Today’s New York Times includes an article on career change to retirement. You can read the full article here.
Here are the article’s suggestions (with my comments):
(1) Talk to a financial planner and see if you can afford to retire.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s easy to plan. Your planner can make projections but can’t account for individual lifestyles.
I have a friend who’s pushing 70, living on $24,000 a year in Philadelphia. She’s single with no family support – not even holiday gifts. She lives in a third floor walkup, mainly because she wants a particular part of town and she has a reliable landlord. Her tastes are simple, but she doesn’t need a car. The city is filled with low-cost and no-cost entertainment. She budgets for meals out and takes taxis more than I do! She volunteers for arts organizations and she’s always busy.
However, I know many people will be totally turned off by my friend’s example. It probably won’t be applicable if you have children and grandchildren. More important, my friend didn’t have a successful executive career up till her retirement. Like many women of her generation, she had trouble using her education and admin skills to create a meaningful career.
I have other friends with a million or more in savings but claim they can’t afford to retire.
(2) Your health could go at any time.
True, but you can take some preventive steps with exercise and diet. I’d say it’s more important to have a health philosophy. What’s important to you?
(3) The biggest retirement challenge isn’t money – it’s mind.
The Times article says:
Traditional retirement may lead to a lack of intellectual engagement, which is crucial for good health, says Gary J. Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
That is SO true. I have met numerous retirees whose brains turned to mush after retirement. It was painful to watch. One wealthy man devoted his energies to building his dream house, working with an architect and construction company. While the house went up he was fully engaged. But then he had nothing to do. He began driving the neighbors bonkers because he’d go visiting and talk on and on about things nobody cared about.
Some people (like my low-income friend) stay alert and engaged through volunteer work. But for many others, volunteer work just doesn’t have the edge.
(4) If you want to stay with your company in a lesser role, start negotiating.
I would add, “Be prepared to be undervalued and overworked.” I don’t recommend this option, except as a way to keep an income going while you plan for something else. You will rarely be taken as seriously as those with full-time jobs. You’ll always be described as “Jim who used to be head of sales…” or “Sally our former marketing director.” You might consider starting your own consulting company (even if you just get a business license and a one-page web site). Let your company know you might be available. If they nibble, it’s on their initiative.
(5) Start saving for a transition to a new career.
From the article:
“Mr. Freedman [Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift] recommends that you prepare for this later-life transition by saving money while in your 50s for things like additional education or unpaid apprenticeships and internships. “Reinvention sounds very romantic, but it’s also hard,” he says. “So it helps to prepare as much as you can.”
That’s excellent advice. I would support other recommendations, such as assembling your own Board of Advisors. I would recommend talking to many people, not just one or two.
I’m also leery of recommendations for a downsized career. The article refers to a retiree who was also a lover of wood working. He took a job at Home Depot, which he presumably enjoyed. My experience has been different, with myself and my own clients. Moving to a lower-level, lower-stress job can actually backfire.
For more support see