what are the paths of retirement

The Four Paths of Retirement

What is your retirement going to be like?

If yours is like the experience of others, it will likely follow one of four paths of retirement.

Which one of the four do you aspire to follow?  If you’re already retired, which of the four paths are you on?

Today, a fascinating review of one of the most comprehensive studies on retirement I’ve ever read, and their findings on the four paths of retirement.  It’s an excellent study on what retirement is really like, and how the realities differ between folks walking on the various paths.  Regardless of which path you’re on, there’s value in understanding the journey of others.  

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

For those not yet retired, I encourage you to study the lessons learned from those who have walked the path before you. Your retirement will be better as a result.

Retirement tends to follow one of four paths. What are they, and which do you want to be on? Click To Tweet

The four paths of retirement

The Four Paths of Retirement

As my longtime readers know, I enjoy reading well-conducted studies on retirement and sharing what I learn with you.  No matter how much you study the concept of retirement, there’s always more to uncover. I recently read Longevity and the New Journey of Retirement, a fascinating study conducted by Edward Jones and Age Wave Study.  I suspect I’ll be writing more than one post about this study, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

One piece of the study that most interested me was their finding regarding the four paths of retirement, summarized in the following quote:  

“We found that survey respondents in the heart of retirement divide into four distinct groups,
characterized by their attitudes and ambitions, their circumstances and retirement preparations,
and their level of enjoyment of life in retirement.”  

Below, I present their findings on each of the paths, including highlighted comments from the report.  In addition, I’ll add my own thoughts on “what struck me” about each path. 

summarizing the four paths of retirement

The Four Paths:

  • Purposeful Pathfinders   (23%)
  • Relaxed Traditionalists   (26%)
  • Challenged yet Hopefuls (20%)
  • Regretful Strugglers         (31%)

I’m on the Purposeful Pathfinder path but found it helpful to read about the paths that others are on.  It’s interesting how evenly divided the population is between the four paths and a bit concerning that those who are struggling represent the largest class. Below is a summary of each of the four paths of retirement, including some relevant commentary on each from the study.

Purposeful Pathfinders 

purposeful pathfinders - the paths of retirement

As a “Purposeful Pathfinder” myself, I can relate to this path and the comments made about them in the report.  The 23% of retirees on this path enjoy the greatest well-being in retirement, and I suspect they make up a large percentage of the folks who read my blog. Following are the key attributes according to the study:

  • Enjoys the greatest well-being in retirement.
  • Leading “active, engaged, happy purposeful, productive, and contributory lives.”
  • Focused on continual self-improvement.
  • Doing very well “across the four pillars of family, heath, purpose, and finances.”
  • They retired when they chose to and had the easiest transition into retirement.
  • They “rate themselves the happiest, most fulfilled, and most liberated among all retirees.”

What struck me about this path:  Age 34.  That’s when folks on this path started saving for retirement, the youngest of any path.  As I’ve written many times, there’s a correlation between the amount of time you spend preparing for retirement and how successful that retirement will ultimately be.  This group exemplifies that reality.

Relaxed Traditionalists

The 26% of retirees on this path enjoy a more traditional path, with relaxation and enjoying life more important than the reinvention sought by the Purposeful Pathfinders.  They’re financially secure, comfortable, and see little need to change.  Key attributes:

  • Focused on relaxing and enjoying life.
  • The transition into, and life in retirement, have gone smoothly for them.
  • Interest in travel and simply having fun.
  • Rate themselves as happy and fulfilled (though somewhat less than Pathfinders).
  • Contentment with life.

What struck me about this path:  I thought of Type-A and Type-B personality types, and wonder if more Type-B’s follow this path (whereas Type-A’s tend to be Pathfinders)?  They certainly seem to be a relaxed group, and I’m pleased to see that 49% fall into one of the first two groups, where contentment with retirement is high.

