We now arrive at my 3rd entry on the subject of early retirement. To date, we have discussed the required planning and preparation necessary to not only retire early but to retire anytime. When buying a big-ticket item, I have a habit of researching ad nauseam but failing to make the purchase. I am always able to find more data or another angle for my research. I like product research because the risk of failure is low. If I make a decision and complete a purchase, there is a risk of failure. Early retirement was like that for me. I relished the planning, but pulling the trigger on actually retiring was overwhelming.
Throughout my career, I prided myself that my job did not define me. This is a nice thought, but it was delusional. Despite interests outside of work, most of my self-worth was created on the job. To be fair, I was logically defined by all the aspects of my life; however, emotionally, my self-worth was defined by my job. At the time of my retirement, I thought I was fully ready for the transition away from a 40-year career. It turned out I did not know enough to know I was not emotionally ready.
For those who know me, you may be wondering why I am spending so much time reveling in emotions. I am not known as an emotional person. My transition to retirement was made more difficult because I ignored the impact of my emotions. I underestimated the emotional impact of moving from over 40 years of working to retirement. I was lost for a while but eventually regained my footing. I found a way for my post-retirement activities to define my new identity. Enough of my sob story, based on my experience, I highly recommend planning for the emotional aspects of retirement. Do not underestimate this aspect of retirement planning.
Many years ago, a Hewlett Packard executive told me, “ever so often, you need to jump off a cliff.” I wish I remembered his name so I could give him credit. What this means is we should not be afraid to try something different. Changes and differences help us grow in unimaginable ways. Transitioning to retirement, whether not working or moving to a different career choice, amounts to jumping off a really big cliff. Sometimes this fear of jumping off the retirement cliff can cause missed opportunities. For example, many companies have early retirement programs. They usually have a formula combining age and time on the job to determine eligibility. No matter what your age or time on the job, it is a good idea to become familiar with your company’s early retirement plan. At my company, these early retirement programs came along every five years or so. That being said, you never know when the last early retirement program is being offered. I was involved in and considered two of the early retirement offers before taking the third opportunity. Typically the potential retiree is only given a short amount of time to make this life-changing decision. I have seen unprepared employees agonize over the offer and decision. The lesson here is to be ready. Of course, you don’t have to wait for an early retirement program to retire or make a career change. Depending on the offer from your company, an early retirement offer could affect the timing of the transition.
Change can be difficult. Deciding to retire early is one of those big, life-altering decisions. As usual, my advice is to plan, plan, plan.
Make the most of this day!