By Ida Abbott

This is not your usual book about transitions or the next stage of life. Applying principles of design thinking, Ida Abbott urges people to think broadly and creatively about the many aspects of retirement after a busy career and to be intentional in figuring out their next steps. Part philosophy, part career guide, and part trusted friend who asks hard questions, the Guidebook challenges readers to figure out who they are now, on the cusp of retirement, and what is important to them in the years to come.

Critical to a full appreciation of this approach is a commitment to the time required to respond thoughtfully to the Guidebook’s questions. Many of us who have been through it are all too familiar with the tendency to answer the question “what do you do?” with a reference to what we once did. Typifying the mindset that pervades her writing, Abbott suggests that soon-to-be-retirees reframe their exploration with excitement (“I am completely changing my life”) even if they don’t know what those changes might be.

The Guidebook continues its out-of-the-box methods by suggesting that readers use techniques like mind mapping – offering examples and work pages in the book to complete the exercise – while at the same time relieving the pressure to have an answer to all the questions by putting out the option of a “Golden Gap Year” to consider the future. The Guidebook is hard-headed about how to make a successful transition, particularly for those in professional fields, and the importance of financial planning, while generous in its recommendation of taking ample time (again with written exercises) for reflection and thought about who you are and how you got there.

Perhaps the most helpful part of the Guidebook is its urging that readers think hard about what their day-to-day life will actually look like during retirement, quoting Annie Dillard (“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”). Health and fitness, relationships, friendships, spirituality, and where to live are just some of the issues for which the book provides exercises and room for exploration. None of this, the Guidebook makes clear, is something that anyone need do alone or commit to without exploration – a “personal advisory team” and, if possible, taking the time to try out your ideas are all part of a designed retirement. The book’s appendix contains helpful resources and additional information.

This book was recommended by Susan Nash, Consulting Research Scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity.