How to Tell When It Is Time To Retire

If you find yourself stuck in the day-to-day grind of making a living, thoughts of retirement can be sweet. Imagine leaving behind the stress of the job and pursuing whatever interests you. You could start each day only when you are good and ready to. Picture the ability to set a pace that fits your mood and state of mind for that particular day. One day you may awake feeling like going at a mellow pace while the next you are energized and ready to check things off your to-do list. When you retire, you make the rules.

The move to retirement is a big decision, and it’s difficult to know when you are truly ready to begin your second act. You obviously need to have your financial affairs in order. Unless you plan to work in some capacity, you need to have enough saved to support the lifestyle you hope for over the next 20 or more years. True financial security is difficult to achieve given the volatility of the stock market and the unpredictable nature of our health.

And even if you do have a sufficient nest egg saved, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right time to retire. It is just as important to prepare for the non-financial aspects of your future. Here are some signs it may be time to consider retirement.

Your job takes more than it gives. Some people are fortunate to find themselves engaged in a career they enjoy. Each new day is filled with promise and challenge. There’s no reason to leave simply because you reach a certain age. But other people find themselves exhausted from a long and demanding career and tired of the routine they must drag themselves through every day. When a job is just about the paycheck the days can seem without end. Add in a few health problems and every day can feel like an uphill battle. In these situations you need to weigh the costs against the benefits of staying. The additionalDSC_0429 dollars earned are not always worth it. Staying at a demanding career beyond what makes sense could adversely impact your ability to enjoy retirement.

You cannot wait to explore new horizons. While some people find it challenging to stay busy in retired life, others cannot wait to pursue a myriad of interests. Freed from the endless hours spent at the office, they are ready to do what they enjoy most. Retired days offer the opportunity to revisit old hobbies and explore new interests. To-do lists can be filled with interesting and meaningful activities. Retirement can be a time to give yourself free reign to do as you please and pursue whatever interest sparks your curiosity.

You want to explore a different career path. Some people are happiest when they are on the job. They enjoy being part of a team, making a contribution and facing new challenges. For them, staying part of the working world is how they choose to live their second act. If you want to continue working beyond retirement age, this stage in life may allow you to explore a different career that is more in line with what you care about most or find most satisfying. If you could be doing whatever job you wanted, what would it be? Retirement could be your chance to fill in the blank.

You want to live an active retirement. You will never be younger than you are today. Now is the time to take advantage of your relative youthfulness. In later years, activities like travelling can become more challenging. If you want to live an active retirement, it’s a good idea to tackle the most difficult activities while you are still able to. Take advantage of being as young as you will ever be.

From my weekly blog for US News & World

Retirement is About Learning as You Go

Chances are you will not be fortunate enough to predict with great accuracy where life will take you once you retire. More likely you will live through twists and turns, adventures and mishaps, ups and downs as you navigate the retirement jungle. You may think you have it all figured out, that you are more than ready to jump into your second act. After all how difficult can it be? Just leave the stresses of the job behind and focus on doing what you really want. Step up to submerge yourself in some serious rest and relaxation. Now that you have arrived, just let the fun begin.

For the first year or so as you begin to chart your retirement course, it can seem pretty easy to engage and enjoy yourself just as you hoped. Who doesn’t enter retired life without a list of important to-dos, a conglomeration of everything you have never had time for until now. Long neglected hobbies crying out for attention can now be rejuvenated. You are finally able to explore those trips to places that until now you have only read of. And simple relaxation that a busy career stubbornly refused to allow can be enjoyed. What a life!

Then as your second act progresses and you start living your day to day retired lifestyle, you may discover you overlooked a little something here or did not count on a bit of that there. Perhaps you realize those numerous hobbies you planned to revisit are not quite as interesting as you remember. Maybe all that freedom to do whatever you want leaves you a bit at odds. After all, 20 years is a long time to entertain yourself. And since we are such a diverse bunch of retirement travelers, there is no one roadmap to direct us exactly where to go.

I have found over my brief retirement that not everything I expected turns out as I thought. But I have also discovered that I can adapt. I am beginning to understand retirement is an ongoing education and I am learning something new all the time.

Rediscover what you really enjoy

A demanding career can easily take control of our lives. The intense focus and constant demands can have the unfortunate effect of numbing us to having a good time. With nothing but work on our minds, we forget what it is that we really enjoy doing. Who has time for fun when there are only so many hours in the day? Retirement can be our chance to take another look at what really lights our individual fires. We no longer have to only img_2151.jpgdream of the ever illusive free time – it is now ours for the taking.

As a retiree I uncovered a previously unknown interest in history. Now if you knew me as a student you would understand what a major shift this is. I wanted nothing to do with things of yore. History and geography had no place in my busy life. But this is different. Perhaps it is the fact that this time around I can study what I want rather than being force fed an inflexible diet of core requirements. I discovered a passion for French Impressionist Art as well as all things Parisian. I love the variety of the unique neighborhoods inhabited by novel worthy characters scattered throughout the snail shell configuration of her 20 arrondissements. While visiting, I became the flaneur I had read of, wandering the streets with no particular destination in mind, enjoying what I found around each new corner. Back home I attend on online courses introducing the cast of characters and social environment that made up the ever so interesting eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in France. A key attraction for me is the freedom to pursue whatever avenue I find most interesting for as long as I want. If I get bored or distracted at any point, I simply exit with no exam required to justify my existence.

Accept it is okay to slow down a bit

I have always been active working out, hiking, trying new things, pursuing various hobbies and just generally not sitting still for long. Even as a youngster as soon as my homework was done I was out the door to play whatever chosen sport du jour with the neighborhood kids. Now in retirement I am learning it is okay to remain stationary for more than ten minutes. I appreciate my newfound freedom to read a book during the middle of the day. Should I feel a bit sleepy after lunch I feel no guilt reclining on the couch next to the cats happily emulating their napping prowess. I am learning – reluctantly – to hand over the heavy grocery bag to younger family members (even though I could still carry it just fine…really…). When we travel, rather than tear up the town scurrying to see every site imaginable we appreciate a quite break at a café or park bench. And you know what? By slowing down I am actually able to better appreciate all that is going on around me.

Learn you do not have to stay perpetually busy

When I first retired I felt guilty if I was not doing something “worthwhile” every spare moment. Totally accustomed to performing at 110 percent all the time, the thought of doing nothing took some getting used to. I am learning that doing nothing hold its own wonder. Without every moment laid out ahead of time I can follow my own natural rhythms. I am a morning person and so look forward to getting out of bed and on with the day. But should I feel the urge to spend an additional hour in bed that is exactly what I do. And I do it without feeling guilty. It may sound easy but until you accept that you have real control of how you choose to spend your time, that gnawing guilt can hang out on the periphery.

The journey continues as does my ongoing education. I am realizing that I did not learn it all in school and there is really no age at which learning is over. With so many interesting avenues to explore and the freedom to engage, it appears that much of my education is just beginning.