Challenged Yet Hopefuls

paths to retirement are challening

With 20% of retirees, this path represents the route least taken.  They share similarities with Purposeful Pathfinders but find their options are constrained by insufficient financial preparation.  Nearly 3/4’s admit they have financial catching up to do and many worry about outliving their money.  Key attributes:

  • They lead active lives and focus on self-improvement.
  • Focus on spending quality time with family and friends.
  • Financial shortcomings bring some worry and constraints.
  • Started saving at age 45, the latest among the four paths of retirement.
  • They enjoy living in the moment but worry about the future.

What struck me about this path: Starting their savings for retirement a decade later than the first two paths has consequences.  While they enjoy retirement, they may need to earn extra income or spend far less to ensure they don’t outlive their money.

Regretful Strugglers

It bothers me that 31% of retirees follow this path.  I’ve often wondered what happens to the many folks who continually delay preparing for retirement, and now I have a bit of insight.  Over half (54%) had to leave the workplace earlier than they had planned, a reality that hurts when you haven’t prioritized retirement savings earlier in your career. A majority say they cannot live comfortably on the money they’ve saved, and overall they feel the least positive about life.  Living a life with regrets is a tough path to follow.  Key attributes:

  • The most common of the four paths, with 31% of retirees.
  • Only 35% view retirement as a new chapter in life, and 18% see it as the beginning of the end.
  • Their struggles extend across multiple pillars of life, including an inability to find purpose.
  • They engage in the fewest range of activities in retirement.
  • Many appear to have struggled with unsatisfying lives before retirement.
  • They rate themselves as least happy among the groups, as well as most anxious.
  • 59% say they have many regrets.

What struck me about this path:  It’s sad that so many retirees follow this path.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  I hope those still working can learn from those who have retired without adequate preparation.  I also have empathy with those who find their “golden years” anything but.  It’s a sad way to live one’s final years.

Comparing The Four Paths

Throughout the study, each path included “Key Points”.  To simplify the comparison, I created the following grid to capture the key points in a single table.  It’s interesting to compare the paths of retirement.  To see what attributes are common between those who are enjoying retirement versus those who aren’t.

comparing the paths of retirement

The study also included some interesting graphics on how the various paths of retirement rank themselves on the four pillars of life:

how the paths of retirement view life

What struck me about the above chart:  I find it interesting to view the blue bars in each of the four pillar rankings above.  Isn’t that what we should all strive for in retirement?  Don’t we all want to get an “A” or a “B” on Health, Family, Purpose, and Finances?  We’d all do well to study what it is that the Purposeful Pathfinders are doing differently.  Their lives certainly appear to be better as a result.

We’d all do well the pay attention to the five habits shared by the successful retirees surveyed: 

  1. They actively maintain their health through diet and exercise.
  2. They’re more socially engaged with family and friends.
  3. They have a sense of purpose by continually trying new things and finding ways to give back.
  4. They’re involved with their finances.
  5. They’re willing to make course corrections to achieve their dreams.  

Why do so many people fail to recognize the need to take retirement planning seriously, while they still can?  I recognize there are many who have been “dealt a bad hand” in life, but I suspect there are many Regretful Strugglers who ended up there as a result of bad choices in life.  Ultimately, those who fail to plan WILL enter retirement (the majority, 54%, sooner than they’d have chosen).  Isn’t it better to be prepared, knowing the consequences on your Golden Years?

I hope those that need to see the results of this survey will see it.  I hope they learn from it and apply some of the lessons.  I hope they do it now.

Before it’s too late.

Your Turn:  What retirement path are you on?  What advice would you give to those still working to avoid the path of the Regretful Strugglers?


  1. I so enjoyed reading this and the hope and promise it gave me! I am 59 and starting to think about retirement. I started saving for retirement at age 24, by starting to deduct money from my paycheck into a 401k and haven’t stopped yet. Also, I am starting to make a list of things I want to do when I retire…..everything from places I want to travel to as well as volunteer ideas….fun but yet also purposeful. Thanks! As I read each one of your blogs I get more confident that I am on the right path and that me and my wife will be happy and content throughout retirement….whenever that starts!

