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Plan now, retire later

Elizabeth Wallencheck at Alumni WeekendUNC Kenan-Flagler doesn’t just prepare students for careers after they graduate – it also supports alumni throughout their career journeys.

Elizabeth Wallencheck, associate director of career and leadership for MBA and alumni at UNC Kenan-Flagler, highlighted the significance of taking your first steps toward retirement at “What’s Next: Creating Your Vision of Retirement” at Alumni Weekend.

“The questions we ask in retirement are the same questions about life’s meaning that we’ve had all along, but they take on new poignancy because we have different views about mortality when we are older,” she says.  “Retirement is kind of an open slate where you have freedom to choose what you want to do.”

“Retirement is an opportunity to create a life that reflects more closely who you are,” she says, quoting Catherine Frank, an executive director at the Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. “You just need to uncover your lifestyle priorities at this stage in your life.”

These priorities could include anything from intellectual stimulation to relationship aspirations to health and fitness to spirituality.

While thinking about retirement can bring a range of emotions, fear of the unknown is a common reaction.  It can be frightening to take your first steps toward retirement because it is new and forces you to place your identity in something besides your career. And while many people believe retirement can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing, Wallencheck disagrees, explaining these retirement myths are not grounded in scientific fact.

Retirement can be exciting since it gives you more flexibility to decide what you want to do based on what is important in your life.

These seemingly contradictory feelings are normal. “It’s natural for something scary to also be exciting,” says Wallencheck. Don’t avoid retirement simply because you don’t know what to expect.

After uncovering the significance and excitement of retirement, she emphasized the endless possibilities open to new retirees.

When exploring your retirement options, you might to think consider new ways to stay involved in what you loved about your work as well as things you have never had time to accomplish before.  The key to a successful retirement, is finding ways to stay mentally and physically engaged.  These opportunities can include writing, volunteering, mentoring, teaching or even working part-time.

Focus on retirement possibilities before you are ready to retire, says Wallencheck. Crucial questions to consider are:

  1. What is one of your top priorities?
  2. What would it look like to have this truly be a priority in your retirement?
  3. What can you do in the next two weeks to begin to bring this priority to life?

By Grace Ketron (BA ’19)