Preparing for retirement (part IV)
Are you really ready for retirement?
Three years ago, I left my day job to embark on what I call my ‘relaunch’. My 35 years in the hospitality industry was robust and I feel fortunate to have had a very rewarding career. During that period, I also feel that I played my cards right in building a balance in life that set me up for this ‘relaunch’ period.
Planning for the next chapter
There was nothing wrong with my career or my productivity; it is only that I was facing a flat learning curve and too much travel in connection with my job (up to 150,000 miles of flying per year). Ultimately, I knew that I had to prepare a realistic exit strategy that leveraged my skills and reignited my passion. So, I gave myself five-years to implement what seemed like a logical next step of earning the MBA I had always wanted on my resume, and subsequently taking on a few teaching opportunities.
I did not invent the term “relaunch” as a metaphor on the next phase of life following a productive career, but the terminology is a good fit for the Rockettman Blog. That next phase can mean a lot of different things for different people, but for me it meant an opportunity to reset and rejuvenate my life at the age of 57. It also meant an opportunity to do more of the things I like to do outside of work, like cook, travel, exercise and fish.
Doing nothing in retirement
Returning to the concept of life balance, I was struck by an article that I read recently by Arthur C. Brooks in The Atlantic regarding the concept of embracing doing nothing. The premise is that as a society, we are driven by our work, and that leisure is at best a way to take a short break from work. This has implications for retirement readiness (or lack thereof), especially if we identify with and define ourselves in large part by our profession. If there is no alter ego that characterizes you outside of the professional persona, then it could be a daunting proposition spending your days in partial leisure mode, or better yet (for me) having entire days free of an agenda imposed upon you by others.
Defining your persona post-retirement
The transition to this new chapter of my life was made easier by having developed a diversity of interests that were unrelated to my work. By working hard to cultivate outside interests, having more down time (or sometimes just doing nothing) did not come as a shock. But I also found ways to remain professionally relevant in this ‘relaunch’ by teaching and mentoring young professionals in the industry. I remain motivated and engaged in the day to day without deadlines or a barrage of phone calls and emails. I also developed a social network outside of work that meshed with the outside interests I had cultivated.
Emotional readiness for retirement
The financial component of retirement is important, but it is not the only consideration. There is an emotional component as well that may be even more important than the transition financially. You also need to think of your time differently in retirement. The Brooks article points to the fact that many of us have learned to “monetize our time”, which contributes to a resistance to leisure time. Over my career, I always used every vacation day that I earned without guilt, as I saw it as giving up free money if I didn’t. Mr. Brooks posits that many in our society view it as the opposite – foregone wages – or worse, they find leisure to be boring.
I personally find it welcoming that I can begin my day with thoughts on what is important to me at the moment – which can be stillness – and implies a choice between TIME to THINK or TIME not to THINK! As Mr. Brooks concludes, “doing nothing, if we can do it well” may make us happier.