    1. it seems obvious once you laid it out so nicely. Have a spouse/partner to help you stay engaged with others. Have a college degree which helped with earning money and know something about finances.
      All those categories dropped as you move down the list from happiest to least happiest.
      I have 2 out of those 3, no financial background, and that would suggest I am between relaxed traditionalist and challenged yet hopeful. Exactly where I would describe myself.
      Thank you

  2. Good read and interesting stats on the groups. I’m a Relaxed Traditionalist, who may have been on course to being a Purposeful Pathfinder before some life events that changed priorities. Still like to “give back” just in different, less hands on, ways than in the past.

    The great thing about retirement is the ability to be as involved in varied areas to whatever degree works for you at the time. Nice to have options. 😎

    1. Interesting comment about “life events that changed priorities.” Makes me wonder how common it is to move between paths? Perhaps a Relaxed Traditionalist discovers a new Purpose and becomes a Purposeful Pathfinder. Or, like you, changes dictate a move to a more relaxed approach. Interesting thought, thanks for the comment.

      1. I’m in the same boat as Bud. Health issues changed my outlook. Got it resolved, but it’s made me change my thinking about retirement. Now I just want to enjoy myself because I’m not certain now how long I’ll be around. I’m only 53 and plan on retiring next year.

    2. I think encountering “life events that changed priorities” is pretty common among retirees, especially ones that change your focus from planning activities to enjoying the simple joys of each day as it comes. Just like someone who has no children doesn’t really understand what parenthood is like, a person needs to personally experience a close brush with death, or the loss of a spouse, to really know how these life events can change you. The most important thing I’ve learned in retirement is to never stop striving to be a better person, especially to try to always be kind and follow the Platinum Rule (“Do unto others as they would want done to them”). Those of us who are lucky enough to be financially secure in retirement have a great advantage over who aren’t, though to some extent this security depends on how well your retirement lifestyle matches your ideal, not your absolute wealth.

  3. Great article with way too much generalization at the end- I think we need a study on how the people fell into the last two retirement categories in order to accurately understand how it happened. If this is a study of people in America and than one medical issue, or a bad divorce can wipe out years of financial preparedness. There may be economic and generational factors here too? I think a study would be very revealing here rather than just pushing the ‘bad choices’ narrative. The study may reveal that ‘bad choices’ are present, and I’d like to know the circumstances- financial illiteracy, low wages, struggle to find emoloyment, truly just not worrying about the future or wanting to take control of money, medical issues, racial or sexual discrimination, familial issues or circumstances, etc, etc.

    1. I wondered the same thing. I know people who have struggled with health issues since sometime in their thirties, and those struggles have limited them. They end up not being able to work full time for their entire careers, so struggle financially. Not only are they earning less, but they are paying more in medical bills.

      1. Me, too! Interesting that all of us who did are women?……..Probably just a coincidence.

    2. Well stated, Amy.

      Let’s also reflect on the fact that our parent’s choices often affect us, regardless of how we plan. Many caregivers can tell you how their lives were fiscally impacted by needing to take care of their parents in their old age.

      Happy for those whose planning met with clear skies and no unexpected events…but let’s not blame/shame those whose circumstances produced less favorable retirement outcomes…

  4. Hi Fritz!

    Great article once again; you are causing ripples in the pond for hopeful retirees to ponder.

    We retired when we chose to – me at age 57 and my DW at 52.
    Started to save for retirement at age 30. Only invested in CD’s at about 7%. There was no 401k back then, I am old (and Wise?). 😉
    We did an early withdrawal from our Roth accounts to purchase a diesel truck and a 35 ft fifth wheel. Best money I have ever spent! With it, we went on to build safe and affordable homes with Habitat. Those $57K were an investment to be purposeful in giving back. The market gained it back within 5 years! Does that make them free?
    We are not afraid to make withdrawals prior to age 72. Our tax strategy to transfer IRA to Roth’s will continue for the next 5 years. Goal is to stay within the 12% bracket. Will be impossible later on in life, I am afraid. (Great problem to have!) A recommendation for your readers is to join the FB group “Taxes in Retirement”. Andy does a lot of good for aspiring retirees that will take fruitful advice – as you do yourself young man!

