October 5, 2012

Easing into Retirement: Steps to Try


As I go through the responses to the questions for my new book I am impressed with the amount of thought and planning folks are putting into building their satisfying retirement. Of course, there are those who due to circumstances or personality are on the "what will be will be" side of the scale. But, the majority are trying to anticipate both financial and personal issues that lie ahead.

A few of the pre-retirees, those still a few years away from full retirement, are deciding to ease into retirement. Either they have moved from full time to part time employment, taken a job that allows for more flexible hours, or become involved in telecommuting so they can become accustomed to being home several days a week.

A story on Money Magazine's website from earlier this year detailed some of the same approaches. As these people age they look for ways to reduce their working hours while learning how to be retired. Unable or unwilling to stop all work, these folks have creatively found ways to downshift their schedule.

As regular readers of Satisfying Retirement blog know, a transition to full time retirement can be tricky. I have written about discovering what you want to do with your free time before you find yourself on the couch in front of the TV. There have been lively discussions about setting up a budget before your regular checks stop so you have a feel for what life will be like when you must make do with what you have invested and saved. Moving or staying put is one of the most important decisions that I revisit from time to time. Figuring out how to live with your spouse or partner all day, everyday, is often tougher than it seems. So, if you can do it, the concept of easing into retirement makes tremendous sense.

But, what if your job or situation doesn't allow for dipping your toes fully in the water before taking the plunge (sorry for the metaphor but it was so obvious!)? Is there still a way to make a smoother transition?

Yes, I think it is possible. Try these ideas:


1. The next time you have a long weekend off from work, spend the time at home instead of rushing off the mountains or ocean. Don't start a big project. Try to make time slow down by throwing away your normal schedule and to-do list. Experience what 3 full days without an agenda feels like. Set aside time to talk with your partner about what you two want when retirement comes. Don't assume you both want the same thing. Use this time away from work to try out a schedule you control. Does the lack of a list or feeling productive every minute leave you feeling a bit uneasy? That is a good sign you aren't quite ready to cut the cord.

2. Devise a budget based on what you think your retirement income and outgo might be. Live off that budget as closely as possible for 2 months. How did you feel...deprived and stressed or somewhat liberated? What if you had to live that way full time?

3. Make a list of those passions and hobbies you haven't engaged in due to lack of time. Pick the top two and force yourself to make the time to dabble in them to see if the interest is still strong. If not, you should find something that keeps you energetic and engaged before tapering down from work.

4. Have a health checkup or honestly assess yourself. Retirement is not nearly as much fun if you are not feeling your best. Take the steps now to get yourself stronger and feeling better. Retirement puts some pressure on you. Be sure you can handle it.

5. If you can afford it, go somewhere for a vacation that allows you to really disconnect from the planning and pressures of your daily life. Betty and I found our 9 days in an RV allowed us to fully relax and simply enjoy each other's company. Those nine days reminded me of the incredible blessing that retirement can be...if I let it.




While none of these ideas replicates the actual feeling of being retired, each gives you a piece of the puzzle that together will be your satisfying retirement.

Have you, a spouse, partner, or close friend tried to ease into retirement? Can you share any of those experiences? Is there something on this list that may work for you?

16 comments:

  1. As a teacher, after working summers for a skillion years (summer camp counselor/director, then puppeteer) - and with my wife working - and the kids gone - I gave myself permission to take the summers off about five years before I planned on retiring.

    It gave me a good overview of the positives and negatives I might encounter. The key issue for me was finding "playmates" (not the Playboy kind, unfortunately) for different activities, golfing especially. Though a bit of an introvert, I still enjoy doing some things with other people. I had to work to find a friend with whom I enjoyed golfing, but I did.

    You're right, like most things, successful retirement takes planning, effort, and practice. Be well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Taking a summer off in your position is a great example of easing into retirement. And, like you, I am by nature an introvert who must work to find other guys to interact with. Now, if we are talking playmates....? No, never mind. I'm too old for that.

      Delete
    2. For all those teachers out there this is a valid point. Teachers tend to socialize with other teachers. Finding friends outside the profession after retirement can be a big stumbling block...I know!

      b

      Delete
  2. Bob, Well my transition to from full time to part time work is looming on the horizon. Beginning in January I will be cutting my hours from 40 to 20ish. I've been working hard with my employer to make this happen. They want me to stay part time so I can continue to train my replacement. After 30+ years with the same company, there is no way I can impart even half of what I know in a normal training period. Vulcan mind-meld anyone? So it's to their advantage that I stay on, but the issue is will there be enough work for me to do, and what are they willing to pay me. We are still ironing out the details, but I'm confident that we can come to a satisfactory arrangement at least for the short term. I'm expecting my hours to gradually decrease to perhaps 12-15 hours/wk over the course of a year. I'd like to work part time for at least 3 years to get me into the age group when I can start withdrawing from my 401K. My husband will continue to work full time for approx 3 years until he is eligible for extended benefits from his current employer.

