Updated: Aug 21
Does the pandemic have you considering early retirement?
The upheaval in the workforce caused by the pandemic has manifested itself in several ways. First was a big shakeout as layoffs and furloughs became permanent and workers were forced into unemployment or underemployment. Early surveys estimated that 2 million Americans retired early as a result of the pandemic.
Pundits and thought leaders are now focused on a prospective trend referred to as either “The Big Shift” or “The Great Resignation”, depending on the source. Recent surveys indicate that 4 million people changed jobs in April 2021 and some 40% of the workforce are looking to change jobs as soon as they can.
In addition, there are reports that the pandemic is forcing many older workers, particularly baby boomers, to rethink the timing of their retirement; not only have millions had to push out their desired retirement timing but some have also decided to check out early because the light at the end of the tunnel repeatedly gets dimmer. This latter subset are succumbing to what some call the YOLO (you only live once) economy, and are resetting life priorities.
The thinking is that life is too precious, and they look to find a way to recalibrate either with a less demanding, part-time job, or retire altogether. Others see the furloughs and layoffs as a wake-up call and decide to accelerate the retirement plan so as to dictate the terms of their departure rather than get pushed out. This is a very healthy and reasonable reaction to the prospect of burnout and anxiety that many claim they are experiencing as a result of lock-down induced remote work and limited resources caused by the cutbacks and layoffs.
But before you take this decision to opt out, ask yourself if you are truly ready. For the transition to be effective, it is very important to prepare appropriately and ask yourself the following questions:
Do you have enough hobbies and interests cultivated to sustain you for a few decades of having more time on your hands?
Will you remain motivated and engaged in the day to day without deadlines or a barrage of phone calls and emails?
Which social network will you transition to? Do you even have one outside of work?
The financial planning component is very important, but not the only consideration in transitioning to retired life, what I refer to as my “relaunch”. There is an emotional component that may be even more important than being able to sustain the transition financially. Every candidate for retirement has a number in mind, but how many have an appropriate scenario in mind? You should ask yourself if you are satisfied with what you have accomplished and retiring for the right reasons. I think these considerations are underrated in their importance for a successful emotional transition to the next phase. Even more underrated is a consideration for how this will affect the dynamic at home – are your spouse and/or children ready as well?
There is a positive in preparing for the transition on your own terms, but it is important to envision life without a career and pinpoint how to feel relevant in the YOLO approach to life. In other words, attempt to redefine success for yourself by building on outside interests that have meaning and represent the new values and priorities you will cultivate under your retired persona.