“I’ll Never Retire!” I hear that a lot.

We met a young retired couple (not an oxymoron at all) the other day who, like us, are living the dream. They’ve settled down in the Algarve for a few months and we met them at a coffee shop in Jerez, Spain. I won’t go into details about this kind and thoughtful couple right now except to say the four of us hit if off immediately and we are now keeping in touch electronically. What I want to talk about is their concern for her father who is still working. Yes, they are retired and her dad is still hard at work. And he’s not alone. I’ve heard this a lot since I started writing my book. In fact, there was an article in our local paper featuring a number of people in our community who were still working even though they were well past what some people think of as retirement age. Perhaps they are part of the fortunate ones who love their work and want to continue being stimulated by their profession.  But what about the others who keep working because they feel they have no choice? Why haven’t they retired yet? Let’s look at the three primary fitnesses I discuss in my book:

  1. Financial fitness – It is quite possible that these people are not financially fit enough to retire. Or perhaps they just think they aren’t. If they are emotionally and physically fit enough to retire but they must keep working to pay the bills, then I’d suggest they consult with a professional financial advisor. And if it is still what’s keeping them on the job; they might want to consider asking their kids (if they have children) for a bit of help. Or perhaps they could switch to part-time work so they can still pay the bills but at the same time, start to enjoy all those things they always wanted to do but didn’t because of the kids, mortgage, etc.
  2. Physical fitness – Perhaps they are financially fit enough to retire but they’re feeling that their body just isn’t capable of doing the things they want to do so they feel they might as well keep working. Perhaps they’d love to take up cycling or even tennis, but decades of desk work have left them overweight, out of breath and tired all the time. Believe it or not, you can get into shape to do some, if not all, those things you’ve dreamt about. Start slow, and you’ll be surprised. Join a gym and (this is the key part) hire a personal coach. Your coach will take the time to understand where you are today and will work with you to get you fit as quickly as possible; and without hurting yourself. If you don’t believe me, just try it for 6 months. You’ll be very happy you did.
  3. Emotional fitness – For many, this is the real stopper. You have been working hard all your life and at the end of each day you are so worn out, the best you can do to reward yourself is hang out in front of the TV for a few hours before bed. And it isn’t just physical exhaustion but emotional exhaustion as well. The most common statement I hear is “What would I do with myself for 8 hours a day if I retired?” which I translate into “Who would I be?” That is, for the past 20, 30 or 40 years you’ve been a manager, programmer, police officer, nurse, CEO, etc. But the day after you retire, you’re not that any more. This takes a lot of thought on your part, but you will need to decide who you’ll be once you retire. For some this is really easy; “I’m going to be a full-time grandmother.” Others need more thought; like how about being a cyclist, gardener, world traveller, or an amateur anything? The question seems to hinge on: what will be my purpose and how will I fill my days? Here is where a professional life coach can really help. The second emotional challenge is that many people have a fairly small circle of friends, and those tend to be the people they work with. They may think that once they retire they’ll never see their work-mates again. But they fail to recognize that as they develop new interests, they’ll make new friends, plus they can keep their old friends too.

If you’re thinking you’ll never retire, it’s time to honestly explore the reason(s) why. If you truly love what you are doing now and want to continue as long as you’re able then you are among the fortunate few! However, if you’re worried about one of the three Fitnesses, take some time to consider and plan what might be possible for you to become Fit for retirement.