Who is EMOTIONALLY Ready to Retire?: What I Have Learned from This Experience

Who is EMOTIONALLY Ready to Retire?: What I Have Learned from This Experience

| August 21, 2018

Dear Our Clients for Whom This Series Was Intended (and you know who you are!),

Retirement is supposed to be fun.

Retirement is not supposed to be a one-way ticket to Palookaville, filled with regret about decisions unfaced and goals unfulfilled. It’s an adjustment, not a complete loss of identity. It’s the time to live off your savings and not panic about the next market crash washing your money down the drain. It can also be a time of reinvention.

Deciding what your retirement will look like is nearly impossible when the voice in your head keeps repeating, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” Really, who does know exactly what to do? Therefore, it is important to stop, close your eyes, take deep, cleansing breaths, and clear the “I don’t know out” of your mind. And while you are calm and still, picture yourself at a time when you felt happy. Was it at a social event with friends? A long walk or bicycle ride along a glistening shoreline? A special time with a close companion? Mentoring younger people? Whatever makes you happiest should be the building block for what you do going forward.

Now, a confession: Last May while in beautiful Sonoma, California, my friend and colleague Jeff Remo mentioned that he had started thinking about his eventual retirement and had asked me if I thought about my own. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I blurted out a coarse answer about the eventual hell of not achieving my dreams and losing my mental faculties. (No wonder Jeff then excused himself.) In a quiet moment of meditation, I later realized that a portion of my retirement vision was based on the unfortunate circumstances of my parents, each of whom succumbed to illness and poverty followed by death. My father’s last day of work was his last day on earth. For my mother, there was a seven-year sentence of dementia.

As I committed to this blog series, I came to understand that some of my thoughts of what might one day be were based on what happened to them, and others before them. My parents were of a generation that adhered to fatalistic thinking, fearful of expecting good outcomes and powerless to stop life’s misfortunes. But that’s not how I think.

Like my father, I’m a workhorse. I love to work. I enjoy the close interactions with our clients, the friendships formed, the lessons we learn from them, the solutions we provide and the successful outcomes—that indescribably satisfying sense of accomplishment. Therefore, I am planning for more growth in our business and more fun away from it. But I am paying attention to and acting on many of the steps I’ve outlined in the prior blog posts because I want to leave as little to chance as possible—that’s what planners do—while being open to new adventures.

When he was about to turn 80, the author Henry Miller offered this reflection on aging: “If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical... you’ve got it half licked.”