Perspective & Retirement Timing

Trading the tie for a golf club… Switching from conversing with colleagues to playing with grandkids… Choosing gardening over sitting in a conference room… Reading books instead of emails… Traveling overseas rather than to the office…

All of these are viable retirement goals …but the wide-ranging question is: When is the right time to trade the career for the other end of the life stick?

Many will immediately respond to that question with “Easy…it’s time to retire when I have the financial means or when my FA says the time is right.” Is that the one and only answer?

While there is no right, wrong, or scientifically proven “correct” answer, retirement might weigh more heavily (or equally as much) on an abundance of other factors like physical ability, mental capacity, and spirituality, to name only a few.

It’s so easy to become so grossly engrained in our career and daily grind that we forget there is certainly life and purpose outside of the workplace. In his chat with Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman states emphatically that he should’ve left “Late Night” ten years earlier. He claims that he stayed, because he was self-absorbed, only caring about “me”. Now he has some significant regrets for not peering through the other side of the glass.

In one of my favorite commencement addresses (Villanova University, June 2000), Anna Quindlen shared this “Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office.” Don’t ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

The consideration here is this: Maybe we should retire when the time is personally right for each of us? If we consider the segments of life beyond our financial status, it is possible that each of us might determine the retirement time that is very personal and uniquely appropriate. Take the time to reflect deeply on how this looks and feels for YOU…whether that be through journaling, meditation, or escaping to a place of solace to think deeply. Clarify for yourself where you are and where you will be or want to be. There are experts who suggest that some people may need a break or “sabbatical” of sorts, prior to retirement, just to clear their mind enough to fully envision what the next phase of life might look or feel like.

Beyond financial considerations (because, yes, even a dummy knows that money is and will be important) ask yourself these questions:

*What is my physical condition? Do I want to do things after retirement that require physical stamina, lots of walking, bending down, ease in getting around?

*Where am I mentally? Do I still love what I do and am I as happy and effective as I was 10 years ago in the workplace? 5 years ago? Is my mind sharp in a way that will still allow me to do and contribute to the things of my choosing after retirement?

*What about spiritually and emotional intelligence? Am I ready to let go of one phase and embrace another? Am I ready to explore passions and interests that I maybe did not realize existed? These would be things of the soul…not the brain…but the untamed spirit deep inside…the things that comfort and feed your very existence. Do I feel called to develop and strengthen relationships…to focus more intently on human connection?

*What do I want to contribute? Do I desire to give back during this time in my life? What does that piece look like? Are my intentions to gift my community or world in the financial sense? Maybe I already have, and I want to do more? Maybe, like Letterman, I’d like to give of myself and of my time (he is now giving considerable time and energy to Habitat for Humanity)? What kind of physical/mental strength are necessary for these endeavors? Is this something that will be fulfilling to me?\

There again, it’s all about embracing what IS to be. John O’Leary emphasizes “the best is yet to be”. It’s determining what we are retiring “to” and not what we are retiring “from”. It’s knowing in our hearts and minds, because we have created the opportunity to thoughtfully evaluate for ourselves, that we are taking a step towards something that we will eventually value just as much or more as that which we have left behind.