When is Retirement not Retirement?

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My Father considered retirement to be the time when he stopped working and started to enjoy life. Unfortunately, he did not live to see that happy time. So, as I ran past my half century mark and my fatigue and frustration with three hours a day in traffic grew, I decided to "retire". I was not looking to completely stop working and I certainly needed some income, but I decided to slow down my pace. I wanted to transition out of the fast lane. I found some great advice on simplifying my life from The Simple Living Network. As a matter of fact, I found so much information and wonderful free resources on the web and in my community that I even started a web page for those seeking a similar transition. I also found out that I was not alone. Career Strategy Advisor Joe Hodowanes tells us that he sees, a new generation of people now in their forties and fifties that are choosing to sacrifice some economic payoff for more general satisfaction with their lives. It may appear to be naïve or somehow overly idealistic, but it is really a “bottom line” type of computation according to Hodowanes, a computation that measures net happiness rather than net dollars.

According to Sara Rix, senior policy adviser at the Public Policy Institute of AARP, about 80 percent of those over 50 claim they want to work in retirement. And according to a study released in May 2006 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation adults ages 55 to 64 have been the group most likely to start a new business over the last 10 years. So, perhaps Bob Dylan was right, The Times They are a Changin'. People need a better work/life balance. People continue to want the income, sense of achievement, and socialization that is associated with working. But, they do not want to work in the same way that they are working now. If you think you are a candidate to modify your work/life balance, here are four steps to consider before you make major life changes.

1. First, work is usually about earning money to pay bills, maintain a lifestyle, and save for the future. Can you afford to give up some of your income? And, how do other members of your family feel about a change in their financial situation? How much money do you need - not want - but need. Are you spending money on services that, if you had the time, you could do yourself? Make a real budget that acknowledges basic costs like housing, food, insurance, taxes, utilities, repairs, and debt payments. Add in some funding for discretionary spending because you will need discretionary money for clothes, entertainment, and quality of life services. Finally add in some cushion to cover emergencies. This is the amount of money you need to make or withdraw from savings. Now, you have completed assessing money needs , one of the four squares in your planning matrix; let's look at the remaining three squares: social, intellectual, and spiritual needs.

2. Social Needs: When people look back on their careers and traditional work life, they often speak fondly and longingly of the social interactions that accompany work. After money, the need for social interactions is the most frequent reason given by retirees who decide to return to work. If you are fortunate enough to have a life long set of friends nearby, lucky you. But most people's social lives have been dictated by work, neighbors, and their children. You need to have a plan to replace the social component of your previous work environment. Interactions with old and new friends will not happen without effort on your part.

3. Intellectual Needs: You need to continue learning throughout your life. Not only is learning pleasurable but it has been shown that people who actively learn and keep their minds engaged are healthier and less likely to suffer mental deterioration as they age. You can learn almost anywhere. You can take classes, learn new skills, take a part-time job in a new field, volunteer, read, travel, or a hundred other ways. But, for your sake and sanity, you must put time and effort daily into learning.

4. Finally, your spiritual needs. Meeting your spiritual needs may mean going to church or religious study groups, but it can be much more than that. Your spirit is your life force and it should be fed. This includes your relationship with the environment and your community. It may involve art, music, or communing with nature. For many people, their spiritual needs often came second to the practical realities of daily living. But, when you are thinking about making a major life transition, not only can you consider enhancing the spiritual side of your life, you must.

When you have completed the analysis of your needs and your strategies to meet those needs, you can decide if your work/life changes should include; starting a business, working only part-time, working from home, returning to school to learn to do something different - the whole world can open up for you.


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great comments. Sometimes, even after retirement, people find the need to go back to work. Sometimes it's financial, but just as often it's spiritual. I think we all want to feel that we are being useful and active, no matter what age we are.
  • Donte
    Great thinking!
  • Bobcat
    Good point. I hadn't thought about it quite that way.
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