top of page

What are ‘Transferable Skills’ for an Active Retirement Lifestyle?

As educators in a university, we talk endlessly about the need to ensure our students leave their degree program with ‘transferable’ skills. Often we are referring to things like communication or teamwork skills, but also problem-solving or time management skills. Anna Wanka, a retirement researcher, suggests that the skills and abilities we acquire throughout our life are among those most necessary for living an active life in retirement. This idea is similar to the notion of ‘mastery’ I talked about in my last post, with the idea that the more people experience a sense of mastery the more confident and prepared they are to take next steps into their retirement life.

Wanka compared ‘time use’ diaries completed by people aged 55+ who were working and not working and created four lifestyle ‘profiles’ to represent how people in her study shifted their time use. These profiles were:

  1. a passive leisure lifestyle, focused most on personal activities like sleeping and media (TV and internet) use;

  2. an active leisure lifestyle, that included social activities in different locations, travel, but also limited media use or housework;

  3. a paid work-centred lifestyle, made up mostly of people who were self-employed and continued to work past typical retirement age; and

  4. a housework-centred lifestyle, that included some paid work.

In the study, there were equal numbers of people working and not working in the ‘active leisure’ and ‘household-centered’ clusters.

To me, there are two things really important from this study’s findings:

  • First, these findings suggest that the lifestyle patterns that people create for themselves while working continue into retirement. In other words, while work may stop in retirement, the lifestyle we’ve created for ourselves continues. So… if you are not living the lifestyle that you want to bring with you into your retirement, then now is the time to start!

  • Second, the study participants who maintained more ‘active’ lifestyles had figured out how to effectively balance work and home responsibilities and how to manage their daily routines to incorporate other things like social or leisure activities while working. In other words, they had developed transferable skills like planning, problem-solving, time management or organizational skills that enabled them to incorporate many different things into their busy days while working and this continued post-retirement.

I was speaking with my partner John, who owns a small company, about this idea of ‘transferable skills’ that set us up for transitioning to a more active lifestyle in retirement. He gave the example of planning an annual golf tournament with his buddies. For him, planning, organizing, coordinating, scheduling is second nature; it’s what he needs to do every day of his work life so these skills easily transfer over to planning his leisure life outside of work. For others, this kind of planning is overwhelming.

So, what does this mean for you? Thinking about your own retirement lifestyle planning:

  • What are transferable skills that you have developed through your lifetime that you can now build on in your retirement life? Note: if you’re not really sure, check out the personal strengths self-assessment tool on the Need to Know page.

  • Even though you might not have had the chance to develop these transferable skills earlier in life, it is never too late! Consider taking on a ‘project’ of some kind (e.g., planning a trip or renovation) that will push you to hone your own planning, problem-solving and organization skills.


Wanka, A. (2020). Continuity and change in the transition to retirement: How time allocation, leisure practices and lifestyles evolve when work vanishes in later life. European Journal of Ageing, 17, 81-93.

bottom of page