    BTW, I see us as purposeful and relaxing. I am adept at changing over and then back. 😉

    God’s blessings to all of you, Steve

    1. Steve, thanks for sharing that FB group. I’m also a member in that one and agree they have some great content. Interesting also to see the verification of folks changing between paths (reference my earlier comment). Dunno, though, based on your story, you seem pretty Purposeful to me. Wink.

    2. $57K for the truck AND the 5W? Those were the “good ole days!!” We aren’t retired yet but did spend eight months in a 5-er and it was enjoyable – just too early for us to take full advantage of it as we have caregiving responsibilities, which I agree with other commenters could impact which of the four paths retirees might find themselves. Even if the support of parents is not financial, it does limit you geographically.

      In all of this, though, attitude is SO critical! Metaphors abound – “play the hand you’re dealt,” “play the ball where it lies,” “bloom where you’re planted.” Easier for some than others, but no doubt, family, friends, faith, all give direction and purpose. Good info – looking forward to reading the whole EJ study.

      1. Roger, bought both in 2015…not that long ago. Of course, we paid cash for both. Both were used. One gently, 5er was just 3 years old. Pickup was 7 years old with 127,000 miles. Just broke in for a diesel. 😉

        God speed to all of you….our paths are not perfectly walked…but, if we learn from each step…well, you wake up one day full of wisdom. Ha!

  5. Nice Job Fritz,
    I saw the same report and it was great. I thought about the work of Wes Moss https://www.wesmoss.com/ and his 3.6 core pursuits and how important they are for a successful retirement. Thanks as always for your work.

  6. I wonder how much of this is related to social determinants- legacy wealth (or lack of), access and encouragement for a good education, etc. where do we learn financial literacy, if not from our parents? This is a societal concern.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Your comment above on “where do we learn financial literacy, if not from our parents” brought back youthful memories for me. First, my parents never spoke about finances to me nor invested in the market. I started educating myself on finances after being motivated by my Navy Supply officer when he showed me his personal portfolio. I subscribed first to Money magazine and learned about investing in equities. I took it slowly, investing just $3K per year in 1990. Fidelity Asset manager was my first fund. Realized that was way too conservative for a 30 YO person and progressed from there.

      Never ever too late to learn new things Sandy. I believe anyone that has a real earnest interest can learn any subject in an advanced manner. Our brains are very powerful – having a great need to learn something new every day above Earth really aids in this area. With the internet, vast resources are available to everyone.

      IMHO, by far, giving back with your time, talents and treasures will reward everyone in multiple ways. Your heart will grow softer every time you give.

      God speed to all of you.

      Aloha, Steve

  7. I feel like most of us spend most of our time in one of these boxes but that we also drift into each of the other boxes at times when our circumstances change temporarily. Every retired person I’ve met is on all four of these paths at times though I do believe there is one dominant one for them. On the health issure I’ve been to too many funerals of retired people whose commitment to their health dwarfed mine, Fritz, and I’ve been a lifelong runner, tennis and pickleball player, hiker and walker and am extremely fit for a guy my age. Yet I’ve got an inherited deficiency that has led to four surgeries with a fifth coming up soon. I think we like to tell ourselves that we can avoid health issues by leading healthy lives but the fact is our genetics have just as big a say in our longevity and quality of physical life as do our habits. I volunteer in a half dozen organizations as well as have a number of active sports hobbies. I think on some days I fit the profile of the purposeful pathfinder when I’m consumed with mentoring engineering students or working on the community college budget or helping a senior adult fix their computer or iPad in their home. On others when I’m fishing or playing in the state championship tennis tournament with my teammates I’m a relaxed traditionalist. When I’m facing a dicey surgery I might not survive, I’m feeling more like a challenged yet hopeful or a regretful struggler because my volunteer work helping others or my millions invested can’t assure me I’ll come out of the procedure cured or even alive. But In my case I would have to say I am purposeful half the time, relaxed the other half and only in the challenged or regretful category on rare occasions when life hits me in the face. And that only lasts until I sit back and think about all the things in my life I’m grateful for. And this community of wise and thoughtful people, like you, is one of those. Thought provoking post for sure.

