Retirement is a transition that comes with mixed emotions. You may feel like you’ve finally reached your professional stride and still have some productive years left, but the human resources department is suggesting you take a less-demanding position based on the results of your annual physical and length of time with the company. And then there’s the obvious choice – leaving the active job market altogether. There’s much to consider before making a permanent change in your employment status, including setting some new goals for your future and making sure you have the funds to achieve them. Much like plotting an exciting, roadway adventure – retirement also requires planning, especially at transition stages when you are scrambling for answers.

If you haven’t done the math yet, make sure it’s part of your big equation. One downside of Early Retirement is that a lot of people don’t do the math. “A good rule of thumb is: If you can’t pay off your mortgage, you can’t afford to retire,” according to Tom Sightings, a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement and other concerns of Baby Boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.

Don’t stop working may be the mantra that keeps you alive longer, and not just for the money. Consider that The Longevity Project, by psychology professors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, presents the end-of-life findings with surprising conclusions about the factors that sustain a long, rewarding life. For those who contemplate retirement as decades filled with leisure and relaxation, “The Longevity Projectserves as a warning. As Friedman says, “fun can be overrated and stress can be unfairly blamed.”

Perhaps a smarter way to approach the on-set of retirement is to transition into a softer job that provides a meaningful reason to get out of bed in the morning. Seek to parlay your expertise into an advisory position or pursue a free-lance job that keeps you in control of the time clock. If you’re approaching retirement, take advantage of the pause in your career to define your wants and needs if you still want to remain active in the workforce. Use it or lose it may very well be true when it comes to exercising your mind’s cognitive skills, but there’s another, more compelling reason why seniors should stay mentally-engaged throughout their retirement.

An interesting finding in a recent memory study sites a new study from Germany that has likened the memory abilities of older people to full hard drives: “They don’t lose cognitive power over time; they just function slower because of an increasing amount of information.”

“The human brain works slower in old age but only because we have stored more information over time,” lead researcher from Tübingen University in Germany, Dr. Michael Ramscar, said in the Huffington Post article.

The team of researchers used computers to replicate different stages of an adult’s memory recall. The computer models were fed small amounts of information each day and as the devices gathered more data, their performances mirrored those of older people, according to the study, which was published this month in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science.

“Forget about forgetting,” study researcher Peter Hendrix told The Independent. “If I wanted to get the computer to look like an older adult, I had to keep all the words it learned in memory and let them compete for attention.”

So unless you’re prepared to give up your claim in the game of life, stay engaged in either a fun job or challenging and meaningful pursuit to stay sharp and ready for the adventures that await in the 2nd act of your retirement, whatever you decide it should be.

While you’re weighing your options, why not consider doing something for the sheer joy it brings? Consider offbeat choices, such as poising for portraits with kids as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, or perhaps conducting guided tours for a museum or historical attraction that you enjoy visiting. The rules and criteria that once defined your professional career may no longer exist, thereby clearing the way for something else completely different. For instance, imagine the kick that a 62 year old model gets out of knowing she still has what it takes to generate consumer interest in underwear. Expect to see more senior spokespersons in the media, as the shift to target the incoming sixty-something age group increases.

A promising future of entrepreneurship for Baby Boomers is also on the drawing board since many don’t know when to quit, and because they are at the pulse point of knowing how to match the needs of fellow Boomers with their own and what it takes to meet those demands after years of doing it for someone else. Rising stars in Boomer-based businesses include specialize services in the fields of technology, health care, education, and much more.

There will probably be many more acts to your play in the race to reach 100 years, so planning for the 2nd act may be the best way to ensure there is a 3rd one.

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