For many people, retirement is something way off in the future for which they are saving. However, as you approach midlife, you may start realizing that you don’t want to wait another 10 or 20 years to make a change in your life.
You may be burnt out in your work or interested in trying some different type of work. You want more freedom and less stress in your everyday life. Meaningful work and experiences are more important than saving up a certain amount of money to retire in repose. By exploring your vision for a good life and starting preparations in advance, you can create your dream life in midlife and beyond.
I have worked as a veterinarian for 28 years. While the work was rewarding, it was also very stressful. I wanted more freedom to travel and try new experiences. I wanted to try different work that was interesting and enjoyable. I am now a certified life coach and nature therapy guide and recently started travel writing. This journey has been enjoyable and has allowed me to try many new things. The following are areas to consider and start planning your midlife transition.
1. Assessing Your Finances And Responsibilities
Because we all need food, shelter, and medical care, you need to start by assessing your financial situation. If you are savvy in finances, you can determine if your income and expenses allow you to make changes in your work. Evaluate your long-term costs and day-to-day expenditures. Do you still have children in school, a mortgage to pay, or family members that need care?
If needed, consider using a financial planner to assist with these decisions. When my husband and I were in the process of selling our clinic, we hired a certified financial planner to help us invest the proceeds. We researched a company that fit our values and needs. You can also read books and listen to podcasts to learn more.
As you think about expenses, you may find many things you are spending money on that are not making your life better. You may be able to move into a smaller house or trade in an expensive car. You can also move to a less expensive area. By evaluating your values and what is most enjoyable and meaningful in your life, you may decide to reduce your expenses so that you can reduce your work hours or move into a lower-paying job.
Because my veterinary work was causing physical and mental strain, I started reducing my hours and looked into selling the practice. The sale enabled us to pay off our mortgage and invest enough to fund a reasonable retirement. However, we still need to pay for our daughter’s college, and I want to travel much more. Through working with our financial planner, we determined how much income we still need.
2. Exploring Your Options
Remember when you were young and spent time dreaming about all you could do in your life? Midlife presents another opportunity to do this, along with all the experience and resources you have built over the years.
Take some time to imagine all the things you enjoy doing and new things that you want to learn. Let yourself dream big for now. If you could do any work or spend time doing anything, what would it be? What would your ideal day look like? What about your ideal week, month, or year? Write these down and expand on your list when new ideas come to you.
Now start exploring the most appealing ideas. Would you need to change your job or transition into a new career? Would you need a degree, some coursework, or skills training? Do you need to earn income from this new pursuit or will it add to your expenses? Switching jobs could also lead to lowering your expenses. For example, if you currently need to commute or buy expensive clothes or meals, working from home in a new position may be less expensive.
3. Pursuing Further Training
It is never too late to learn. Once you discover what new knowledge you need, you can start taking courses or practicing skills while you continue your current work. Many online options for courses and certifications are available. Local community colleges and business associations can also be a good place to look. You may also want to pursue ways to improve your sports or hobbies so you can enjoy them better as you grow older.
As I started preparing to reduce my work as a veterinarian, I explored other types of work that seemed interesting and fulfilling. Life coaching stood out as a good fit for my skills and interests. I researched a few coaching schools to learn their philosophy and methods. Co-Active Training Institute offered a course spread over five weekends, and I flew to Los Angeles each weekend to attend.
I then completed a certification course through 6 months of zoom calls with my pod of nine coaches. I also discovered and completed a certification in Nature Therapy Guiding, which also involved 6 months of biweekly Zoom meetings. These courses all fit my part-time schedule at the veterinary clinic. I then took an online course on travel writing and started becoming active in that community.
4. Trying New Options
Once you have narrowed down what your vision consists of, start investigating ways that you can sample your options. Working part-time or volunteering can help you determine if what you are envisioning is feasible.
You may find that the work you want to switch to is not enjoyable once you are actually doing it. You may need to tweak your plans a bit. Talk to others working in the field or in the organization that you think you want to join. If you can cut your hours at work or take a few weeks off to travel, you can see how that feels as a lifestyle.
Before I started my coaching classes, I looked in the directory of the International Coaching Federation and interviewed three coaches about their work. I then talked with nature-based coaches before doing my certification for nature therapy guiding. As I began my course in travel writing, I began writing articles about local tourist attractions for travel publications, such as TravelAwaits, to get some feedback right away.
5. Finding Support
Transitioning to a new career or changing how you are living is difficult. It may take a few years and long hours of exploring options and gaining new knowledge. The support of family and friends can greatly assist you. They can help with brainstorming and researching options. As you take courses and join organizations, you will bond with people interested in similar goals.
A business or activities group in your area or online can be a tremendous resource for learning what is involved in your new interests. Join seminars or meet-ups to discover what it is like to be in the trenches of your desired work or activity. People who have been involved in your new pursuit for decades and people at the beginning stage like you have beneficial insights.
My classmates from my coaching and nature therapy guiding courses developed a strong bond and we stay in touch regularly. We can always receive needed support and guidance from each other. I am also learning so much from the travel writing community and we love hearing about each other’s adventures.
6. Gaining The Courage To Move On
It definitely takes more effort to transition to a new type of work or change your lifestyle. Continuing the same way of working and living may seem easier, but it also has its costs in your enjoyment and fulfillment.
Now that the pressure of building a career, raising a family, and funding your retirement is easing, you can dream again and plan a life that is enjoyable and meaningful to you. You can focus on your mental, physical, and emotional health as you grow older.
Even if you are disappointing or scaring others around you as you change your life, do not lose your resolve. As you move courageously forward, you will find what works for you and serve as a model for others. I have met people of all ages through my journey and they all inspire me to continue my striving for a happy life. Being intentional with your life takes effort but is rewarding.
By starting your planning early, you can make your transition into midlife intentional and enjoyable. Start dreaming about your best life, then make it happen. If you need help with your transition, consider hiring an ICF-certified coach to assist you in creating a vision and forming a plan.