    1. Steve, interesting how many comments have reflecting on “changing paths.” Seems to definitely be a phenomenon. In my own case, I’m Purposeful when home at our mountain cabin working on our various initiatives, but when we’re at our second home in Alabama visiting our granddaughter I’m 100% Relaxed. Also, fair point about the health issues. We can work to improve our situation, but lady luck still plays a strong hand. Thanks for your loyalty to my writing, and your kind comment (wise and thoughtful? I’ll take that with a humble “thank you”).

    2. Steveark,
      You were able to write what I was thinking. Husband and I started saving for retirement in our 20’s. Financially we’re well prepared. Health, family, purpose are mainly great. But occasionally issues occur that cause concern and anxiety. I agree with you, that I think everyone crosses over these paths.

  8. Still early going, but combination of Purposeful Traditionalist and Relaxed Pathfinder 🙂

  9. Great read. Thanks Fritz. I found you from listening to Rock Retirement podcast. Really enjoyed learning from your blogs. I’m 7 to 10 years from retirement and strive to be the Purposeful Pathfinder retiree by the time I retired. My biggest opportunity is connecting with friends cause I don’t do a good job in that category, and yet, I don’t feel I’m missing out since I have enough to do to keep me active and busy even when I finally retire. I keep telling myself I need to make more effort with building friendship but I don’t know why it is so hard for me.

    1. Jenn, happy to hear you found me via Rock Retirement (Hi, Roger!), great podcast! Also, you’re far from alone in struggling to make friends. I suspect you’ll benefit from #14 in 20 Ways To Be Happier In Life, including the link to an article I found helpful on exactly that topic. Kudo’s for thinking about retirement while you still have 7-10 years to go, that planning will serve you well when you cross The Starting Line.

  10. In many ways, I fall into the first group – I started saving heavily early, I seek opportunities of self improvement and volunteering. But I also had an unplanned retirement or as I call it – I accidentally retired. I did leave a corporate job with a pretty nice packaged that helps me over for a year of Americorps service. At the end, I planned to go to work in noon profit sector but like intervened and I moved back in with my mom to help her when it was clear that she couldn’t live alone. Fortunately finances are not a problem for either of us but I know many in the same situation where it severely has financially crippled them – carding for elderly parents.

  11. Great post Fritz. My husband and I started saving in our 20’s and never looked back. (We are 54 and 55 and a couple of years out from retirement–we have a freshman son going into college and want to get further along with his education before we retire. So we are in the “preparing to retire” camp.)

    My husband is a type “B” personality and I see him as a “Relaxed Traditionalist”. As we prepare for retirement, I have been telling him “You need to think about your purpose after retirement.” He is not all that concerned and likes his leisure activities like riding his motorcycle, socializing with motorcycle groups and working on his bikes. He tells me he looks forward to more time to do just that. To me, that would drive me nuts to have no focus (and it fits my personality because I am very much a Type A). Your thought about Type A’s being the “Purposeful Pathfinders” and Type B being the “Relaxed Traditionalists” makes perfect sense and I although I never considered it, I agree with your thoughts on this subject.

    Although my husband probably won’t read this he should “Thank you” because you have changed my thoughts and I won’t worry about him as much not trying to plan for and find a purpose after he retires. It will be more of the same–when he is done with the work day now, he likes to relax. I can see him in retirement doing what has to be done but enjoying his time on the bike and never looking back. And more power to him–to each his own.

    Thanks again for a great article.

