April 7, 2018

How to Ease Into Retirement


After thinking about the almost eight years of this blog and the interaction with readers, 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 seem to be trying to anticipate both financial and personal issues that lie ahead. 

Some of the pre-retirees who are part of our community , those still a few years away from full retirement, have written about how they are trying 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 I have kept bookmarked for six years 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.

The 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. Being single brings its own set of challenges. So, if you can do it, the concept of easing into retirement can be an intelligent move.

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 think about what you want when retirement comes. 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 yourselfRetirement 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. As I noted in a post from a few weeks ago, retirement and vacations share some important similarities. 


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.


20 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    Interesting post subject, and I enjoyed the link to the article from Money Magazine, too. I did a bit of a phased retirement myself. After the long illness and subsequent death of an old friend just our ages, my husband & I re-evaluated what was really important and decided to stop postponing some of the things we wanted to do “someday.” We both were granted six-month leaves from our jobs, and we hit the road with our travel trailer, seeing the country from the southeast to Alaska and points inbetween. It was an incredible time, and we will always be glad that we did it. When we got home, we both went back to work, though I dropped to a three-day-per-week position of my own creation. What I had not anticipated was that, back at the office, I felt like a caged bird... And then I saw what I truly had not before — that in taking this six-month leave, what I had really done was a trial retirement, and I had loved it. I lasted nine months at work before I retired for real. And no regrets! Thanks for hanging in there with this blog, Bob!

    Pauline in Upstate NY

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    1. What a tremendous way to take a trial run, Pauline, and what a treasure trove of memories you and hubby have from that trip.

      You discovered what so many do about retirement: the freedom to set your own schedule and call your own shots is highly addictive.

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  2. Bob, you posted "Experience what 3 full days without an agenda feels like." Some retirees will still have an agenda, the difference being that it's one filled with items not dictated by the work schedule. Most days still include activities that need doing and want doing. My neighbor laughed when he saw the daytimer on the kitchen table. "What do you need that for? You're retired," he said. Managing time is still necessary in retirement.

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    1. Time management is important in retirement. My calendar is almost as important now as it was when I was working.

      But, when someone first retires there is a period of relaxation and what the lack of time pressure feels like. In order to replicate that initial feeling I suggest trying a 3 day "fast" from must-dos over a long weekend, for example. That gives someone time for "want-to-do" things. Some folks become nervous during a 3 day period of no set schedule. If so, they may not be ready for retirement.

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  3. My employer agreed to a phased retirement plan, so my last 3 years were part-time, and then my last year included training my successor. It was a great idea for everyone involved. I had often worked 60 hour weeks and had to get reacquainted with leisure time. If you are of critical importance to your employer you may have some room to negotiate a phase-out, especially if your replacement could benefit from a training period. Never hurts to ask (if you have a good relationship with your employer). Consulting or "fill-in" for sudden employer needs are also options.

    I realize that most people will not have this opportunity, so your other suggestions are a good step. Pay close attention to how you currently use your time off. If you spend most of your time thinking about, performing work, and/or worrying about your job while vacationing it may be a sign that you are not ready to retire or you may need to "train" yourself for retirement. Bob's suggestions are a good start.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Your last paragraph gets the heart of what my 3 day agenda-free period is meant to do. If all someone does is worry about the work they should be doing instead of the stuff they'd enjoy doing, then it isn't time to step away from work.

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  4. Although your blog post is easy to read, the email I receive with a copy of the post is in print size that is hard for older eyes to read. Can the font in the email be made larger? It would be much appreciated.

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    1. I am afraid that is controlled by Google. I have no ability to change it, though I agree it is too small to read unless your computer monitor has a large screen. I'm sorry. I hope you use the email as a prompt to come to the web version which is much easier to read.

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  5. Hi Bob! Good advice as always. And I hadn't seen that article in Money before so that was interesting too. While I'm not yet retired, I am reminded how so many of these ideas apply to what I call "Right-sized Living." Hmmmm...I think that might be my next blog post. Thanks for the inspiration! ~Kathy

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    1. You are welcome. Yes, the Money Magazine article is a little old, but still applies. I am happy I saved the link and it is still available.

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  6. Agree, good advice, especially for people who are worried or nervous abt. retirement. But I'd say . . . really, folks, it's not that difficult to retire!

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    1. The worry level is often caused by financial scare stories. As we both know, retirement doesn't have to be something to be overly hesitant about.

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  7. I did not “ease” into retirement through reduced hours or shifting responsibilities, in my role it didn’t make sense, but did spend the year before retirement trying to set both me and my wife up for retirement success.

    A year or so out we made the decision that we would retire the following year. My wife worked in education and the end of June made sense for her. My retirement date was totally up to me, there was no “natural” end date on my work calendar, so I let that slide until a few months out.

    We discovered there is a lot to do and think about in the year leading up to retirement. First off, I let our financial adviser know of our plans to get the ball rolling on a decumulation plan. You’d think spending the retirement money you’d spent decades saving would be the easiest thing in the world to do but it’s surprisingly difficult to wrap your head around (in fact some retirees underspend, sometimes by a lot, in their retirement). A good financial adviser can prove their value here (mine did) but you also need to know what is important to you – it’s your money and your retirement after all.

    In mid-January of our retirement year I decided on an early May retirement date and let my employer know I’d be retiring in 3 ½ months. May is the time of year the weather turns nice where we live so it seemed a good time and 2 months before my wife’s retirement date. I planned a number of jobs around the house that needed my attention which would keep me busy for a couple of months, a reason to get up and get going every morning in the initial phase. This was my first encounter with the famous “How did I ever have time to go to work?” sensation.

    My wife retired as planned at the end of June and we had that first summer to enjoy our newly arrived grandson, our first grandchild, while our daughter was off on maternity leave. It was a real blessing to have that time. With the arrival of September, we took a planned month-long vacation to Europe. My wife is English and all her family lives there so we spent a week in England visiting her relatives and then off to Greece for 2 weeks with a stop in France on the way back.

    At the end of September we had a planned lull in the schedule and I did find myself a bit aimless as the weather worsened but the holidays hadn’t quite arrived yet. Things picked up a bit as the holidays got into full swing. Once we closed the holiday season with a big New Year’s Day celebration we set off for 3 winter months in Mexico renting a house in a village we’d never been to - we didn’t even KNOW anyone who’d been there. Still, it shook us out of our comfort zone and as it turned out we enjoyed it and have since made many friends there. My wife and I also took up hiking with a group in Mexico and both really enjoyed it, a new interest that we kept up when we returned back home in April of that year.

    That, in a nutshell, was our first year of retirement and was also pretty much the plan. Money has been way less of a problem than I had imagined. Having a “what do we do now” plan allowed us to adjust to retirement together with a loose structure pointing us in the initial direction we thought we’d like our retirement to take. On the relationship side I am happy to say that our relationship is probably the best it’s ever been. Taking away the pressures of work and trying to get “life” done on the weekends really has allowed us to reconnect.

    Both of us retired from our jobs cold turkey; one day full-time workers and the next day retired. But it worked for us and I think having a basic first year plan to follow was what made it successful. We are now retired 3 years and loving it.

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    1. I have a post coming up in a few weeks about retiring overseas. While you didn't move full time to Mexico, your 3 month experience would be helpful to those considering such a move. I hope you are able to leave your thoughts.

      Having a plan and then having faith in your ability to adjust that plan as needed are probably the two most important factors in a satisfying retirement. Like you, Betty and I feel our relationship has gotten so much better in our 17 years of retirement. Again, it takes adjustments and some compromises, but is well worth the effort. We will celebrate our 42nd anniversary in June!

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  8. I just had a week off from my job. I used to take a week and run off to Florida to visit my dad, but he passed away last year. So this was my first real week off without travel. I did only two social events and one small project at home (a big dump run). The rest of the time I got to keep the hours I prefer (not a morning person) and do most of the things I wanted to do. My husband is already at home retired, and we got along wonderfully. (He kept me fed.) At the end of it all, I think I could retire next year cold turkey and do quite well. I never got to my loom, after all!

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    1. It sounds as if you liked your "test run." Hold onto that feeling of freedom and control when it is time for you to make the decision. Best of luck!

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  9. I guess the only thing I did to ease into retirement was similar to one of your suggestions. I advised my boss of my intention to retire well in advance of my actual date last September. Since I had a significant amount of vacation time built up, we worked out an arrangement in which I took every Monday in the summer off. My former employer was very good about work-life balance, but like many I was prone to checking in on my phone for emails etc even on days off. With this arrangement, I told my boss that if I was going to take the time off (they wanted me to use up the vacation time) then I was not going to be on my phone on those long weekends. That was fine with him, and in fact, encouraged.

    I also did lots of research on retirement, including reading this blog (thanks for all your help, Bob!) and preparing pension and budget estimates and speaking with financial professionals. So despite retiring almost cold turkey, it did feel more like an easing in than a complete jolt. Not to say there hasn't been some adjustment required...

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    1. I wish I had the option to ease out of work and into retirement. But, with my business failing, I spent all my time working to keep things going and worrying about our future. When Betty and I made the decision to pull the plug,. I was out of work within a week. It was one of the best that ever happened to us, but I would have had less stress if I could have more slowly transitioned into my new new phase. You employer was smart to allow you handle things they way you did.

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  10. I left a demanding role at my workplace to transition to a different but familiar role. In between, I had ten months of earned leave (a sabbatical). The flexibility of my days during the leave offered decompression time, and eventually I realized that I did not want to return to work; I was ready to retire. I was anxious about retiring, as I have always been very engaged in and committed to my work, but now, eight months later, I am so glad that I did.

    Jude

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    1. A 10th month sabbatical...what a blessing. That is plenty of time to form a real feeling for the freedom and opportunities inherent in retirement.

      Glad you decided to make it a permanent situation.

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