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How To Make A Retirement Road Map (No Matter Your Age), From Retirement Coaches

Emma Loewe
August 1, 2023
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by RgStudio / iStock
August 1, 2023
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Gone are the days when retirement was synonymous with golf, tennis, and cruises. While leisure activities like these are still popular, retirees are increasingly seeking new ways to engage with others, connect to purpose, and, ultimately, leave a lasting legacy. We consulted with retirement coaches to learn about how to craft a fulfilling retirement plan—and why it's never too early to start thinking about yours.

How to plan a purpose-driven retirement

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is at an all-time high and is expected to more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.

"There are a lot of years in retirement, which wasn't the case 80 years ago. Now we're living longer, and we're healthier, and we want to do more," Phyllis Diamond, LCSW, a retirement coach and psychotherapist, tells mindbodygreen.

It's Diamond's job as a coach to help clients identify how they want to spend this time. This starts by uncovering their perceptions about retirement, learning about what interests them, and ultimately helping them form their own "retirement road map."

Purpose often plays a major role in shaping this map. While many people's purpose in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s revolves around making money, advancing in their careers, and taking care of family, it tends to change once they reach retirement age.

"For so many people, their job basically is their purpose. It's what gets them out of bed every day; it provides that structure in their life," says retirement coach Jennifer Rovet. "When that comes to an end with retirement, that can be a struggle for people. They need to find out what their purpose is and what their identity will be in their next stage of life."

Here, Rovet and Diamond share some ways to start illuminating your purpose and passions, even if they've been buried by other commitments for a while:

  • Consider what excited you as a child: Diamond recommends reflecting on what you loved to do growing up before you needed to consider whether your hobbies were "practical" or "lucrative."
  • Reflect on the memories that make up your life: What are the five to 10 most prominent positive memories from your life so far? Rovet suggests writing these down and seeing if you can identify any common themes.
  • Make a "curiosity list": Write down everything in the world that you're curious about. No need to be precious; just jot down what comes to mind—be it woodworking or local politics. Once you have these on the page, Diamond says you can go through and identify a few that you want to explore first.

Even those who are nowhere near retirement may find these prompts helpful. "It's best for the planning to start before somebody stops working," says Diamond. "So that when someone retires, they already have a plan in place, and they can immediately leap into the next phase rather than feeling like they're falling off a cliff, which a lot of people do!" And could it ever really be too early to start living a life that's aligned with the things you actually love?

What can go on your "retirement road map"?

Once you have a sense of the type of things that excite you, you can consider how to work them into a fulfilling retirement plan. Diamond notes that the best ones tend to replace the core functions of full-time work: financial remuneration, structure, status, a sense of usefulness, and socialization.

There are infinite ways to have a fulfilling, engaging, and purpose-led retirement that ticks the boxes of full-time work. But here are a few examples of what could go on it:


Many people who are very successful in their careers retire feeling like their work never truly served the greater good. Volunteering is a way to maintain a sense of usefulness and socialize with others while creating your own legacy. Diamond notes that even if you accumulated a ton of wealth in your full-time work, tutoring one child could be the most important thing you ever do in your life.


Coaching is another popular field among retirees. Diamond notes that one of her clients took remote courses to become a health coach after retirement, for example, and gleaned a lot of meaning from helping others.

A number of graduates from mindbodygreen's Health Coaching Certification program have had similar experiences. One recent grad notes that she was inspired to go into the field after she personally found so much benefit from working with a health coach. She didn't want to go back to school for years of training, so she appreciated that mbg's program was only 20 weeks—and filled with others who had similar interests. Although her full-time career was totally unrelated to coaching, she relished the opportunity to learn something completely new and is hoping to start working flexible hours as a coach soon.

Creative fields

Those who come from more academic backgrounds may also enjoy shifting gears and exploring more creative pursuits, says Rovet, referring to one client who has developed an interest in woodworking post-retirement. "I've really seen him shine since our first session until now. He even looks different—he just looks more excited, happier, and more relaxed," she says.

All of these pursuits can tick the five boxes of full-time work—financial remuneration, structure, status, a sense of usefulness, and socialization—while opening the door to learning and new discovery. After all, "being a lifelong learner is very rewarding," says Diamond. "As we get older and stop full-time employment, you can't stop growing."

The takeaway

What will you explore after your full-time career comes to a close? It's a question that retirement coaches recommend asking yourself, no matter your age. Reflecting on your strongest memories, remembering what you loved as a child, and engaging with your curiosity are ways to make your second act your most gratifying yet.

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.