Retirement is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’. Of its 4 categories, which is you?

A generation ago, life after work was much the same for everyone. Job done. Perhaps a gold watch to mark the moment. But with little ahead other than a few years in God’s waiting room.

But how that has changed.

Today’s baby boomers meet retirement with perhaps 20 – or even 30 – years of life ahead. And, most likely, are in better health and with more money to spend than their parents’ generation could have dreamed of.

Unlike in the past, today there’s a lot of active years to make the most of. Research points to this longer, healthier and more affluent era as involving 4 distinct categories – according to American author and retirement specialist Cathy Severson.

These categories have been defined as –

The Clueless. They are the ones who have done the least planning for their big life change and make up towards half of those no longer in fulltime work. They are often bored with their free time choices, can experience loneliness, depression and feelings of being disconnected from those around them.

The Aimless They are still looking for a sense of satisfaction in retirement and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. They express feeling neither positive nor negative about their new stage in life. But, like the Clueless, gave little thought as to what it might offer and are now trying to figure it out while in the midst of living it out.

The same research revealed less than 1 in 5 had made plans for hobbies post-work. And only 1 in 3 had worked out how much money they would be needing.

The Directionless. They are happy to adjust to a more relaxed and, hopefully, less stressed lifestyle – and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. But their agenda has no place for learning or experiencing new things, finding meaningful part-time work either paid or voluntary.

Content to potter around home and engage with family and friends, they lack any great aspirations. But at least, as a result, don’t experience much  disappointment.

The Motivated Redirected are at the other end of the spectrum, having prepared for retirement both by way of their plans and how they can fund them. Surprisingly, they make up only 1 in 5 of those coming to retirement.

For them, this new period is one with fresh challenges, adventure and personal fulfilment. They are engaged in meaningful work that may be paid, or unpaid with challenging hobbies, or other leisure activities.

For them, there’s no ‘keeping busy’ for the sake of it or just letting their new diary space get swallowed up.

What separates the Clueless, Aimless and Motivated Redirected, points out Cathy Severson, is the time taken to think about the future and plan for the life you want.

So why does it seem so few plan ahead and think things through, including those who should be seeing these years as a gift from God – to be richly enjoyed and wisely invested?

Why? Let me suggest two possible reasons –

Our parents didn’t need to do this kind of planning and thinking because their options were so few. As a result, we’ve had no role models and no wise parents who had travelled this way and could help us do the same.

In the main, churches fail to see this as an issue. As a result they lack plans and programmes to help those who are approaching retirement get ready for new adventures and to seize new opportunities for service.

That being the case, each of us who is heading for retirement – or are already there – needs to take responsibility ourselves. This is not the time to be among the Clueless, the Aimless or the Directionless. After all, life after work is not a rehearsal but the real thing. We’ll only get to do it once.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to


  1. Good analysis. Clueless possibly lived largely for themselves. Once support of work schedule taken away-like ship on the stocks-they topple over! Aimless need to establish fixed points in the week-weekly shopping on same day; meeting up with pals/friends similarly on same fixed point/venue/time of week. Contact long-standing friends who understand and can motivate. Offer to serve on Meals on Wheels delivery Rota – gets one out and about serving those in need; Once or more a week help at charity shop or Food Bank. Directionless: write memoirs to discern twists and turns in life over years & things we’ve done, enjoyed, can build upon. Join in community affairs/groups e.g. W.I.; attend local council meetings to listen and learn; gardening clubs, U3A specialities – walking group, philatelists, language revision; photography etc. Church Home Group, Coffee Morning, Mission Support , Churchyard maintenance, etc. etc. N.B. As for we ministers we are for ever being asked to take services – even at 84!!

  2. Thanks for this. It is easier to plan and be in the Motivated redirected group if you are on your own and can independently make decisions. And it is even more important to do so, without the companionship of someone alongside you.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife