How do you know when your career waters are becoming too cold for comfort and it’s time for you to wade out? You don’t have to dip in your metaphorical toe to know that suddenly, after all these years, your longtime career seems to be running cold. The boss doesn’t require you at his/her beck and call each morning. You no longer seem to be the one he/she turns to when a sensitive work-related issue arises. When the press last swamped his/her phone/e-mail/text accounts with questions about a politically incorrect controversy, you were not immediately summoned to his/her door to elicit damage control strategies. You never realized until now that gradually you’ve been excluded from his closed circle of confidants and consultants. Not only has the thrill of victory diminished, but the raise in pay, the annual bonus, and yearly travel jaunts to exotic ports of call have suddenly dried up!
And as much as you hate to admit it, you’re more than partially responsible for this falling out of favor. Fess up! You’ve lost (or relinquished) your competitive edge. Your once-raging belly fire has become a whimpering ember. Your production quota is limp. Your devotion to the organization has waned. Gone are your late night rendezvous with spreadsheet production predictions. You seem to find more and more excuses to avoid those business luncheons and evening dinners with potential customers. And when was the last time you volunteered to ride interference on a job that no one else wanted to tackle?
Instead, you find yourself glancing at the clock all too often, opting for extended lunches, pushing the envelope by using every personal, vacation, sick leave day available. At home, that den recliner seems ever to be beckoning you more and more to “chill out and relax”, glass of Merlot in hand. You listen with envy and some resentment toward your job, as your newly-retired family and friends tell you about the latest game show, sci-fi, History Channel specials they admit they’ve become addicted to. That’s after they’ve met their cronies for breakfast and their daily dose of gossip at the local diner, and walked the dog.
Money-wise, all these years, your retirement nest egg was on automatic cruise control. You never gave much thought to its growth, or even to its existence. Now you’re showing an obsessive interest in your investments, potential social security benefits, your IRA, 401K, even the loose change cup on the kitchen counter! Your web favorites list features an increasing number of sites that deal with maximizing your retirement income. Traditionally cautious and conservative by nature, you now find yourself flirting with risky, get-rich-quick schemes and dreams. How can you double your assets within the next ten or five years – how about within the next 12 months? Forget a golden parachute. You’re thinking you might settle for a hot air balloon escape from current job to future retirement!
All these temperature indicators point to the probability that it’s time to re-consider, re-invent, re-position your future. After all, you still have an entire one-third of your life to live. What do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? And with whom? About that sign you have positioned on your office wall – “Prior past preparation precludes present (and future) poor performance.” Now, more than ever, take that advice. Before you pen that irrevocable retirement letter, you might want to research five books or five web sites on the topic of retirement and read them, cover to cover. A friend, co-author and colleague of mine does precisely that before she delves into any project. Her contention is that once she has read and digested five works on a given subject, she will be far better versed on that topic than the average person. Think of how much more you’ll know and how much better you’ll be prepared to set out on what promises to be the last best third of your life if you take the time, make the effort, and expend the energy to, research, read and ready yourself before you set out on what promises to be the most exciting of your life’s adventures.
The Water’s Still Hot, Hot, Hot!
You’re in hot water, and that’s the way you like it! Retirement is nowhere on your radar screen in the immediate future. You have far too many career laps to swim, lots of rare work-related fish to catch, and challenging seas to navigate. You still relish the thrill of living on the edge, solving the seemingly insolvable, confounding your harshest critics with your success, and accepting accolades from your ever-increasing professional fan club. You’re the first one at work in the morning, and it’s assumed that you’ll set the building alarm before you leave at the end of the day. You go to work in the dark and return home in the dark. You can’t remember when you’ve last experienced the smell of a new spring or the brilliant colors of autumn. Your spouse has willingly resigned herself to being the second priority in your life – your first mate is your job. And you like it that way. Although chronologically and officially, you are of traditional retirement age, psychologically, the notion of retirement is nowhere within your immediate frame of reference.
