When to retire? For some people the answer to this question is never! For most, the range is between 50 and 70. That’s quite a spread, and the time you choose creates different options and issues, and determines your own unique journey.
Retirement statistics inform us that people are living longer today. For a person retiring at 65, the average life expectancy is between 20 and 23 years. This means I could be living half my working life in retirement. What if I live to be 90, like my mother? How would I balance my time between work and leisure?
I began working in 1964 and retired in 2007, after 43 years. I spent the last 26 years as Finance, and later Marketing Director of Barry’s Tea, and that was the longest and most rewarding part of my career.I loved my time at Barry’s Tea, right up to the day I left. When I said this to friends and colleagues, some of them asked me…why then did you leave your interesting career at a comparatively early age?
Because financially I could! But my career was never just about money, and neither was my retirement. In my mid fortiesI had the foresight to negotiate an option to retire at 60… 65 being the normal age in the Company. From that day on I was clear about when to retire and never wavered from that decision. I sought retirement coaching, and began some detailed preparation for retirement.
At 60 I was blessed with good health, energy, a youthful outlook, and a love of learning...would I still feel that way at 65? This thought also influenced my decision to retire early. There was no guarantee that I would have the same options and possibilities if I waited until 65. And other life issues were becoming prominent...aging parents, the “empty nest” syndrome and a growing awareness of health issues
My ideal vision of retirement involved staying in the workforce. I wanted to pursue a second career, using my best skills and experience accumulated over decades. But I wanted more leisure time with family and friends than I had in full time employment.I was not interested in the traditional “retirement”, but I wanted to work less and at a more relaxed pace. I wanted to do something more meaningful in my retirement, and I still needed to earn some income.
Phases of Retirement
The pre retirement preparation phase was exciting, almost euphoric, as I contemplated the end of the 9-5 routine, freedom, independence and a chance to do all those thing I’d been dreaming about. When I first retired I enjoyed the honeymoon phase, as I planned and considered possibilities. However, within six months I experienced a period of disenchantment, including a sense of loss and loneliness. I alternated between busyness and inertia, before finding stability and contentment with a lower level of activity.
I had a number of false starts. I was flattered to be invited to join two new business ventures, only to find that they weren’t what I wanted at all. With time on my hands, I was persuaded by a friend to take on an onerous role as secretary to a community service organization and soon discovered that it just ‘wasn’t me’.
If I were to do it over again, I would not have made any major commitment for the first year, and I would have settled for a more gradual transition to my next act, my coaching practice. I found it difficult selling myself and my services, a very different experience from selling ‘Ireland’s finest Tea.’
The What do you do Question
In retirement the question ‘what do you do’ is challenging! I was reluctant to say "I’m retired" because it often evoked what I perceived as negative comments, such as, "do you have a problem filling your day," or "aren’t you lucky to have got out before the recession hit?" While I was working for Barry's Tea, I took great pride in my career and my association with the highly respected company. When my answer was ‘I’m the Finance and Marketing Director of Barry’s Tea’, there often followed an animated conversation about the company and its products and my role in its success.
When I’m asked that question today my answer depends on who is asking the question. If I feel it is relevant I may say that I’m a Retirement Coach. Otherwise, I may talk about my hobbies (of which I have many), my research and study, or my volunteer work and community service.
Guest blogger, Greg Butler, retired in January 2007 from his position as Finance and Marketing Director of one of Ireland’s leading grocery brands. He now pursues his interest in writing and retirement coaching, through the medium of inspirational stories, which you can read at www.retirement-stories.com He tells real stories about real people, to enable retirees to understand their retirement needs, identify and achieve worthy goals, and lead a more balanced and fulfilled life.