Record numbers of older workers are planning to work past the typical retirement age, and even when they do retire from full-time work, many say they’d like to continue working for pay to some degree. Some realize they’ll need the money. Others find their work enjoyable or are eager to pursue more meaningful work through an “encore” career.

However, the percentage of people who actually continue with their careers later in life, or work for pay after retirement, is far smaller than you might expect (see Will You Work When You Retire?). For some, health issues interrupt later-life career plans. Others retire without a plan for how to continue using their gifts, talents, and passions to make a difference with their lives.

As important as it is to have a financial plan for your later years, it’s equally important to have an “impact” plan.

Longer-life risks and opportunities

A key risk financial advisors talk about is “longevity risk.” There’s a certain irony to that term. After all, most people would prefer to live a long time. What makes it a risk is the possibility that your money won’t last as long as you will.

It’s wise to respond to that risk by creating a financial plan, calculating your later-life expenses, reviewing your estimated Social Security benefits, estimating what your retirement accounts will be worth and how much you may be able to draw from them. You can find many resources that will help you put together such a plan and prepare financially for a long life. What you won’t find as easily is guidance on what you’ll do with your life at that point.

If you arrive at retirement without a plan for continuing to make a difference, you may end up disappointed.

“For 75 years as a culture, we’ve been experimenting with retirement. Some people have found it rewarding. Many, if not most, find it not so rewarding,” says Lloyd Reeb, primary spokesperson for The Halftime Institute, a non-profit Christian organization that helps people discover and live out their God-given calling, especially in later life. “They don’t like having lost their voice or their platform. They don’t like the idea that their best years are behind them. And they don’t want to squander all the wisdom they’ve garnered along the way in these next 20 to 30 years when they could make their most significant contribution.”

Halftime’s work is not exclusively focused on vocational pursuits. It helps people clarify their contribution in ministry, their family, and other areas. But for those who will need or want additional income in their later years, the organization’s framework for helping people figure out the focus of their “second half” is quite relevant.

The 4 stages of the Halftime Journey

If you’re in your 60s or older, it isn’t too late to engage in an intentional later-life impact planning process, but the ideal time is when you’re in your mid-40s to mid-50s. Here’s the approach Halftime recommends.

  1. Stage One: Discovering Vision
    For most people, their 20s, 30s, and 40s are extremely busy seasons, with a family to raise and a career to build. This first stage requires slowing down long enough to think about — to perhaps remind yourself — what’s at the intersection of your gifts and passions and the impact you sense God leading you to make. Reeb recommends blocking off a day for “a silent retreat with the Lord” to reflect on Ephesians 2:10, considering what “good works” God prepared in advance for you to do and how you might do them in later-life.
  2. Stage Two: Guided Reflection
    This stage is about gaining clarity regarding your strengths and passions, and distilling them into a written description of your calling. Consider not only your calling, but your spouse’s as well, and how you can pursue them together.
  3. Stage Three: Diverse Exposure
    If the work you’ve done in stages one and two seem to point you toward a different path than the one you’re on now — a different line of work or a different expression of your current work, perhaps with a non-profit — this stage is about testing it out. Learn from others who are doing what you’re considering by talking with them or shadowing them as they move through a typical day. This is also the stage for getting any new training you need, preparing your finances, and setting expectations among those with whom you do life.
  4. Stage Four: Enduring Impact
    In this stage, you consider how the impact you plan to have in later-life — again, whether through your work, family, ministry, or preferably all three — will outlive you.

The impact on your finances

Earlier, an impact plan was described as distinct from a financial plan. However, if put together properly, your impact plan will strongly shape your financial plan.

“When you get clear on your calling, it crystalizes your view of money,” Reeb says. “When you have some burning cause that you can’t break free of, every way you spend your money is influenced by that. When you have no clear sense of calling, your money can be spent on your own security and comfort. When someone gets clear on their calling, they set limits on how much they’ll spend on themselves and how much their kids will inherit. Clarity about the impact you intend to have in later-life helps bring clarity to your financial plan.”