The antiretirement movement — Five ways to create a life portfolio

March 8, 2007
When you're working and nearing retirement age, retirement seems like a dream.

David Corbett

But a few months or years into retirement, many people find the grass isn't greener on the other side. The AARP reports that 50% of retirees are bored. And the average retiree watches 47 hr of TV a week. The oldest baby boomers are turning 60, meaning nearly 80 million Americans are getting ready to live longer with good health, but without purpose.

One way to make this stage of life meaningful is to adopt a life-planning model called a life portfolio. It's a "portfolio" because, like a collection of stocks and bonds, it is an integrated mix of personal holdings or assets. But this one covers the gifts, values, passions, and pursuits that make you who you are.

How do you get a life portfolio? Here are five ways to begin:

1. Work for pay or passion, but on your own terms. You've spent your career working for others, and hopefully, you've enjoyed the work. But now you have the opportunity to love what you do. You might get paid monetarily for it, or the payoff might be that you experience bliss. But you've waited for this chance your whole life and now, finally, the possibility is open to you.

2. Learn something and grow spiritually. You may have missed the opportunity to get a degree, or an advanced degree, while you were establishing your career and rising through the ranks. Or you may have had to say no to your inner voice that wanted to connect with nature, pray, or meditate more often. Well, now you have the time that you always used as an excuse. You can get that degree (or just take classes in whatever strikes your fancy). You can hike, or go to your house of worship, or explore your connection to the universe in whatever ways feel right to you — and you don't have to wait for vacation time to do it.

3. Enjoy recreation or downtime. If you've always wanted to take more time for yourself, you finally can. Activities that you always had to cram into your two or three-week vacation can now become ways in which to occupy much of your time. Whether you want to improve your golf game, become conversant in current movies and other aspects of pop culture, or travel to all the places you've never been — now is the time to finally indulge yourself. There's nothing to stop you from turning down time into your best-ever time.

4. Connect with family and friends. Sure, you've always loved your family and valued your friendships. But you've never had enough time to build those relationships, because you were so busy with your career track. The good news is that it's never too late to have the relationships you've always dreamed of. Now that you have the time to devote to your family and friends, you can finally strengthen those bonds and give the most important people in your life the attention they deserve — and that you deserve to give them.

5. Give back. If you've spent your whole career accumulating wealth and material possessions, you're not alone. You've had bills to pay, and perhaps you've had children and grandchildren to support. But now that you've made it to retirement, you can take the pressure off yourself. You don't have to acquire more wealth. Your kids can take care of themselves, and your grandchildren have their parents to rely on for support. You can use your money, time, and energies in ways that please you. Do you want to contribute money to your community, house of worship, or an organization that matters to you? It's done — if that's your choice.

Building a life portfolio is all about making choices. It's never too soon to create one. All of this takes planning, of course, and a life portfolio is indeed a strategic plan. It has short and long-term goals to keep us on track and set realistic expectations.

Because one can begin to weave a life portfolio as early as one's twenties, even as careers are pursued, and because it may last 30 or 40 more years afterward, a portfolio can actually have more impact in shaping adulthood than a career. Careers, in short, have a shelf life; portfolios can be timeless. Start yours today.

Life portfolios are really about reaching a balanced life, which involves career as well as noncareer activities. And there's no reason to wait until your 50s to start planning. To find out how to weave a portfolio lifestyle into any stage of a career, visit Vicki's blog at Click on the post "Planning for your antiretirement."

David D. Corbett is the founder of New Directions Inc., in Boston, and author of Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50, published by Jossey-Bass. Visit or

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