Actually, you’re in a very good place. Your more than adequate salary provides you with a current comfortable standard of living while you’re managing to save for your future retirement on a regular, consistent, and substantial basis. Time is on your side in terms of your foresight in planning for your future retirement, as immediate or remote as that may be. You can still afford to take moderate investment risks, to diversify your portfolio, even to speculate on the latest greatest tech trend. Not only are you financially on firm ground, physically, you feel as though you’re in your prime. You show no signs of slowing down; your mind and memory are sleek and sharp. You seem to have been genetically blessed with optimum good health. While colleagues your age seem to be plagued with various types of real or imaginary ailments, aches and pains, you physically are advantageously “frozen” in your college-age body. If it weren’t for your graying hair, your crow’s feet, and that hint of paunch around your middle, no one would ever guess that you were a Boomer.
You might eventually be numbered among that select group of 80+ year-olds, who, at a young age, found their passion, were fortunate enough to be able to pursue it, and never thought of or wanted to work at anything else. Undoubtedly, you will continue to “do what you love and love what you do” until you draw your last breath. And demographically, the research shows that you are numbered among an increasingly growing group of seniors who are approaching age 100 and still “on the job.” Go for it and keep treading!
The Water’s Fine – Just Right and Ready for Plunging in!
How do you know when the water’s just right? Let’s take a three-pronged temperature reading. First, you have your financial house in order. You have a realistic understanding of the fact that, at retirement, you are facing a double-edged sword. Unless you have recently won a lottery, are the proud investor in Apple, Google, or Facebook stock, or have been the fortunate beneficiary of a recently dead, very rich relative, even though you have planned ahead and been a diligent, plodding saver over time, you know that you will probably need to scale down your spending, prioritize your needs over your wants, and settle for only one double latte cappuccino frappe per day, instead of your customary two! Now, instead of finding yourself with wads of cash but little time to spend it, you are aware that lots of time will be trumped by limited financial resources. Unlike your time, your earning power, at least temporarily, will no longer be limitless. But you anticipated this potential conundrum, and have checkbook in hand.
You’re in great physical condition. You can “lift things up and put them down” a la Arnold Schwarzenegger. You play tennis weekly, and often beat your opponent; you are always the first one off the senior citizen bus, leading the way up the mountain; you can arm wrestle your grandson with aplomb to spare. Your yearly physical usually turns into a social visit with your GP, each of you sparring over who caught the largest flounder last season, who competed in the most half-marathons, and who has the least fat density vs. muscle tone.
Professionally, you’re at peace with your decision to leave your current career behind for new horizons. After many years of stellar performance and service doing work that you enjoyed, you are ready to bequeath your role to capable protégés. You seem to have lost that “fire in the belly” to succeed above all else. The challenges you once relished as healthy competition with your colleagues now seem to be, at best, trivial pursuits, as worse, sheer drudgery. Your mind’s eye seems to be increasingly focused on your anticipated tomorrows, and the past is fast becoming a pleasant, but somewhat irrelevant memory. You sense within you a restlessness to move on, an increasingly relentless beckoning to exciting challenges ahead.
Everyone around you seems to be prodding you “to go.” Your family and personal friends selflessly point out that “there is a time for everything under heaven”… including a time to play, in the broadest sense of that word. They are quick to add that “play means different things to different people”, and are unequivocally ready to accept and embrace your play perspective, regardless of how unconventional that may be. Your well-intentioned work colleagues wisely suggest that you should leave “at the top of your game.” Thanks to your leadership, your skills, and your contributions, your arm of the organization is humming at maximum efficiency. You visibly have earned the respect and comradeship of your fellow workers, and their prodding you to go is motivated by their genuine wish for your future good fortune.
Carpe diem! Position yourself on that diving board! Plunge into that perfectly temperate water with enthusiastic anticipation, gusto, and a giddy excitement. Yes, you’ll emerge refreshed, rejuvenated, invigorated, and ready for the challenges to come.
Dr. Marie Langworthy is a retired educator and current author/editor. Through her online business, Super Writing Services (http://www.Super WritingServices.com), she specializes in “writing it right”–the way you, the client, want to say it. Her recently published book, SHIFTING GEARS to Your Life and Work After Retirement, co-authored with Dr. Carolee Duckworth, is available on Amazon.com and on the Shifting Gears website at http://www.ShiftingGearstoYourLifeandWorkAfterRetirement.com.