Ready or not! Retirement here I come!

He thought he was ready, but after 9 months he realized retirement just wasn’t for him. 

A former work colleague of mine had been a self-employed consultant for many, many years, and when his latest contract finished last year, and with nothing on the horizon, he said to himself:

“Yes, now’s the time; After more than 20 years of travelling all over the world for my clients, it’s time to hang up my carry-on luggage and settle down and enjoy life.”   

That lasted for a few months then it struck him. During those intensely busy consulting years, he hadn’t developed any external interests or a social network in his hometown, and he was finding he just didn’t know what to do with his days or how to keep mentally stimulated.  Yes he was Financially and Physically Fit to retire but was he Emotionally Fit? Absolutely not. A possible solution for him came when a fellow contractor asked him to commit to a long-term gig in a town not far from his home, with an expected completion date at the end of 2017. So, my retired friend put his retirement on the shelf, as working was better than retirement.  

And then it happened. My wife and I were visiting him a couple of weeks ago and over dinner I gave him a copy of my book, Retire Fit, Fit & Fit. The very next day he emailed me to say that he spent most of the rest of the evening reading my book, and he loved it. The chapter on Emotionally Fit especially made him realize there are lots of things he could be doing and wanted to be doing other than working. He dusted off his bicycle and did a ride, he remembered how much he loved a specific sport in university, and realized that he really was ready to start recording the fascinating history of his family. He plans to work out the rest of his contract but then, look out world, he’s retired with a full and active life ahead of him.

His experience isn’t unusual. While many people may be ready to stop working and may be Financially Fit to do so, they haven’t yet determined “who” they will be and how they will motivate themselves. Ideally, you will plan in advance and get ready for this before retirement, but if not, be kind to yourself and use those first few months of retirement to recover from your work life and plan for the enjoyment of your retirement life.

What Will I Do With My Retirement?

Recently, I was talking with two close friends, Mork and Mindy (not their real names in case you’re wondering) who have set their retirement dates for later this year. They’re both excited and oh-so-ready to stop working and start playing. But they haven’t quite figured out what their new life will look like.

Mork, who has been a super Type-A for all of his life, knows he will sort out what he’ll do once he retires. He feels he has lots of time for figuring out what he’ll do in his retirement once the time comes and, quite frankly, he still has lots to do to finish up his work life. I’m sure he will succeed as he has always been internally driven to set and meet his self-imposed goals.

Mindy thinks she wants to be busy, but like Mork, hasn’t defined what she’ll focus on once she stops working.  The trouble is, while she is fairly motivated when given a task or goal, she isn’t the Type-A that Mork is. That is, left to her own devices, she sometimes finds that she has frittered away an entire day watching TV or playing a computer game. Not that there is anything wrong with these pastimes on occasion but soon, very soon, she will have 40+ hours a week that she has to fill with something. I think she is a bit overwhelmed by all the choice and the fact that her retirement has become all too real.

So yes, they are both financially fit as well as physically fit. However, in my opinion neither has planned for their emotional fitness. I have no doubt that Mork will decide on something to do and will throw all his energy into it – he has the habits and the drive to do so; but, how many Morks do you know? I know just a few. Most of the people I know are Mindys and for this particular Mindy, I’m concerned that she has left her Emotional Fitness a bit too late.  Her days might become very, very long once her initial “Yay, I’m not working!” euphoria wears off.

They both recognize that they’ll no longer have goals and commitments set by others (their boss, clients or co-workers) and in this new stage of life, they will be in control of their choices and their goals. But they will need to be driven by their internal interests and needs to make sure they have a reason and purpose in their lives.

If you’re getting close to your retirement date, are you ready to be the driver of your daily life? If you’re one of those Type-A’s who have always been internally driven then taking control of your personal life is a natural step. If though, you’ve been best at responding to goals set by others, then you’re now entering a stage where those daily and yearly plans need to come from yourself. Start your planning now, to give meaning and purpose to your life during your retirement years.