The four ‘M’s of retirement

Regular columnist and Retirement Coach Dr Jon Glass discusses how to create a very personalised checklist to make the most of your retirement years.

By Dr Jon Glass - 3 min 44 sec read

A little about Jon

Dr Jon Glass runs retirement coaching business 64PLUS (The opinions expressed are those of Dr Jon Glass and 64Plus. Russell Investments does not endorse, and is not accountable for, any views expressed by Dr Jon Glass or 64Plus.) He coaches individuals to a clearer understanding of the issues they will face post work. He has studied counselling and coaching at The Australian College of Applied Psychology and The Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.

In the first article in this series, we talked about the potential for retirement to last 10,000 days, and therefore how important it is to address your personal needs and wants when contemplating a long life ahead. 

That article posed the question: Is retirement all that it’s cracked up to be? My answer to that question made it clear that there is a lot more to having a successful retirement than simply finishing work. 

You might well ask if there is a problem here. Surely, if you are about to retire you could look for a checklist for retirement? In other words, try to locate a long list of ‘things to do’ like with a menu in a restaurant, then choose what you want to do and move on. Too easy! 

Checklists not enough  

Let’s try an analogy to argue against this checklist. Imagine you are looking to buy a house. You could begin by giving the real estate agent a list of desirable features. For example, specifying the preferred locations and that you want: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage and a garden. Then would you really look to buy the first house that the agent sends you in an email? 

I don’t think so. Why do I say that? Because for a house to become a home it needs to be more than a floor plan. It’s equally the case that a fulfilling retirement demands much more than a checklist. 

Let’s not give up so quickly. Wouldn't life be simple if such a checklist existed? Yes, but I don't believe it can for at least these three reasons: 

  • A universal checklist that describes 30 years of retired life is always going to be too simplistic in its attempt to capture ALL people in one framework. 
  • It may play into the desires of certain commercial operators (for example, the tourist industry luring you into a trip on The Ghan) that want to encourage you to buy into their business model (and why shouldn’t they?). 
  • It may look like fun to play golf every day but, once you start to engage daily with the game, you might find that it doesn’t give you the fulfilment you dreamed of. 

Design your own four ‘M’ plan  

If you now agree that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all retirement checklist, then what is to be done? 

What about engaging with a process that generates your own, highly personalised checklist? Doesn’t that sound like a better approach? To this end, in my role as a retirement coach, I’ve developed a simple four ‘M’ process: 


What will you miss from your work life?

How will you feel if your retirement calendar is full of empty days?

The big one; what is your purpose in retirement?

How can you implement your purpose?

It takes time to work through these four ‘M’s. But if that all sounds very abstract, let’s illustrate the process using an example of a member called Robert (although it could be Roberta since the process applies to everyone). 

Consider getting help  

Robert is about to retire but is fearful of the huge amount of free time ahead. It scares him. Robert is self-aware so he knows that his job gives him a routine, a reason to get up each day, a circle of friends at work and a level of praise for the good work he does. These aspects are all essential to his sense of self, therefore he worries that he won’t be able to replace them in retirement. 

Of course, in his retirement he could choose to wake up each morning, turn on the TV and wait to see what sort of day lies in waiting. My experience is that very few people would consider that a satisfactory retired lifestyle. If Robert decided to engage a retirement coach what would happen next? 

The coach would work with Robert to hear about his work life and the emotions that supported it. A considerable amount of time would then be devoted to understanding Robert’s needs and wants in his retirement. This covers the first three ‘M’s (Missing, Measurement and Meaning). By now Robert will have a clear sense of how he will use his time in retirement. It could be charitable work, music, carpentry, mentoring or grandparenting. Any, or all, of these and many more. 

This would lead to the fourth ‘M’ – Mastery, which covers the practical aspects of implementation. For it’s not enough to have ideas about retired life, those ideas need to be fleshed out. For example, if Robert is keen to spend some days of his week on charitable work then he needs to

  • research and then choose charities that fit with his values 
  • work with his coach to discover obstacles to overcome. 

To sum up, a fulfilling emotional retirement is within everyone’s grasp. But as we are talking about a potential for 10,000 days in retirement, isn’t it now clear that a little planning can go a long way? 


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of Russell Investments. 

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