  12. Great stuff, like Steve said I think most folks would drift a bit from time to time but be generally anchored in one. I like you fall squarely in the Purposeful Pathfinder. But I really like the “Focused on relaxing and enjoying life.” of the Relaxed Traditionalists. That seems like a great thing to put on a business card, haha

  13. I wonder if, like a lot of things, we’re all likely a comingling of different categories. I see myself as follows:

    Purposeful Pathfinder (75%)
    Challenged yet Hopeful (25%)

    I feel good about the decision I made to retire early, as well as the more purpose filled life I’ve created for myself in retirement. However, I wish I had spent more time when I was younger developing skills that would allow me to be more productive, as opposed to spending so much of my day now figuring things out using Google and/or YouTube. Not complaining (too much), but I likely could have balanced my life a little better the last 5-10 years I was working, although I wouldn’t trade any of this time had it pushed out my retirement day….

    1. Fair point, JR, and a common theme in these comments. I think most of us are, indeed, a blend of categories depending on our daily situations. And, be thankful for Google and YouTube, it’s amazing how much we can learn for no cost. Almost an unlimited menu on the free buffet.

  14. Thank you for a fascinating article. I’m an example of a late starter; while my story below skips some of the background details, it still might give hope to other late starters. I spent my career almost entirely in teaching at low salaries, except for a decade when married and working in small businesses with even lower salaries and no way to save. Happily single again and returning to teaching I was able to contribute only the minimum to my retirement plan accounts until age 48, when I could finally begin to max out contributions to those accounts and throw some extra into a taxable account. I retired last year at age 70 with a $1.7M portfolio that I rolled into Vanguard (IRA and Roth IRA) index funds; I also delayed taking Social Security until age 70. Recovering from the pandemic-exhausting final year of teaching, I’m finishing my first year of retirement as a Relaxed Traditionalist and am now shifting to Purposeful Pathfinder.

    1. 1PF, thanks for sharing how it’s done! No doubt, being a late starter does not rule you out of the race, you just need to run faster in those final years. Kudo’s for your for dealing with that COVID disaster as a 69-year-old teacher, I bet that last year of your career wasn’t much fun. The good news, you crossed The Starting Line in great shape! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. In my pre-retirement planning seminars, I used to end the session with this (paraphrased) quote from John Schaar:

    “The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.”

    Everyone must create their own path to the future, including their path to and through retirement.

    1. “…created first in the mind and will, created next in activity.”

      Great quote, my favorite part is highlighted above. If that’s any indication, I’d bet those seminars were well worth the time. Thanks for helping others achieve a great retirement!

  16. One of your most noteworthy posts to date Fritz! Great summary of some of the key attributes of many retirees and how their decisions throughout life impact their retirement years. What I observe from the groupings listed is a contrast between Purposeful/Relaxed and Challenged/Regretful with retirement income/savings being a big differentiator between the first two and last two groups. Take money worries off the table and people are naturally going to fall more into the categories of Purposeful and Relaxed once retired with many oscillating between the two with some occasional worry about health, family, down markets, etc but not enough worry to move into the worry but hopeful category. People who see the world with a cup half full attitude about life would be less likely to slip into the worry category than those who see it through a glass half empty attitude. Some people who had very high powered/high stressed careers want and need the relaxed lifestyle of traditional retirement and may eventually move more into purposeful as time goes by and vice versus for those who are currently in the purposeful category today. I see the first two as more fluid with the 3rd category actually more fluid with the purposeful category as many people in the hopeful category may take on 2nd careers to help them weather through their financial concerns which will help them not only feel more comfortable with their financial situation but will also provide them more purpose. Thanks for the though provoking post!

  17. I wonder if there is a natural shift to the right in the charts as we age? Perhaps this can be slowed down by being intentional and planning. Since the data in those charts indicates it was based on retirement in years 3-14, I would be very interested to see the data for those in retirement 15 years and beyond. Being a new retiree at age 67, articles like this do encourage me even though I did not have the financial opportunities many did to accumulate larger amounts. We have a plan and it seems to be working.

