Taken from my new book I Want To Retire!
I want to retire! I am done with this career thing and more than ready to take a look at what life has to offer beyond work. It has been a good run but enough is enough and I need to get out while I am still young enough to enjoy my second act. I am ready to commence doing what I really want to do for as long as I choose to do it. I hope that retirement will be my moment to focus on what I am most passionate about, what inspires me, what excites me, what turns me on, and what makes me want to jump out of bed to start the day. It will also be my time to step back from the hectic and try my hand at a more peaceful relaxing existence. I am so ready to retire.
Many of us have likely entertained similar thoughts. And if you are middle age or beyond it is even possible your focus borders on the obsessive. Does the possibility of freedom to pursue your personal passions and pleasures tempt you to your very core? Do you find yourself expectantly hoping for that day when you will finally retire from the working world to your own personal nirvana? If you have been caught up in your career with its many demands over these many years, the dream of escaping to retirement may be the single most important thing that kept you going through the hard times.
The good news is if you can commit yourself to doing the ever important planning and preparation for the retirement life you want to live, there is no reason you – Mr. or Ms. Retiree to Be – should not be able to experience just that scenario. But if you want to arrive on schedule ready to roll, it is never too early to begin your preparations.
The ideal and very personal retirement life we ultimately live will be different for each of us. There is no cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all model guaranteed to lead us to and guide us through a fulfilling retirement. Each of us is driven by different motivations and our own distinct personal passions. A wide range of variables and life experiences have combined over the course of our lives to make us into the being that we are, for better or worse. And because of those variations we face the reality that though we may seek a common goal of living a happy retired life, the final definition of that happiness can differ from person to person. My retirement Shangri la may be nothing like the vision of your perfect post-work paradise. Likewise, what I need to do to realize my personal retirement bliss may be nowhere near what you require to achieve the same. There is no absolute right or wrong way to live retirement. In the end we need to each discover those essential ingredients that will make up our personal fulfilling retirement and plot a course to navigate successfully to its shore.
How many of us have given any meaningful thought to our pending retirement? Beyond some vague concept of a life after work we don’t tend to overly concern ourselves with the details. Until recently, I had not honestly contemplated my exit from the working world beyond occasionally imagining myself sitting on a sunny beach, cocktail in hand while I listen to the calming waves, reveling in my new freedom and the knowledge that there was absolutely nothing I had to be doing. And isn’t that the way many think of retirement? Don’t we typically view our second act as more of an escape from rather than a journey to?
I think that many of us assume that somehow it will all work out only to discover we are wrong. You need to prepare for retirement just as you do any other major step in your life. Just like the reluctant retiree, we have to learn on the job if you will. I think it is important to be open to the possibilities rather than focusing on the limitations. You do have some choices if you keep your mind open.
For most of us the tremendous demands of daily life from bill paying to family raising, from problem solving to nest egg building suck up all our energy. It is not too surprising that the focus remains on here and now rather than what our future may hold. Yet if we let life continue to pass us by without taking the necessary steps to prepare, if we expect to just suddenly arrive in retirement where everything will take care of itself, we may find ourselves sadly mistaken.
How many of us can honestly say that we have taken steps to plan and prepare for retirement? What have we done to understand and address the many variables that will mix and match into that life we will realize beyond work? I would venture to say that most of us think of retirement as off in the distance, somewhere down the road, nothing to worry about right now. We are still young and have time – retirement is for old people. But have you looked in the mirror recently? The clock keeps ticking and before we know it we are looking back on more years than we foresee going forward. For those who will retire at age sixty five, retirement can extend twenty or thirty years. If we hope to fill those years with a meaningful and fulfilling life the sooner we start preparing ourselves the better. In my own case I realized that outside of regularly contributing to my 401k plan I had made no concrete preparation for retirement. I was just as guilty as anyone of not looking ahead. I was just as guilty of not preparing myself for the retiree I would be. And if I continued down this path, I risk potentially ending up in just as much trouble as others who follow a similar course.
My advice is to plan, plan, plan for everything, and then realize you have no idea what is going to happen and that is OK. Plans are meant to evolve, be discarded, and replaced with other plans. Your retirement will be like a blank canvas. You’ll buy all the paints and brushes but will have no idea what it will look like until you start applying the paint.