Choosing the Right Retirement APP…Activities, People & Places


This blog is about making choices about activities, people, and places to create a form of retirement called a portfolio life. A portfolio life is the version of retirement I have advocated for the past two decades in my career transition practice. Irish economist Charles Handy coined this term in his 1989 book, The Age of Unreason. Handy describes this life as “A portfolio of activities – some we do for money, some for interest, some for pleasure, some for a cause…the different bits fit together to form a balanced whole…greater than the parts.”

The acronym APP will make it easier for you to remember that activities, people, and places are three key considerations in the portfolio life elements listed below. Click to link to the blog that describes each element in detail.

1) Working in the Form You Want
2) Learning and Self-Development
3) Giving Back
4) Healthy Living (Mind, Body, Spirit, Financial and Relationship Health)
5) Enjoying Personal Pursuits and Leisure

As you consider each of these five elements in your own version of a portfolio life, I encourage you to vet opportunities by asking questions about which activities, people, and places will be the best fit for you in your retirement.

As you are prioritizing, I suggest you put people first, activities second, and places third. Why do I recommend this strategy? When the right people are involved, the other two factors will tend to work themselves out over time. If the people factor is not right, activities will tend to be less satisfying, and the places won’t make up for the mismatch with the people involved. While many choices involve satisfying solo activities in places we enjoy independently, we are, however, social creatures. It is in our nature to seek satisfying human connections, and engage in activities in the places that foster deeper friendships and bonds with those who fit our preferences and needs.

My thinking about people prioritization has been reinforced by a TED talk regarding an eighty-year longitudinal study conducted by Harvard University. In this twelve-minute video you will hear the executive director reveal that good health, longevity and happiness are most highly correlated with good relationships. I strongly encourage you to watch this video, and then consider your beliefs and behaviors. There is a good chance you will place a higher value on relationships after you consider the many benefits of doing so. That is how this video has impacted me.

If you would like to build your own version of a portfolio life, I encourage you to do the exercises included in my blog, Creating Your Future, Guided by Your Past. The questions below, which help you build each of the five portfolio life elements, are found in exercise four of this blog.

1) What is working, or has worked in the past, that you want to continue?
2) What would you like to change?
3) What are the activities, people, and places under consideration for this portfolio life element?
4) Who are your connections inside, and outside, of your network, that can help you build upon and investigate possibilities and achieve your goals?
5) What small experiments can you try to determine if these possibilities will fit you and be sustainable?

As you undertake this exercise, discuss your findings with others you trust. Looking back, making plans, and taking action can generate strong feelings. Don’t go it alone.

When you begin to take action you may feel awkward in new situations, especially when new insights and progress take on an unfamiliar shape. Without the support and encouragement of others, you may retreat from growth opportunities, or misinterpret the responses of others. Who do you know that would serve this role for you? Consider a trustworthy advisor or friends who have successfully transitioned into their own version of a portfolio life.


If you have retired, or are approaching retirement, I encourage you to investigate each of the five portfolio life elements found in my blog series. Do the exercises I have recommended. Focus especially on the activities, people, and places under consideration in your own version of a portfolio life. Always remember how important the people choices are as you consider your options. Get the people part right, and let the rest follow.