    1. Good question. I would almost think there’s potential it goes the other way (from right to left), based on my One Retirement Question series with 80+ year-old retirees (all of whom, to my surprise, cited Purpose as being the most important thing to figure out for a great retirement). Congratulations on your recent crossing of The Starting Line!

  18. I think there is a lot behind the scenes in the last 2 groups. There certainly was for me. I’m in the challenged yet hopeful. We did everything right, started saving a great deal just after grad school. Life kicked us in the teeth. Not my fault. Had to roll with the punches. Spouse died suddenly from complications of surgery at age 53. Significant ongoing chronic health issues for 2 children, again not their fault but is their problem. Wiped us out for almost 10 years. Only able to work part time juggling single parenthood and a zillion doctor’s appointments and several prolonged hospitalizations. Back on my feet mostly at age 46 and started saving again. It seems a little callous to say this is just poor planning on the part of the latter 2 groups. I also suspect that many women who stepped out to rear children or care for aging parents also fall into the last 2 categories.

    1. Karen, I’m sincerely sorry for the bad cards you’ve been dealt. I can’t imagine losing a spouse unexpectedly at such a young age, not to mention battling children’s health issues at the same time. I apologize if my words sounded callous, was hoping folks would realize my empathy when I wrote “I recognize there are many who have been “dealt a bad hand” in life…” You’re clearly an example from that camp, and I applaud you for landing on your feet.

  19. Relaxed traditionalists here. We retired 7 years ago. We were actually surprised we could retire slightly early at 61. We just put 20 %in our 401ks target funds. When our jobs changed for the worse..we were surprised. With a little planning we retired within 4 months. Had a list of activities, but we really haven’t found time for them. We basically travel 3 to 4 mo’s per year. Wake up most days without a plan. But each day seems to be full. My husband seems to be out helping other people all the time. We’re able to have to enjoy our grandkids. Ps no debt really paid off.

    1. “Had a list of activities, but we really haven’t found time for them.”

      I can relate. As I wrote in the year before I retired, my wife and I filled a bucket with ideas of things we were going to do in retirement. 4 years in, we’ve been so busy I think we’ve only pulled 3 scraps out of that bucket. Still have it, hoping someday. For now, like you, we’re savoring time with our granddaughter, enjoying the Freedom For Fido work, traveling around in our RV and writing when time permits. Finally, I agree “no debt” is the right way to enter retirement for most, if possible.

  20. Thank you Fritz for the post(s). I’m 63 yo teacher, going to do one more year part time, lucky to be married to the best person, healthy, love my family and have a pension + portfolio (even with down market we’ll be okay). AND I’m nervous because I don’t have a plan/project/purpose for this time next year when I stop teaching. Sure, there’s travel and volunteering, etc, but I really want to find a purpose that 1) contributes 2) uses my skill set (bilingual) 3) with group of people 4) excites me. I’m going to try to develop / search for that over the next year. I don’t want to sit around! So I guess I’m a wannabe Purposeful Pathfinder 🙂 Ben

    1. “I’m nervous because I don’t have a plan/project/purpose for this time next year when I stop teaching.”

      As you should be, Ben. I was in the same place, but the very fact that you’re nervous about it is a great sign. It means you’re thinking about the “soft” stuff while you still have a year left. As I’ve written numerous times, that’s a great sign for your potential retirement. Keep thinking, and follow wherever your curiousity leads you. You’ll be a Purposeful Pathfinder in no time…

    1. I love that moniker “Retirement Prophet” for Fritz. I call him the “Retirement Whisperer.”

  21. Fritz, I love reading your follower’s posts! This may be one of your most commented on.

    Going to an Irish Festival this weekend in my hometown. They have Irish rock and dance groups, a country singer, and a rock and roll band to end it. Two nights of music and libations. 🙂 Bands from Chicago play in a little IA town of 500 population. Still boggles my mind!

    Happy memories made this weekend…this is my wish for all of you. Time and people are precious.

