Retirement used to mean an individual stopped working and spent the rest of their days bowling, golfing, traveling, and doing other fun things. Of course, life-spans have increased over the decades. Now a truly retired life-style requires personal financial resources beyond Social Security benefits, such as savings, pensions, investments, or a rich relative.
For a fortunate few traditional retirement is still possible, but most individuals either work for someone else well-into their senior years or choose to switch to a self-employed career. If you do both, you are not retired.
When & Why to Retire
Writing full-time has always been a goal for me. When I was in my early 40s, I decided to make a clean break—quit a well-paying job, sell everything, go on the road, and write the great American novel. I actually deluded myself with this track for a year or two. But survival soon required a steady-paying job. During the next decade or so, I finished a couple novels (unpublished), started another, and dabbled in the art part-time. In other words, I compromised. And then …
I was unexpectedly promoted when my boss left the company. More responsibilities, longer hours, and less energy at the end of the day moved my writing career back to my wish list.
As I neared the Federal Government’s standard for early retirement—62 years young—I began to think seriously about taking the plunge. Although tempting, for various reasons, I decided it would be another premature move for me.
For me to write full-time I needed financial security and I wasn’t there yet. I was committed to my “why” (writing) but wanted to select “when” in a logical fashion, thus, a “to do” list:
- Complete estate planning
- Develop long-term budget considering options such as down-sizing and relocating
- Pay off home mortgage and car loan & don’t incur new debt
- Research Medicare/Social Security and determine best time to apply for benefits
- Give boss plenty of notice (turned out to be 2-years)
- Leave job in positive manner—document job specifics, find and train replacement, and schedule departure at an appropriate time, in particular, not at end-of-year
- Say “Good bye”
Settling Into Retirement
My first activities following my departure included doing things I had put off for years:
- “Deep cleaning” each room in the house (waiting to do the garage months later)
- Completing repair/improvement projects in the house and yard
- Resuming old and starting new writing projects
Adjusting to the New Lifestyle
Whether you start a new career or just do fun stuff, there will be a transition period. Here’s a list of suggestions and things to remember:
- Complete house and yard chores ANY day of the week, not just Saturday or Sunday.
- Don’t try to accomplish major projects, e.g., a vegetable garden, in one session.
- Set up a budget based on new “salary.” In particular, avoid knee-jerk purchases. “I want” does not necessarily equal “I can afford” anymore. And, even if you have a nice savings and pension, your funds must be stretched through the rest of your life—hopefully many years.
- Go to bed when you want and get up when you awaken naturally. Use alarm clocks sparingly and only if necessary for special event.
- Exercise more and eat less and healthier.
- Volunteer in your community. A few hours per week can help the organization and be rewarding for you as well.
- Join a dance club, book club, bowling league, travel club, or other social group. There are people out there who can’t wait to meet you.