Retirement identity – Do you know yours?

Imagine that you’ve recently retired. After decades of easily responding to “what do you do for a living,” how would you answer this question? How would 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, too. We spend just as many, if not more, waking hours with our coworkers each week than with family members.  We count on seeing the same people every day, eating lunch at the same places, and catching up over a cup of coffee or a round of drinks.

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. For others, who identify what they do as a strong piece of who they are, being retired can feel limiting.

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

Preparing for the “Next Act”

The next time you sit down with your financial 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 be able to finally do when I’m retired?
  • If I need or want to work, what do I want to do and how can I begin laying the foundation for that new career now?
  • What favorite hobbies, activities, or pastimes do I want to devote time to when I’m retired?
  • What do I want to include in my daily life 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.

Let’s say you’re not ready to stop working altogether. What will your new career be? Perhaps you will need to spend time starting a business to do some 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 financial advisor can help guide you.

And, while this 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 avocation can help you write a fulfilling new chapter in your life.

If you wish to discuss your retirement planning needs or 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, Director of Financial Planning

Matthew Masterson Jr. , CFP(R), CPWA(R) is responsible for overseeing the RegentAtlantic's financial planning framework. He is a member of the RegentAtlantic's Management Team and serves on the CIPW Financial Planning Committee. In his capacity as a Wealth Advisor, 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 RegentAtlantic in 2015, bringing with him over seven years of experience working with high-net-worth families and individuals. He is a graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey where he earned a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

Matt serves on the Board of Trustees of the Morris Educational Foundation and Family Promise of Morris County - two local not for profit organizations. Matt, his wife Aimee, and their daughter reside in Morristown, NJ.


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