How To Retire On Purpose

In the TV series The Bear—which, incidentally, is the best show I’ve ever seen—one of the main characters goes through a crisis of identity. Richie, or “Cousin” as he’s affectionately known, needs a job and knows he needs it, but he is struggling with a deep sense that he is out of place at work, at home, and in the world. He is running up against the reality that his needs extend beyond that of a paycheck and into the realm of purpose and meaning.

As I was thinking about that story arc this week, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why High-Powered People Are Working in Their 80s.” The gist of the article was that more and more people over the age of 75 continue to work not because they need to for economic reasons (though that is true in some cases), but because they need to for other reasons: an ongoing challenge that leisure alone cannot provide, the camaraderie of a team with a common goal, the desire to continue a career that has been deeply fulfilling, or, like Richie, a pursuit of place where they are needed and valued and contributing their skills in stimulating ways.

Now, having a bit of a cynical streak in me, I will be the first to admit that the word “purpose” has become a little cringeworthy in our culture. There’s a thriving industry of books and podcasts selling the idea that every moment of your waking life ought to be teeming with the pixie dust of enlightened existential fulfillment, that you ought to reject every mundane activity and cut ties with anyone not “adding value” to your holy hustle. This is not the purpose that I have in mind, because of course life is full of the mundane, full of relationships that certainly do not “add value,” and even sometimes full of pain.

No, what I have in mind after watching a fictional TV character and reading a Wall Street Journal article is that retirement planning—that any type of financial planning—has to contend with something beyond the replacement or allocation of a paycheck. As we think about our economic needs and how to prudently make provision for them, we must not forget the other, arguably higher needs: for camaraderie and community, for intellectual stimulation, for opportunities to use our skills, for belonging. 

These are big needs, and when we at Beacon talk about our purpose, one of the common refrains is that we do what we do—real planning, sensible investing, meaningful advice—so that money can be a blessing. And one way money can be a blessing is that it doesn’t dominate your thinking, doesn’t occupy position 1A in your list of important needs, so that you can devote the necessary time and attention to your other needs. 

So, whether you’re 10 years from retirement or 10 days from retirement or have long since retired, here’s my regular plug to pay attention to purpose. Not the romanticized version of it, but the real stuff. It won’t be an easy journey—it certainly wasn’t for Richie!–but it is of paramount importance, and we hope to help you make space for it however we can.


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Jared Korver
[email protected]

A product of small-town North Carolina (Carthage, to be exact), I’m proudly married to my best friend and co-adventurer, Amy. Together, we have two sons–Miles and Charlie–and could more or less start a library from our home. I love being outside, can’t read enough, am in the habit of writing haikus, and find food and coffee to be among life’s greatest treasures.