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Let's Rename Retirement

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What You Need to Know

  • The author breaks lives into three stages.
  • One is Adulting, and a second is Striving.
  • The third is Fulfilling.

We call it retirement.  Today it is not.  A new reality is apparent for millions of Americans. Most of us dream of the time when we finally stop having to work full-time.  It is the event that allows us to regain control of our time such that each day is a weekend.

I believe we need to rename this period of our lives to what is has become – our Fulfilling stage. In my books, blog and podcast I discuss the three major stages of an individual’s financial life – Adulting (to age 30), Striving (ages 31 to 70) and Fulfilling (over age 70).

I developed these stages by considering today’s demographic, economic, personal savings, technological, educational and life expectancy trends.

A Gold Watch? Maybe Not

The Fulfilling stage begins around age 70.

This stage begins later than most people think, but I believe reflects today’s need to work longer to accumulate assets and benefits to properly fund longer life expectancies.

When this stage begins, individuals usually don’t get a gold watch or major send-off. They simply transition to the next stage of their productive lives.

Also, more and more older individuals are continuing to voluntarily work, at least part-time, well past age 70 as they enjoy the psychological, social and monetary rewards they get from work.

For others, working is involuntary as they have no choice because they are without the savings and benefits to pay their necessary living expenses.  I meet people from both camps every day and they tell me they will never stop working unless their health prohibits them.

A Time for Choices

This newly named Fulfilling stage is the time when we all get to decide how we spend our time and what activities we want to pursue.

We read daily about this stage of life and the accomplishments of aging Americans.  We can plainly see changing behaviors and what can be accomplished by such experienced people.

I have discovered that most individuals are looking to use their later years to give back what they have learned or financially accumulated to their families, causes and communities to make other people’s lives better. They relish that they have the time and financial resources to accomplish this.

Giving money to causes or family members can be of great benefit and is relatively easy to do. Others, who are less financially fortunate, want to share their time, knowledge and life experiences.

Fulfillment Stage Preparation

The reality of living a very fruitful and productive Fulfilling stage is that it will not happen without a plan and the financial resources to fund the journey. For those who have planned properly it is a period of helping others along with the benefit of having the free time to do what pleases us most.

The key financial skills needed in the Fulfilling stage revolve around providing for the impacts of increased health needs, possible cognitive decline, funding passion projects and initiatives, the complexities of retirement income planning and the possible impacts of estate-planning issues. We as an industry need to spend more time and resources educating aging individuals about this stage of life and the skills they will need. They include:

  • Managing healthcare related matters, including long-term care needs
  • Knowing where they want to live, including location and type of housing
  • Turning accumulated assets into a stream of regular income to sustain their standard of living
  • Using protection products such as life insurance to pay for funeral, final expenses and leaving a legacy
  • Getting legal assistance to set-up proper wills and trusts

A Stage Coach World

It’s time to rename retirement to be the Fulfilling stage of life.  The new name better reflects the reality of our lives today.  As I have learned, each stage of an individual’s financial life has distinct questions, needs and responsibilities.

Each stage has its own financial risks that must be addressed. Individuals need knowledge, coaching and resources to successfully navigate each stage. We need to better focus industry education efforts to help individuals fulfill their potential and make our society better in the process.


Harry N. Stout (credit: Stout)Harry N. Stout has been the president of Fidelity & Guaranty Life, deputy chief executive of Old Mutual Financial Network, and managing director of Insurance Insight Group. He is also the host of the “FinancialVerse Podcast” and the author of The FinancialVerse personal finance books and of Today’s Annuities — A Tool to Create Protected Lifetime Income.

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