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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

A 67-year-old who ‘un-retired’ shares the biggest retirement challenge ‘that no one talks about’

In 2007, at age 52, I was forced to retire overnight. An MRI had revealed a tumor, the size of a large eggplant, sitting on my pelvis. In 98% of these cases, my oncologist told me, bone tumors are secondary cancer. He estimated that I had about six months to live.

But after two successful operations, I took a few months to recuperate on crutches and learn how to walk again. After my near-death experience, I had been in retirement for 10 years. I found myself bored, restless and stuck. My enthusiasm and energy diminished. My mental health suffered.

No one else I knew who was retired told me these were things I might experience. But when I shared with them how I felt, they admitted to feeling the same way at times.

That’s when I decided to “un-retire” and launch a mindset coaching company to help people achieve a more fulfilling retirement than I had.

The biggest challenge of retirement

Retirement means different things to different people. I did a deep survey of more than 15,000 retirees over the age of 60, and asked them one question: “What is your single biggest challenge in retirement?” Below is a small selection of responses I received under the most cited categories: Regret:

  • “I miss doing the work that I love.”

  • “I don’t think retiring is for me. I want to go back to teaching.”

  • “I’m not sure what to do with my time. I feel lost.”


  • “Keeping my mind healthy and adding value to the world.”

  • “Fear of dying in pain and discomfort.”

  • “When you’re 70 with a heart condition, you don’t get that many more bites at the apple.”


  • “Fear of losing my identity created over a lifetime.”

  • “People do not see you anymore.”

  • “Feelings of rejection — internalized, not voiced.”

Here’s what this tells us: The biggest retirement challenge that no one talks about, in my experience, is finding purpose.

Sure, money is certainly a concern. “I have a fear of poverty and losing dignity,” one person said. Another wrote: “Money goes out, nothing comes in.” But surprisingly, financial worries weren’t among the top three in the list.

People often confuse retirement savings with retirement planning. But these are two different concepts. Google the words “retirement planning” and you’ll mostly see, for pages and pages, savings-and pension-related content.

There is nothing on actual retirement planning, which I believe is more about your life, and less about money. Having steady finances to last you throughout retirement plays a significant role in quality of life, but what’s more important is your life-planning. In other words, what is it that you are going to do once you leave the workforce? You can retire from your career, but you can’t retire from life.



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