What is Your Retirement Identity?

Imagine that you’ve recently retired. After decades of easily responding to the question of what you do for a living, how will you answer a question like that now? How will you define your retirement identity?

Retirement represents a monumental life shift. Not only do you need to consider financial questions such as how you will replace your income or when to claim your Social Security benefits, but you also need to consider the social, emotional and even identity issues it raises.

Planning beyond finances—finding your retirement identity

In America, our workplaces are often a key component of our social lives. We spend just as many, if not more, waking hours with our coworkers each week as with family members.  We count on seeing the same people every day, eating lunch at the same places, catching up over a coffee or at least signing in to the same video conferences.

When you retire, those sources of socialization, self-worth and identity are suddenly removed, which can cause a major shift in self-perception. For some people, simply saying, “I’m retired,” is enough. But for those who consider what they do to be a major part of who they are, retirement can feel limiting.

Your retirement plan often focuses on how you will structure your life: sources of income, healthcare coverage, providing for heirs, and charitable giving. However, little attention is typically paid to the concept of identity. That needs to change—and your wealth advisor can help.

Preparing for the “Next Act”

The next time you sit down with your wealth advisor to discuss your plan, in addition to discussing income in retirement, bring up the issue of identity in retirement. How will you spend your time and replace the sense of purpose and belonging that work once provided?

The answer to that question may come to you immediately or may take time to determine. Either way, it’s an opportunity to allow yourself to daydream a bit about what your “next act” will look and feel like.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to start the process:

  • What have I always wanted to do that I may finally be able to do?
  • If I want a new form of work, what would it be, and can I lay the foundation now?
  • What hobbies or activities do I want to devote more time to?
  • What do I want my daily life to look like when I’m no longer working?

Each of these questions relates to how you will spend your time and resources in retirement. Let’s say you’ve always enjoyed golf or volunteer work. The way you structure your retirement, including the income you need and where you will live, will be important in allowing you to live the retirement you imagine.

If you’re not ready to stop working altogether, what will your new career be? Perhaps you will need to spend time starting a business or doing consulting work. Or maybe you want to change careers altogether. These actions, too, require thought, planning and action in advance of your retirement. And your wealth advisor can help guide you.

While your retirement identity may seem removed from the financial part of the retirement planning process, the two actually go hand-in-hand. Structuring your retirement plan and funding to help you take part in a new vocation or area of interest can help you write a fulfilling new chapter in your life.

If you wish to discuss your retirement planning needs or want to make a plan that includes your retirement identity, we’re happy to help.


Matt Masterson Jr., CFP, CPWA

Matt Masterson Jr., CFP, CPWA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Matt is a Partner, Wealth Advisor in our Morristown, NJ, office. He counsels and advises families and individuals on financial planning and investment management with a focus on income tax and estate tax planning.  Matt joined legacy firm RegentAtlantic in 2015, and has over 15 years of experience in the wealth advisory field and holds elevated designations such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification and Certified Private Wealth Advisor® . He is a graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, where he earned a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. Matt is active in the non-profit community and has previously served on the Board of Trustees and as Treasurer of both the Morris Educational Foundation and Family Promise of Morris County.  Matt, his wife, Aimee, and their daughter reside in Morristown, NJ.


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