Gordon Powers // Gordon Powers

A great many Canadians will retire this year, many with reluctance, a few with dread.

And while money is always a concern, it's generally not their biggest worry. Most can remember a time when they had a lot less to work with and managed to survive just fine.

"What do I do now?" is the question that I've heard the most over the years. My usual answer: Whatever you want.

Until retirement, most people's lives are defined by their trades or careers. Decisions are made, goals achieved, when suddenly the word in the box marked occupation is no longer a noun but an adjective: "Retired."

By devaluing experience and setting great store in physical strength, dexterity, adaptability and the ability to come up with new ideas, we tend to define productivity in ways that almost automatically exclude those who've been at things for a long time.

That's crazy. And there's no reason for you to buy into it at all, particularly if you have enough time left to plan your future. You may have to leave your job but you don't have to quit working.

Very few retirees start a second career purely for the money, maintains Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. Instead, they're often looking for a chance to work directly with people after careers that were more impersonal.

And many Canadians plan on doing just. More than two-thirds of us plan to work during retirement, either to remain mentally and socially active, or out of financial necessity, according to a recent Scotiabank survey.

While they may talk a good game, though, people see mostly problems when looking toward retirement.

Couples worry about the stress of where each wants to live, being suddenly thrown together after all these years, reconnecting with adult children, the financial problems caused by reduced income and inflation, and a shrinking social sphere.

But, most unnerving of all, there's the problem of idleness. How will they fill the hours that were so heavily occupied by obligations for the past 35 years?

Whatever you do, be prepared to start again, says Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains, a "time to reinvent yourself" resource center on all things retirement-related. And don't let a lack of funds slow you down.