    Rever them both, after our Father. Love to all, Steve

  22. Sad to see how many fall into the last category “regretful “. Unfortunately I think my 81 yr mother falls here. While lack of planning played a role, she was sick with a debilitating disease most of her life,divorced and never remarried and relatively low paying job that she worked into her 70s. I’ve ended up needing to include her in my financial planning. While she has some retirement income it’s basically just SS so we need to help her.

  23. Uncontrollable events, alter purposeful planning. During the past four years, as a fully retired 71 year old male, I have traveled on each of the four paths for various amounts of time. Expect change to be a constant!

  24. Great post Fritz, I always enjoy reading your work. Im sure that to most of our friends I would appear to fall into the relaxed traditionalist camp, but I see myself as in the purposeful pathfinder group. My focus in retirement has been on making my wife’s life as good as it can be. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few year’s ago and after we got that news I retired about 6 weeks later. Her doctors advice to me was ‘if there are things in life that you want to do, you better do them now’. That was great advice for me that I took to heart. So, our retirement was unexpected, but definitely the right move for us to make at the time. We have been fortunate to have had the time we have already enjoyed together, and we look forward to as much more as we get, however long that is. Retirement for me is nothing like I expected, but life is constantly changing and it’s best if you embrace it and make it the best you can. We both believe we have been blessed to be fortunate enough to have had the time together that we have enjoyed so far. So, I suppose everyone’s purposeful purpose is different, I was lucky enough to realize mine was right next to me all the time while I still had the time to show my appreciation for it.

    Life is good, keep writing, you’re the best!

    1. Your story is a real example of why getting out as early as possible and enjoying whatever time we have is a blessing. I’m thankful you’ve had these years with your wife, hoping you get many more. I love your line that your Purpose “was right next to me all the time.” Great reminder to treasure our time with the ones we love. Thanks for your loyalty to my work, much appreciated.

  25. Thank you for your words!!!!! After one year in retirement, its time to move to the next step!!! I guess I am not ready to be responsible again. I still want to be free to travel anywhere in the US and for however long I want. I just have to find things I can do from the road. Blog, podcast, video, online coaching, music creation and discussion. I have done all these things before and all for myself and money. Maybe do these things for others and not for the American dollar? But first things first….. Be flexible and…………………………………….. do this step.

    Dedicating your time to discovering your Purpose is the best use of your time in retirement.

    1. David, with only one year behind you since you crossed The Starting Line, there’s plenty of time ahead to worry about finding that Purpose. If you’re enjoying the nomadic life, go for it. Not yet time to be responsible again, until YOU decide that the time is right for you. Ah, the joy of retirement!

      1. Thank you sir! Currently in San Antonio Texas. Will be in Florida by October.

  26. Thanks for sharing this very interesting study and your thoughtful takeaways. I’m 60 year old looking forward to retiring next year. While I’m not certain which of the four paths (or a fifth one) I’ll be on at this point, I suspect I’ll be either a Purposeful Pathfinder or a Relaxed Traditionalist, or a cross between the two. Incidentally, I also started to save at 34.

  27. Thank you for reviewing the study and posting your observations. I’m really grateful for the education and continual self improvement that you provide:)

    My path has attributes of a Purposeful Pathfinder and Relaxed Traditionalist. So maybe I’m a Relaxed pathfinder or a Purposeful traditionalist. HAHA.

    I’m still pondering a Purpose that really resonates with me. I know it will be volunteer work just not sure what that is yet. I really like the idea of raising puppies to be service dogs, but not ready for that full time commitment yet. I just retired a month ago and enjoying my downtime in the summer. Taking pickle ball lessons and playing that a lot.

  28. I’m 40, and found this site a few years back. Been saving in a 401k since 23. My wife has been putting into an IRA since 18. House will be paid off in 17 more months. Articles like this ensure we are doing the right thing. I’ll keep driving my 10 old, paid off vehicle until it needs replacement. My biggest decision, I hope, is what part time job do I take to stay busy once I am ready to leave the full-time working industry.

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