Retirement Funds Tanked? Time to Redefine Your Retirement.

by Joe Plemon on February 10, 2010

Top of World / En la Cima
Creative Commons License photo credit: pasotraspaso

You have worked and planned for that glorious day when you could kick back, travel, golf, fish and simply do what you wanted.  But things happened.

Your 401(k) turned into a 201(k) and has grown back to a 301(k).  You have learned that your nest egg is vulnerable and volatile, making your life of leisure sound like a life of anxiety.  And now you realize that you are going to need some part time work during your retirement to stretch the maximum years from that nest egg.

Take a challenge



Sure you are disappointed, but instead of lamenting your circumstances, I challenge you to take advantage of them.  By redefining your retirement, you could be in for your most exciting and fulfilling years.  The best, for you, is yet to come.

Redefine retirement age

According to a study in, 78% of men over age 65 were still in the workforce in 1880.  As you might suspect, this percentage has dropped dramatically in recent decades to the current 18% level.

The point is this: we Americans have been trained to believe anyone age 65 or older should be put out to pasture.   Not so!  Continuing to work past age 65 simply means that you are still a valuable and productive person.

Redefine work

Work does not mean drudgery.  A dictionary definition is Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.”   Redefine “work” as a means to use your efforts to produce or accomplish something you are passionate about.  Grandma Moses began painting in her 70s.  Colonel Sanders was in his late sixties when he began frying his “finger licking good” chicken.



James Michener said it thusly, “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which.  He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decided whether he is working or playing.  To him, he is always doing both.”


Redefine your definition of retirement

We have accepted the myth that retirement means lazing around for twenty or thirty or forty years.  The problem is that many of us (I am a retiree) have been active all our lives and don’t want to be suddenly thrust into a role of inactivity.   Do you really want your life to atrophy as you set your sights on 30 years of leisure?  I don’t and I hope you don’t.  That diminished 401(k) may require you to be active, but that is not a bad thing.  You probably have more choices than you used to have, so redefine your retirement in terms of staying active.





Retirement means fulfilling your dreams

Ask yourself this question, “If money was no object, what would I do with the rest of my life?”  Got your answer?  Then find a way to do it.  That “some day” you used to talk about is today.  Dig out those dreams that you gave up on years ago, dust them off and start fulfilling them.




Retirement means serving others

Real joy in life comes from serving others.  Retirees have a lifetime of skills, wisdom and knowledge which qualify them like no other age group to contribute to the world around them.  Check out Senior Stars to learn about people like Dr. Michael DeBakey, a medical pioneer who continued to practice medicine until he died only two months short of his 100th birthday or Ardell Lien, a 71-year-old Minnesotan who became the first heart and kidney recipient to solo circumnavigate the world so he could promote organ transplants.  You are surrounded by people who have needs you could serve.  What are you waiting for?





Retirement means serving God

He has a plan for you and your life.  He may surprise you with the plans he has for you at this point in your life, but as long as your heart is beating he has a purpose for you to fulfill.  Be open to him, seek him and serve him with all of your strength for all of your life.







Concluding thoughts

Your arrival at retirement age didn’t turn out the way you had planned.  But if you were planning on a life of leisure, this turn of events may be the best thing that could have happened to you.  These next several years could be the most exciting and fulfilling years of your life.  I challenge you to redefine your retirement into years of productive work, fulfilling your dreams, serving others and serving God.  You will find yourself energized, invigorated and passionate about life.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken February 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Retirement by definition has probably changed for several million in our society. Like you I think it’s a great time for someone to ask questions about what their passions or interests are. No doubt serving others brings wealth that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Good post!


joeplemon February 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for the encouraging words.

I am not sure that any of us REALLY knows what retirement is like until we get there, and then we often discover it is not what we expected. For me, I have redefined my retirement and am having the time of my life by trying to practice what I preached in this post.


Evan February 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

While I am not as spiritual as you, but I couldn’t imagine being retired in the sense that you mention about lazily sitting around. I think I would go NUTTY. Then again, I am only 28.

First time on your site, being a retiree what do you do most days?


joeplemon February 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Welcome to my site! What do I do most days? Hmm. I have my own personal finance coaching business, I write columns for two local newspapers, I have worked part time doing some engineering (I am a retired engineer), and I write for this blog, as well as ChristianPF blog.

That keeps me out of trouble most days 🙂

About retirees lazily sitting around, you would be surprised at how many people just meander through life with the fuzzy minded notion that a great retirement is simply doing nothing. Even those whose ideal retirement is golf and/or fishing seldom do really well at retirement unless they channel energy toward something more productive.


Kaye Swain March 3, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Great article. I especially appreciated the statements that retirement means serving God and serving others. A wise pastor once taught us that Joy comes from putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third. Great advice for retirement and life in general. 🙂


joeplemon March 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

Your pastor was indeed wise. The J – O – Y formula is a great way to live, retired or in grade school.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.


Lee M. Rife April 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Hi Joe:

I am a triple retiree, originally from the Dongola, IL area. Moscow Road bisects my farm, and I aways said that where I came from the copperheads were biting on one leg while the cottonmouths were biting the other. Oh well, so much for Union County humor.

The reason that I write is to say that you are right on about having something positive or spiritual to occupy your time. I golf as often as I can, but my real joy comes from serving my church and being on the board of a statewide association. These activities allow me to use the education and experience accumulated over the fifty years since I graduated from high school. They also allow me to reach out to others and to make a positive contribution to society.

Let me say that I read your columns in the Gazette-Democrat each week and agree with almost all that you say. My wife and I learned to live simply and put away as much as possible -mostly in IRA’s and 357 (Deferred Compensation) accounts. Also, we learned to manage debt-you need a house and you need a car; most other things can be deferred until you have cash in hand. Also, we paid off bank loans as quickly as possible.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Lee “Sarge” Rife
Springfield, IL


joeplemon April 25, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Great to hear from someone who has lived in Union County. I’m a “city boy” and not familiar with Moscow Rd, but I have a son who lives on Body Barn Rd which is near Dongola. I’ll tell him to be watching for the copperheads and water moccasins.:)

Sounds like you and your wife are enjoying your retirement…serving others is the way to go! Keep up the good work and stop by my blog to say “Hi” every once in a while.


Gretta October 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I definitely believe that God intended us to work, that’s why he gave us hands. We have a day off at the end of the week so we can appreciate the joy of work and the fulfilment it brings us. Enjoying retirement does not mean forgoing all meaningful pursuits, but embracing the chance to chase something new!


joeplemon October 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

You said it better than I did … especially your last sentence!


Leave a Comment

{ 9 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: