Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 32: retiring, and phasing out of work as a work-life transition 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 15, 2016

This is my 32nd installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-31.) And this is also my fourth posting to this series where I at least begin addressing the issues of retirement, and phasing into it.

• Why retire?
• Do you want to retire, and now or at least soon and as a preferred option?
• Do you feel yourself as having been thrust into a situation where at least significantly tapering down on what you do professionally might be your best option, or even your only one? And if so, why and how?
• Or do you see retirement and even full and sudden retirement as a fundamentally life shaping decision that has somehow been thrust upon you? And if so, why and how?
• I am not asking here, about how or why you would plan for retirement. That is something that prudent people at least begin laying the groundwork for well before they approach retirement age or circumstance or need, baring the unexpected that can suddenly thrust these issues on anyone. Approaching the set of issues and questions raised here from a short-term or even here-and-now timeframe perspective if that applies to you, why retire?

I began Part 29: my first installment here in this series or posting of any kind to this blog to directly consider retirement, with a to-address checklist of points that I would delve into. To-address lists per se, have become a relatively common feature of my posting series here, and from well before I began identifying them by that name. I began my Part 29 list with what might be the most basic retirement as career step question, which I finally begin to more fully consider here, after in-effect rushing past it to consider resources and means and feasibility issues.

I begin this posting and its discussion by citing a series that I added to this blog a number of years ago now, in mid-2011: Creating a Meaningful Work and Life Balance (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 150-157.) I wrote that at a time in my life when I was still working full time as a consultant, so I wrote it accordingly. But even then, I already found myself thinking of possible tipping points, where a work and life balance would best mean moving on, out of the work force, and in stages or completely. Why retire? This is a posting about tipping points and possible tipping points. And the one detail that I assume here is that you have sufficient resources available to be able to take at least some form of step in that direction – even if that means working at least part time for significantly longer than you might wish to, from lack of finances or from similarly compelling need.

• Let me begin exploring this maze of issues with a simple seeming question: Do you see retirement as a moving away from and an ending, or as a moving to or into and as a new beginning?

Put bluntly, and by way of explicit, if not extreme example:

• Do you want to retire because you hate your job, and the people who you have come to work with, and what you have been doing, and seemingly forever now?
• Or do you want to retire because you have come to acutely feel a gap in your life for what you would most want to do that would hold deepest meaning for you, that you could never be able to find the time for while still employed and working? Are these life goals that you will never be able to get to if you wait too long and until you are too old or infirm?

Most of us seem to approach retirement and its possibilities somewhere between those two perhaps cartoonish away-from and towards extremes, and with mixed feelings about work and continuing on, and retirement and letting go of that. But I have met at least a few who have found themselves in one or the other of the two extremes I just briefly noted here too.

If there is a take away reader exercise that I would offer here, it is that you really need to think through and write down your pros and cons for simply continuing to work, and for tapering off on what you do professionally, and for retiring outright. Write, and set your list of factors and goals and considerations aside and come back to write and edit and refine what you have been assembling. And continue doing this until you feel a sense of having captured at least the gist of what would motivate you here in making a best decision. And when you reach that point, divide all of your list entries up as to which career step option of the basic three, they would each support. You have probably already started doing this, but re-do it and complete this as you think through the entire list and how its entries relate to each other.

Some of your entries here might apply to just one of the three basic next-step options, some might work for two of them and it is possible that one or two might apply to all three and simply represent goals and needs that you could have been addressing all along, but that you have never quite brought onto focus until now. Think, list, rethink through in terms of appropriate context in your life, and prioritize all of what you have arrived at as to their value and meaning and significance to you.

• Keep your final list and the notes that you append to it as you organize your thinking as to what all of this means to you.
• And revisit this exercise, starting again from scratch as if you were doing this for a first time.
• Then compare what you have arrived at and with an eye to how your goals and priorities have changed. What can you see and learn from that, as to what you might wish to do moving forward? This is as much a lead-up to retirement exercise and certainly in your last years of regular full time work, as your probably much longer financial planning for eventual retirement would be. And like financial planning and preparation, it can be very valuable too.
• Actuarial findings have repeatedly shown that people who retire into inertia – people who retire without goals or purpose and into simply existing without any organizing activity to sustain them, have much lower future life expectancies than do those who retire into a more active and purposeful next stage of life.

I am going to end this posting by raising an issue that can in fact represent the unacknowledged 800 pound gorilla in the room for any of us, and for most any stage in our lives – and definitely when we approach possible retirement. I am going to end this posting by discussing the baggage that we bring with us in one form or other: the things we do and the things we own and take ownership of and assume and simply because we do so – on the basis of ongoing momentum. This includes material possessions that might lose their relevance in our lives as we go through life changes, but more importantly here, this includes assumptions as to who we are and what our values and priorities should be.

Retirement is a life stage change and not just a career stage change and that is when taking stock of needs and goals and priorities – and of the baggage we are carrying with us becomes crucial. This is particularly important because what has been neutral or insignificant, or even useful and positive leading up to such a change can become detrimental and even fundamentally limiting as we go through that change and into a next life stage.

I will have more to add to this new area of discussion, but note it here for its relevance to the wants and needs questions I have been primarily addressing in this posting. I add it as a need to understand and list and think through enablers and impediments to what you might do, and with a goal of prompting you to think about what might become one or the other of them, of what you carry and simply take for granted. And to rephrase this in terms of the immediately preceding installments to this series, a key resource that you can bring to the table is that of knowing when and what to let go of as you move on and what to pick up and move on with – a skills element of a resource that goes by the name of wisdom.

I briefly noted retirement as a change that can be thrust upon us, rather than desired and more strategically planned out, at the top of this posting. I will more fully discuss that range of possibilities in a next series installment, where I will address the scourge of ageism and age discrimination, and the challenge of sudden deterioration of health. Then after completing that and my discussion for this series, of why retire, I will reconsider retirement and the path towards it from a family perspective, where for many of us this means couples at the very least.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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