simple life and, after my father passed away, was content to help family members, take care of her cat Boots and enjoy time with friends. She never felt the need to run a marathon or travel the world. She was happy with how things were and wasn’t inclined to take risks that might bring discomfort.

2. Growth-oriented retirees. These retirees have a need to keep stretching, exploring, learning and experiencing new things. If they can’t do that, they aren’t happy. They’ve created a bucket list a mile long and plan on knocking things off that list for as long as they can. They have a hardwired desire to feel “significant” and a need for accomplishment and contribution.

Their work nourished these needs, and they lost that source of nourishment when they retired. Until they can find a way of replacing it, they’ll always feel like something is missing in their life.

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Abraham Maslow, the creator of the famous “hierarchy of needs,” called individuals like this “self-actualizers.” They have a constant need for personal growth and an insatiable hunger to realize their potential, and thereby become everything that they can be. They can accomplish this through many means, including succeeding athletically, creating art or starting their own business.

Self-actualizers, even retired ones, are never satisfied with how things are. They’re continually setting new personal goals that will challenge and improve them, so they can realize their full retirement potential.

3. Self-transcenders. Near the end of his life, Maslow was in the process of amending his model to include a higher level of psychological development—even higher than self-actualization—which he called “self-transcendence.”

Self-transcenders look for a cause, a need, a problem to be solved, something that they’re passionate about. This becomes their mission. They know it isn’t how much you give that counts, but rather how much love you put into the giving. Helping those who are struggling leads to the “helper’s high,” a feeling of intense joy, peace and well-being.

Helping others gives self-transcenders a strong sense of purpose. When they have what they consider a purpose-driven retirement, they’re happier. They can sleep peacefully at night knowing that they did something to help others. They wake up in the morning feeling excited and wondering, “Who can I help today?”

Now ask yourself: What type of retiree are you? If you can answer that question, you’ve taken a crucial step toward a happier retirement.

Mike Drak is a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry. He’s the author of Retirement Heaven or Hell, which was just published, as well as an earlier book, Victory Lap Retirement. Mike works with his wife, an investment advisor, to help clients design a fulfilling retirement. For more on Mike, head to BoomingEncore.com. His previous article was Retirement Preview.

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Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
7 months ago

I suspect a lot of us cross the boundaries between these archetypes.

I feel like #1, but I know and fear the boredom it could lead to.
Less so #2, however, I am always chasing new interests & projects.
#3: I have plans to satisfy this need in two different ways.

DrLefty
DrLefty
7 months ago

I think I’m wired as #2–that’s how my professional life has gone—but my heart yearns to be #3, and that’s the kind of retiree life I want.

CJ
CJ
7 months ago

This is a great article! Sadly, I think, I’m a #1 at heart….’cause I started feeling tired and overwhelmed just reading #2, let alone being that person. lol.

I guess I’ll never be an intrepid overseas traveler, exploring cultures and learning languages; learn to code, play guitar or build websites; or advocate on behalf of others to inspire change.

Yet I do miss fun getaways and U.S. domestic trips the past year and enjoy the outdoors. So maybe there’s some hope for me to avoid becoming a total blob.

Last edited 7 months ago by CJ
Rick Connor
Rick Connor
7 months ago

This is very interesting article. I think (hope?) I have aspects of all three styles, and hope to be/so more of #2 and #3. The challenge may be to find the right balance to make a happy retirement.

Purple Rain
Purple Rain
7 months ago

#3.

Nicholas Clements
Nicholas Clements
7 months ago

I definitely fall into #2 with a little bit of #1 and #3! If I accomplish one goal, there’s another waiting for me.

parkslope
parkslope
7 months ago

I enjoy learning new things, helping others and travel. However, at this stage of my life, none of these is central to my identity. I suppose that puts me in the comfort category although I do like to keep busy.

R Quinn
R Quinn
7 months ago

If it’s possible to be all three, that’s me. I go from one to another depending on my mood. I like art, writing, helping others with benefit related problems and travel. Lots of travel. Visited 45 countries since retiring many several times.

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