One of life’s bigger decisions is whether to retire. Of course, many factors should be considered. This internal dialogue may help elucidate.
PERSON: I’m getting sick of working.
ALTER EGO: So you want to find a different job?
PERSON: At age 65, who’s going to hire me at decent pay?
ALTER EGO: So retire.
PERSON: I’m not sure I can afford it.
ALTER EGO: The accountant said it's borderline.
PERSON: So cut your expenses---like move from the house to a condo in a lower-cost area.
ALTER EGO: Regina would never allow that. I guess we could go out less, have modest vacations, and so on. That decrement to our lifestyle would have to be weighed against the benefit of not having to go to work: the commute, the pressure, the work itself—It used to feel at least somewhat important. Now it's just a job..
PERSON: If you retired, would Regina like being around you all the time?
ALTER EGO: I’d have to do a lot of stuff by myself, like be a volunteer mentor, see the grandkids more, home remodeling projects, take up painting, you know.
PERSON: You know that'll get old. You’re only 65 and in decent health. You could live another 10 or 20 years.
ALTER EGO: I don’t feel the need to plan that far ahead. Many men my age are dropping dead. While not ignoring longer-term, I want to focus on what feels like the right way to live my next few years. Even if I don’t die that soon, within a few years, the situation could change. I could get sick, Regina could get sick, the stock market could be up or down.
PERSON: What if you retire in baby steps? Maybe give up the most stressful or odious part of your job and train some young punk to do it. Or cut back to four days a week, then three. See how you like it.
ALTER EGO: That’s scary because it’s a one-way street. You cut back and you probably can’t change your mind.
PERSON: You’re being a little pessimistic. If you relinquish one task and later decide you want it back, you probably could or at least get some different task. If you cut back to four days a week, you can probably get to go back to five. Although I can’t be sure.
ALTER EGO: Maybe I need to put out some feelers to see if some place would hire me, at least as a consultant. I have learned a few things over my 43 years in the workplace.
PERSON: But you’ve always hated selling yourself. Consultants have to do that constantly.
ALTER EGO; I could try to work for a consulting firm. They do the marketing and I just consult.
PERSON: Maybe. Would you really prefer that to retiring? You come home quite tired every day, and consultants are expected to perform big-time. Lots of pressure.
ALTER EGO: Damn if I know.
Is there anything in that internal dialogue you want to keep in mind as you decide whether and how to retire?
The 2nd edition of The Best of Marty Nemko is available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at firstname.lastname@example.org.