A list of to-do's on a post-it notes, laid out on a calendar

Time Management Questions for Near-Retirees

This article originally appeared in Rethinking65.

I live in a 55+ community. Therefore, as a lifestyle coach and time management strategist, I consider my neighborhood somewhat of a retirement laboratory. I get to see and interact with people near the end of their careers and in all stages of retirement life.

While there is a lot of neighborhood diversity, I basically define the residents (and retirees in general) into five categories:

  • The Active. They are constantly on the go. Whether they have a robust travel schedule or a second home, this group uses their retirement to broaden their experiences by not being permanently grounded to one location all the time.
  • The Satisfied. Life has evolved into a satisfied existence. They have a set schedule of activities that bring meaning and purpose, but at a pace that is enjoyable.
  • The Reflector. Looking back longingly at the life they once had, Reflectors tell you a lot about what they used to do and not about what they hope to do.
  • The Cautious. The impact and challenges of life (health and/or finances) have caused these people to focus on mitigating their risks rather than seeking new opportunities and encounters.
  • The Hermit. Social and family life has become so narrow that Hermits retreat to a life of self-imposed solitary confinement.

Past, present or future?

I find that a lot of what causes people to land in a particular group depends on their use of time. The Active and Satisfied tend to be good planners and use time to their advantage. The Reflector and Cautious types are inclined to focus too much on the past to be developing ideas for the present and future. Unfortunately, the Hermit has lost track of their sense of time and only seems to live in the moment.

According to the results of my Retirement Time Analysis (RTA) assessment tool, the average person plans to spend almost 21 years in retirement. Given that length of time, scheduling and arranging events efficiently can add a level of enrichment to life. Just because individuals manage time well before retirement does not mean they handle it well in retirement. And if pre-retirees do not manage their time well in their career, they tend to really struggle in retirement.

Financial professionals can help their clients keep or return their mindset to the Active or Satisfied sets by asking some foundational time management inquiries that put the focus back on a positive retirement framework. Consider asking some or all of these questions to help your clients think deeper into their post-career lifestyle.

What do you feel is your purpose in life?

A career can create the main sense of purpose and direction for your clients. When that goes away, people can grapple with creating a new definition. Almost 50% of RTA contributors start out having no defined meaning or intention for their life.

How well do you think you manage your time today?

This might seem like a simple and basic question, but 70% of those who took the RTA assessment self-identify as poor time managers. You will find that the Actives and Satisfieds answer this very quickly and confidently, but that the other kinds will hesitate or obfuscate when responding.

What does a typical day look like?

The Actives will likely quickly respond that they do not have a typical day. The Satisfieds will give you a list of set activities and will likely pull out their calendar to discuss. The Reflectors, the Cautious, and the Hermits may respond with a “copy and paste” attitude where each day is populated with very general and vague explanations. Over 41% of those who took the RTA do not feel they are organized or structured.

Do you have a detailed budget? How well do you stay within your budget?

You might be wondering how this relates to time management. I emphasize to my clients the importance of creating a detailed budget (25% of those taking the RTA do not have one). When people place more structure on their finances, the better a time management strategy will follow. Asking these two questions can be very enlightening for financial professionals and clients alike.

What is on your bucket or vision list?

Aspirational thinking should be a part of anyone’s lifestyle planning, particularly in retirement. A bucket or vision list should contain a variety of high-level goals, ones that makes the client “think outside the box.” They may never be fulfilled, but they are there to challenge and inspire.

What kind of long-term goals do you have planned?

Only 57% of people taking the RTA have any type of long-term goals in their life. These are considered structured and planned ambitions that will take place within two to four years. A blank stare as an answer to this question can be a forerunner to Reflector, Cautious, or Hermit living.

What kind of short-term goals do you have planned?

These goals — up to one year away —can be simple or elaborate. Your client’s ability to share with you their plans for the near future is a great indicator of an Active or Satisfied lifestyle.

How well are you connected with others? What are you doing to keep up a personal social network?

Engagement with others consumes time. However, our lives socially shrink upward of 50% when we head into a post-career life. Investing and allocating time to maintain and grow personal relationships forces the retiree to manage elements of their time. If you know your clients engage with others, they are likely to avoid becoming a Hermit.

Additional reading: Six Post-Career Categories to Discuss With Clients

Retirees will not necessarily remain as Actives for their entire life after they leave a career. Likewise, people are not destined to go into a Hermit life, silently living alone with no social engagement. Your clients will enter, exit or straddle between categories based on their personal circumstances. However, these 10 questions you can ask are markers or identifiers of a current and potential future state of existence. You can positively help keep your clients on a purposeful trajectory. Likewise, you may bring them back to a more structured life (Active and Satisfied) when time is a measured resource of opportunity, not a hallow march forward.

The Post-Career Lifestyle Planning Audio Series

Time management continues even into retirement.

Because you manage time well in your career, does not mean you will do it well when work ends. If you don’t manage time well now, it will really be a challenge in retirement.

Continuing my Post-Career Lifestyle Series, on June 22, 2023 at 12:00pm EDT we will be discussing the Time Management Questions to Ask Before Retirement

Register for the event.

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