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How do you define retirement?

Everyone knows what retirement means, right? Well, according to the 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, it turns out that people define retirement differently. In prior generations, when someone told you they were retired or plan to retire, it meant they weren't working at all. But that's no longer the case.

Just consider these key findings from Transamerica's survey of 4,550 workers across the country:

  • Four out of five (82 percent) people over age 60 who were surveyed expect to work or are already working past age 65, or don't plan to retire at all.
  • Almost half (42 percent) of those surveyed envision a phased transition to retirement, shifting from full-time to part-time work or working in a different capacity.
  • Almost three-quarters (73 percent) think their retirement transition will occur at their current employer.
  • Over half (52 percent) plan to work during retirement, usually for the income or health benefits.

Nowadays, some people who transition from full-time to part-time work might still call themselves "retired." Variations on this theme of working in retirement include:

  • Part-time or seasonal work at your same employer or the same field
  • Changing your field of work
  • Working indefinitely, as long as you can
  • A bridge job for a few years that enables you to delay drawing down Social Security benefits and allows your savings to grow
  • Self-employment at a business that interests you

This phenomenon has spawned an effort to retire the word "retirement" and find a new name for this period of life. Candidates include renewment, aspirement, financial independence, rewirement, rest-of-life, second beginnings, financial freedom, and new chapter. A few years back, there was even a contest for a new name. Some of the more creative entries included American Idle, Seventh Inning Stretch and Near Death Experience (if you haven't guessed already, these didn't win). Life 2.0 was the lucky winner of that contest.

Whatever you call this time of your life, a common theme for many people is improving your relationship with your work life. For some, that means not working at all. For others, it means finding work that's more meaningful to you or working fewer hours. The first step in this journey is to create a vision for the rest of your life that can help guide your decisions.

Don't blow off planning for retirement and justify it by thinking you'll just keep working at the same employer you're at now. That may not be an option, so it's good to have a Plan B.

It's also important to realize that however long you might want to work, a time will come when you're no longer able to work, either for health and frailty reasons, or you just might not be able to find work you can do.

At that time, you'll truly be retired in the traditional sense. By planning ahead, you can make sure you'll have enough financial resources to cover living expenses for the rest of your retired life.

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