You know how when you get a new phone or maybe a new car, all of the sudden you start noticing the same model all over the place?
I think that same phenomenon must apply to retirement. I’m obviously not retiring, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately, and that must be why it seems like everyone is retiring. The most close-to-home person being my dad, and I’ll get to that in a second.
Who’s not retiring?
Just last week, I found out a woman I work with is retiring. She is of the generation that will still benefit from my company’s pension plan (no longer offered). She’s been watching interest rates (which are used to calculate her pension pay out), and as soon as she saw the rate she was looking for, she told her boss she’s a goner.
I asked her if she had retirement plans, and she did not even hesitate to tell me. She said, “Well Mondays are free ladies night at the shooting range, we plan to take our canoes out a lot, and to continue traveling.” She had it all on the tip of her tongue.
I work with another guy who is retiring before the end of the year, and during the same week I was able to ask him the same question. He told me he wants to spend more time at the gym getting in shape, and he also plans to spend a lot of his time working with charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity and serving food at the local soup kitchen.
Wow, I thought. This guy is impressive. Not only does he have a plan, but it involves going out and serving others rather than just lying on a beach somewhere sipping martinis (which I have nothing against).
My dad just quit his job
My dad’s last day at work was last week. He feels good about leaving his company after a successful 29 year career, but he is still in the process of determining what the next big thing for him is. He will continue to be active in various community and business pursuits, but he is still in the early stages of figuring out what those will be.
Can you imagine? We spend about 25% of our lives preparing to be able to go out and support ourselves and our families. Then we spend the next 30-40% of our lives doing just that. Then one day it’s all over, just like that.
I just couldn’t get over how momentous of an event it seems to be, so I gave my dad a call, probably just a few hours after he came home on his last day. He told me that he feels fine about leaving his job, and that he is much more focused on the determining the future direction of his life. But because of a few curve balls life has thrown him recently, his retirement doesn’t look quite like he had pictured it.
Now, he was not nearly as obsessed with retirement as I am, but he’s still had all these years to form a picture of what retirement might look like for him. Part of that picture involved he and my mom working together and doing a lot of traveling. But my mom is currently very active in the community, so any plans he had of traveling the world with her after retiring are currently on hold.
How you treat others vs accomplishments
Two weeks before my dad officially retired, I was actually in Las Vegas for work and got to go to his retirement party. As I walked around talking to friends and colleagues of my dad who I had gotten to know growing up, I couldn’t help but think about how surreal it all was. I had met a lot of those people back when they were my age, or maybe just a few years older. Now they all had gray hairs and a few more wrinkles.
It was so crazy! Who knows, maybe I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that I’m an adult. Toward the end, there were a few short speeches, and while some of the messages touched on the great things my dad had done for the company, most focused on who we was as a person.
It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes. Maya Angelou said that
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I think that was my main takeaway…that and the fact that I’ve got 20-30 more years of the daily grind to endure. It was all very inspiring–and depressing–at the same time. But I’m trying to look at the bright side.
It’s great if you can be a top performer at work, but if we are so focused on the job or the money that we forget invest in relationships with people, my guess is that we’ll look back and wonder if it was worth it.
It was pretty inspiring to hear all the kind words people had to say, and one day I hope to have similarly influenced others in a positive way. Why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? (sorry, couldn’t help it…happy gilmore anyone?)
Why do you want to retire?
Have you ever asked yourself why you want to retire or at least quit your job? A popular answer is that we want the freedom to work because we want to and not because we have to. If that’s the case, then what would you do? If you were able to quit your job today, what would be your next step?
I don’t think my dad and I are that different. We both have wives who are devoted mothers and who are also very committed to personal development and being involved in a lot of things. I have all of these romantic notions about retirement, when in reality, I think the minute the kids are all out of the house (if not before), Amanda will likely pursue a Ph.D. and/or build up the greatest violin studio the world has ever seen.
Then what am I supposed to do? Travel by myself? I guess that’s an option.
The point is that I need to be realistic about retirement, whether it’s early retirement or otherwise.
FIRE (Financial Independence & Early Retirement) is such a popular topic these days. With technology and globalization, it’s more possible than ever. There is a lot of discussion about how to do it and who’s doing it, but not as many discussions about the what and the why. Seriously, what are all these people going to do all day, every day, for the rest of their life?
Sure, I’d love to work because I want to and not because I have to. But what would that work entail? I don’t think I know yet. I can just assume I’ll figure it out in time somewhere along the way as I work toward retirement, but then again, that’s what my dad thought.
Do you have a plan of what you’ll do when you retire? Do you have any contingency plans in case life doesn’t pan out how you expect?