Career Transitioning Later in Life: Navigating Our Way to a Successful Retirement

photo 1Guest blogger Christine Maxwell reflects on her post-retirement career transition.

I am about to join the ranks of many members of my generation: The Baby Boomer Retirees. Although our numbers are massive, we are approaching retirement with a different philosophy than that of our parents. For starters, we are often retiring younger than in past generations and are healthier. In essence, we hope to have many years of retirement ahead of us! We want a meaningful retirement – one that shows purpose.

I began thinking about the purposeful aspect of my next career transition about two years ago. As a high school teacher nearing my own retirement, I knew I needed some direction. My final year of teaching is here, with my anticipated retirement in June 2016. Always a planner, I could not envision my retirement years as a blank slate.


Panama City is a great illustration of transition: here we see the older Casco Viejo. At the right is the contemporary skyline.


Modern Panama City’s skyscrapers.

Ironically, serendipitous moments frequently occur at crossroads. Last year I met Darcy Lear, a career coach and fellow language educator at a language conference in Panama. I realized during our initial conversations that retirement is a career transition! Darcy and I have kept in touch, and I am now working with her on my way to a positive retirement. After discussions of my interests and activities with her, I knew that I wanted to do some work to supplement my finances and to fuel my passions during this new chapter of my life.

The Golden Rules of Retirement: Health, Wealth, and Happiness

After much reflection, I’ve charted a plan, which I believe will steer me–and hopefully others–in the right direction as we traverse unfamiliar territory. Guiding us in this journey through unchartered waters, are three areas that we should examine for successful entry into the Port of Retirement: our pursuit of Health, Wealth and Happiness.
Listed below are the reasons that each of these categories is important in the planning process:


Health should be our primary focus. Without health, we can accomplish little in life. Having a medical checkup well before retirement ensures that any pre-existing or new conditions are under control.

Preventative measures are advisable well before retirement. Create a healthy lifestyle, one that includes a good diet and moderate exercise (see this recent New York Times article on what moderate exercise means: “The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life”). We’ll want to continue this lifestyle in our retirement years, as well.


Without health, there is no wealth. Health is a major aspect of our wealth.

Once we have addressed health issues, we should look at our financial assets before retirement. This would include: pensions and other employer-sponsored retirement plans (such as 401 (k) plans, 403 (b) plans, etc.), Social Security, and personal savings and investments. If married, consider combined income and joint-and-survival options (click here for one financial advisor’s take on “Financial Mistakes People Make at Different Ages“).

After reviewing assets, begin planning life after retirement. Make a budget and determine basic living expenses, as well as some discretionary income. If work in retirement is necessary or desired, check whether other retirement income, such as Social Security, limits the amount that can be earned.

In my discussions with Darcy, I decided that I would like to have some additional income to help with living expenses, as well to pay for travel. I determined a specific amount that I wanted to earn in a given period of time. Additionally, I wanted the freedom to incorporate my passions into a new career. After having worked my entire career in a structured environment – from office to classroom – I want the privilege to pursue my passions for languages and writing on my own terms. With Darcy’s assistance, I am exploring opportunities that meet these objectives: online tutoring provides some extra income, has flexible working hours from home and keeps me connected to my passion for language teaching; freelance writing is similarly flexible and ties back to my earlier career in journalism; and my most recent professional endeavor is the study of Portuguese, which seems to be an emerging market—though Darcy and I haven’t been able to identify specific opportunities there yet.


Happiness is a separate and important form of wealth. But remember without your health and sufficient monetary wealth, maximum happiness cannot be achieved.

The importance of family and friends during our retirement years is paramount. Now is the stage of life where we have the gift of time – the time to spend with our children and grandchildren and other family members. They should be a priority!
Also allow time to nurture old friendships and to develop new ones. Share passions and have fun!

In closing, my advice to my fellow Baby Boomers nearing retirement is to plan for the best years ahead! Consult a career coach for help in treading those uncertain waters of the career transition into retirement. I’m glad that I have, and I can’t wait see what new adventures lay ahead in my retirement years!

photo 1 Christine Maxwell will begin her last year teaching high school Spanish in August 2015 and looks forward to all the opportunities retirement presents.

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