How do you know when you are ready for retirement? For some people reaching age 65 is a trigger for retirement, while others fall into retirement due to changes at work or a health problem. It can be difficult to know if the time is right to make the move into your second act. I have recently come to the realization that, for me, the right time to retire is now. Here's why:
The job. After more than 30 years of working in Silicon Valley, I think I am about done. Those 60- to 80-hour weeks that were and continue to be expected are doable when you are young, and the potential for big rewards keeps you motivated. But with the job you also have to deal with rush-hour traffic, the incredible stress and the demands that force you to sacrifice time with family. These days I am a different person. Although I can still do the job, I realize I do not want to. The demands are too high and my time with family and friends too valuable to give up for the sake of a job. The high tech world still excites me, but my drive and commitment is now focused in a different direction.
One aspect many retirees miss when they leave work is interaction with co-workers. The daily sharing of experiences along with the fellowship that grows while pursuing a common purpose is highly rewarding. But the thought of leaving this behind does not scare me. I enjoy sharing time with others, and find more than enough outside the work environment. Between get-togethers with the neighbors and dinners with friends and family, I am more than happy. Should I need more socializing down the road I can always volunteer at one of the worthwhile nonprofits or charitable organizations in our area.
Savings. I have done the calculations and analyzed the spreadsheets to understand what our expenses and income will be once we retire. I have tried to account for rising health costs, the possibility that Social Security rules could change and even expenses associated with nursing home care if we ever need it. And I have built into the budget a reasonable estimate for travel and having fun.
Although I cannot predict where the economy may go, recent events along with our age have taught us to be more conservative. It's difficult to feel certain that you have saved enough, but I believe we have. Should we need a bit more to fund a special trip or help make ends meet, my wife and I are keeping our eyes open for a part-time gig doing something we enjoy or for a good cause.
Priorities. I have learned what is most important to me at this stage in life is different from what was at the top of my list in earlier years. Back then I accepted that I would have to work long hours and spend less time with the family in order to pay the bills and get ahead.
Overcoming my biggest fear. I have always felt one of the biggest risks of entering retirement is not having enough to do to keep busy, engaged and actively involved over the time ahead. In talks with many retirees over the years, too many find themselves bored with the tedious life they live once they retire. No one wants their retirement days to stretch painfully on. Fortunately, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to staying active I have my bases pretty well covered. Here's how I plan to spend my days in retirement:
Blogging and writing. This passion of mine provides me with a means to express myself creatively as well as share my discoveries along the way to retirement.
Exercising and working out. I have been exercising regularly since I was a teenager and happily set aside an hour or more each day to stay in good shape. Fortunately for me, I enjoy doing it.
Discovering the neighborhood and local points of interest. My wife and I have picked the area where we want to retire. Our house is a short walk to a small downtown with numerous restaurants and a growing wine industry. We are near enough to the beach to visit for a cup of coffee at the local hangout. If it is too foggy, we can make a U-turn and head back to the sunny side of town. I look forward to exploring the sights and sounds of our new neighborhood as well as meeting some of the interesting locals I am sure inhabit the area.
Spend more time on the piano. I love to play Scott Joplin Dixieland Jazz, but need practice to keep my fingers nimble and do it right. What better time than now.
Get more serious about cooking. My wife and I plan to combine efforts to make new and tasty meals along with recreating family masterpieces we each grew up with.
Spend more time in the garden. We have a yard that will benefit from a bit of personalized attention. Between the roses, lavender and other flowering plants, we look forward to creating colorful and fragrant arrangements. We even have space for a vegetable garden. There is nothing better than picking fresh herbs, a ripe tomato or a crisp apple from your own yard.
Take time to do nothing. We plan to make our retirement a mix of action and relaxation. We have comfortable seats situated to view the nearby mountains and follow the descent of the sun as the day comes to its end. Or we can sit on the back deck and look into the surrounding oak trees that line the canyon below. I already have the perfect spot picked out for the hammock.
For my wife and me, this feels like the right time to retire. Now, we just need to make the move.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be." Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.