Preparing for a life of significance in retirement

Well done. Adorable petite girl sitting at the table and giving her grandfather a high five, comparing her little palm with his

Image: Zinkevych/

It used to be that retirement was a fairly selfish time of life. Retirees had worked all those years and retirement was time for rest and relaxation.

No more! The current crop of retirees, Baby Boomers, are too restless for that. They want to keep living life to the full. And they’re helped by the extra 25 years of life expectancy added over the past century.

So, why not live a life of significance in retirement?

A life of significance involves people

Joshua Becker, the author of The More of Less, says, ‘Rarely do people look back on their lives and savour their professional achievements. Instead, they celebrate the impact they have had in the lives of others. Give yourself much to look back and celebrate.’

Of course, your professional life matters. And your achievements are important. But it’s the impact you have on people that’s the most important. Think spouse. Think family. Think social connections. Think workplace.

In any situation, we can live lives of significance.

We have a primary school with two school crossings a couple of blocks away from where we live. Before and after school there’s a lollipop man and a lollipop woman who stop traffic so children can cross the road safely.

For the uninitiated, ‘lollipop people’ are school crossing monitors who get their name from the stop signs they hold. The stop signs are like big lollipops.

The two at our local school are both retired and they earn a few dollars a week by being at the crossings on school days—every morning and afternoon, whatever the weather.

It’s an important role.

It becomes a role of significance when the lollipop man or woman interacts with the children in positive ways—a greeting, a high five, a word of affirmation or recognition. This is saying, ‘You are important to me.’

Whatever you plan to do in retirement there are ways that you can make your life one of significance. Becker keeps it simple: ‘Stop chasing success. Seek significance.’ A life of significance always involves people.

A life of significance brings personal satisfaction

John Maxwell, the leadership guru, says, ‘You have it within your power to make your life a great story, one of significance.’

He adds that he’s not talking about a life of wealth, being a celebrity, or winning a Nobel Prize. ‘There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but you don’t have to accomplish any of them to be significant.’

He explains it this way: ‘To be significant, all you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day.’

For most of my working life I’ve been in the people business and occasionally it has involved helping people in times of crisis. This could be a difficult time—for them as they were living through it and for me as I attempted to give the support they needed.

All too often there are no words to say that makes sense of the situation. That’s when just being there is what’s needed.

From experience, I can say there’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to help people through difficult times. And I’ll admit to frustration when things don’t work out and you haven’t been able to help as you wished you could.

That doesn’t mean you stop, but you learn from the experience. It can help you make a difference to someone else.

A life of significance gives purpose

The best lives are lived on purpose, with purpose—at whatever stage of life. The desire to live a life of significance in retirement is a goal that will give purpose to what you plan.

You can still do the other things that retirement can offer: the time for hobbies; the trips you’ve been dreaming of; the sport—playing or watching; and so on.

But the big question is this: In your retirement, what will you do to make a difference? What will you do to live a life of significance?

Working that out will give deeper purpose to your plans.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Connecting, Purpose

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