    I will keep you posted as all of this starts to kick in. I think I've said here before, I haven't been without my own paycheck since I was 18 years old and the idea of asking my husband for money just is not sitting well with me. Hopefully the part time pay will be adequate for me to continue to fund my share of our budget and still have a bit of walking around money.

    I'm anticipating a lot of changes coming up, and I'm both excited and anxious as the time grows nearer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That situation would be ideal to ease into retirement. Let's hope you and your company can come a (Vulcan) meeting of the minds. Being without a check with your name on it for the first time in decades is a big deal. Of course, the money you take from your 401(k) will be in your name, so that's something!

      Yes, please keep us up to date. Yours is an excellent example to illustrate the point of this post.

      Delete
  3. While I am not in a job that would allow for taking time off, there are other ways to ease into retirement. For years now I have been reading a # of books, including yours, on how to make such a transition, successful and not so successful examples of people who have done so, have run innumerable financial scenarios/spreadsheets, and so on. In other words, I still work, but could mentally make the transition tomorrow if I have to (physically would not be an issue, either). Also, having worked for decades primarily out of my home office, I have real world experience with transitioning in that respect, and having a wife already retired gives me an additional perspective.

    So for people who are working that cannot get the time off, start transitioning yourself in other ways. Get into a mindset that would allow you to make the jump at a moment's notice, whether of your own choice or otherwise, and hopefully we will have no regrets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great suggestions, Chuck. Working from home is quite a help. I did that for much of my consulting career so I didn't have the loss of office/coworker friendships to worry about. Betty was already used to me being around the home so that transition was easier, too.

      Hopefully my next book will offer some additional insight into how various folks handle the entire transition situation.

      Delete
  4. Last winter my husband (who is already retired) and I took a month to spend in Florida. It was my first time ever, in my many years of working, of having a large block of time off. It was a great way to experiment with the structure (or lack of!) of my day. I was able to enjoy all of my favorite activities without the encumbrance of a work schedule.

    It inspired me to try harder to incorporate more of my interests into my days off, while I am still working. For example, I love to cook but feel like there is never enough time to take it to the next level. I pushed myself, and have been able to incorporate more of this creative outlet into my schedule.

    Financially, about 6 months ago we started to live on a "practice retirement budget". It provided some insight into ways we could cut back, without feeling deprived. We devised spread sheets to evaluate whether our money would outlive us, or if we would outlive our money. Fortunately it was the former, not the latter! We have developed a stratified budget that allows for more spending in the earlier years, and less in the later years. And finally, we went to see our financial advisor. He gave us his "blessing" and said we are in good shape financially.

    All that remains is to become "unplugged at work", and if all goes as planned, that will happen early next year. Thanks for another great article! I continue to read all I can to ensure that I, too, will have a satisfying retirement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the practice retirement budget idea. Anyone can do that regardless of full time work status. You also are following my plan of more spending earlier when I am still healthy enough to enjoy more activities.

      Keep us up to date on your progress.

      Delete
  5. It took me two full years to de-stress and then I jumped back into work. Nothing like realizing what you had when it is gone. I don't think three days would have told me much- except make me anxious that I wasn't ready for work on Monday. I had summers as a teacher-but they were always filled with continuing education and house care that I couldn't do during the school year.
    I think some of us need permission to just sit for a while after we retire. My dad did that- not jumping into activities and hobbies for several years. In between he simply read, relaxed in the sun and did a bit of catch up sleeping. Some of us only have a short time- others have 20 or 30 years to enjoy. My dad took it slow and developed some amazing friendships for his end years.

    We did do the practice budget for almost two years before retiring. We saved as much money as we could for our nest egg. By doing that we had the basics down and understood what it meant to live on one third of what we did when our children were in high school. I think we live pretty darn well!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Living on 66% less....wow. that is great.

    Yes, 3 days isn't enough to prove anything but for many folks that is the best they can do for any period without thinking about work. It can give you a taste.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Honestly, I started practicing for retirement about five years before I left work. I was burned out and sick and tired of the routine, but I was not in a position to cut back on hours or responsibilities. So for those last few years I gave them my time, but no longer my heart and soul. I took all my vacation days; never put in overtime; never volunteered for extra work. Not the best way to go, but sometimes it's the only way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Tom

      Sometimes we have to make the best of a bad situation. I didn't get to ease into retirement either. The collapse of my business was quick so I had to adjust on the fly. It worked out but was risky.

      Delete
  8. Just when I think there is nothing more to be said about retirement you come up with some wonderful ideas. I loved this. When my husband was a young teacher he had three months off in the summer. It was very like a small retirement. AND it was a perfect nightmare.

    Thankfully we had another 49 years to prepare ourselves for the day we would spend every day together. Your idea of staying at home WITH your spouse doing nothing is genius! You still have it Bob Lowry.

    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are a sweetheart. Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you and Earl figured it out!

      Delete
  9. Like b's husband, I worked for many years on an academic schedule. However, I enjoyed my time off, just as I enjoyed my work time, so that made the transition to retirement easier. Several of my former colleagues have elected to go part time for several years as a way to ease into retirement. They all report that they are enjoying the lighter work load.

    ReplyDelete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted