Having just celebrated another birthday, I continue the march toward my own retirement date. As it draws a little closer each year, and given my role at Wells Fargo in retirement, this next phase of my life is occupying more and more of my thoughts when things are quiet. I am by nature a saver, so the financial aspects of retiring actually don’t worry me as much as trying to envision what life will actually be like when I eventually decide to retire. As I often tell friends, I can’t be “alone with my mind” very long before I am seeking out something to do. Meditation is not on the list of things I do well, if at all!
A few of my very close friends have taken the leap early, so I have had a chance to watch and learn from their experiences. And I have to say, they don’t seem to miss working as much as I thought they would. Some were offered early retirement packages from their corporate employers, others were teachers with pensions, but most seemed to find work increasingly less fun and fulfilling and that was the biggest driver of their decisions. They viewed the opportunity to retire early as “a gift and a blessing”, allowing them to simplify their lives and spend more quality time with friends and family. They are downsizing homes, getting rid of corporate wardrobes and sorting through belongings to pass on to their children now rather than later. The joy of lingering over lunch with friends and spending time with aging parents and new grandchildren seems to far outweigh the frenetic work schedule they left behind. In the words of one, “you can win the rat race but you are still a rat!”
That said, I have other friends of the same age who feel they are “hitting real good” at this point in their lives, fulfilled with work and feeling like they are where they are supposed to be. I guess that’s where I’d put myself. I feel that sharing our hopes and fears about retirement is healthy and the dialogue can help each of us make the right decision at the right time. Because at the end of the day, retirement is very personal, and individual. Some of us either want or need to work as long as we can, some look to reinvent themselves in a second career, or the call of family, friends and volunteerism may be most compelling for others. What will have the biggest impact on your decision to retire?