Thinking about retiring, but afraid to retire yet? In a recent post, I talked about reasons why people (bosses) won’t retire. One of those reasons was fear, something I think most people feel (at least to some degree) as the time approaches.
It’s not surprising that the mere thought of retirement is scary. Once you get past visions of pina coladas on the beach and lounging in a hammock as gentle breezes caress you, there is a lot of vast unknown stretching in front of you. And bills to be paid. Can you make it work for you?
Is retirement right now right for you?
First, let me say that I have no idea whether YOU should retire. Each person is different. For some it’s the absolute right decision, although the question of when to retire is key. And for some, who love their work and are happy staying right where they are, retirement age is just a number.
But for those people who are afraid to retire or just keep putting it off despite feeling the tug, it’s because there are far more important questions getting in the way. So let’s look at a few of them, one by one.
Change is hard.
And so is deciding to do it anyway.
Who am I without my job?
Whether they can put it into words or not, many people are afraid to let go of their work identity. For some, it feels like that’s who they really are. So they are afraid to retire the part of them that maybe they know best. And the part others use to categorize, label, and even judge them.
When you start thinking about retirement, you may worry that you won’t know who you are without your job / career identity. Like someone stole a piece of you. This is fairly common. At least at first.
If you haven’t built a life you enjoy outside of work, then there may feel like a lot of emptiness ahead. The good news is that, as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum.
Only when we stop filling every moment of our days, can we find things we never made room for. Even if it doesn’t feel like it now, there are exciting things for you to explore. Maybe even a whole new career to discover.
What would I do with all that time?
It’s funny. All those years of wishing we had more time. And yet, when the moment finally arrives, the realization of having so much unscheduled time can be daunting. Maybe not the first few weeks, but as time goes on.
Even if you’ve gotten out of the habit of creating your own life (versus letting obligations do it for you), now is always a great time to start. And that now can even be way before you retire, when you start laying the groundwork for your next phase of life.
But day one of retirement is not too late to start. This is a perfect time to spend some quiet time with yourself and figure out who you really are — now.
We change over time. So its a great opportunity (albeit a little scary for some) to get to know yourself all over again — as you are now.
What are your values? What brings you joy? What things have you done in the past you most enjoyed? What kinds of people do you like being with? And you have the freedom to let the internet, networking, volunteering, organizations you care about, even coaches help you find those next life choices.
Will I be able to pay my bills?
OK. This one can be a deal stopper. And a very good question to ask. You may be afraid to retire for good reason. So before you leave that job behind you, here are some things to think about:
- Looking at an entire year’s worth of numbers, what is your average required monthly cash flow?
- What might it be as years go on and medical expenses, cost of living, etc. increase?
- How much Social Security will you have?
- Do your savings look healthy enough to support any gaps?
- Is there another source(s) of income you can rely on?
Some posts to help you plan:
Of course, it simply may not be the right time.
And that’s ok too. For now.
Will my work friends forget me?
This may not be the first thing you worry about, but for many their workplace is also part of their social life. Even if you aren’t close to all the people, they become part of your day. And even some of the ones you aren’t so fond of add texture and interesting stories.
When you leave, your days can feel lonely — at least at first. While some work friends will always be there for you, they still have their work lives. So odds are you won’t see or speak to them as often. And the rest you may never see, although in some cases that isn’t a bad thing.
Of course, this all depends on you and the strength of the relationships. But over time, it’s not uncommon for even your closest work friends to drift away. Or only check in occasionally.
My take on this is that the friends who stay with you are the ones worth keeping anyway. Meanwhile there is now room and time for you to find friends who share common interests — and perhaps feel even more in sync with you as you are now. Not a bad thing at all.
What if I realize retirement is a mistake?
Is the real reason you’re afraid to retire that you’re afraid you’ll be making a mistake you can’t undo? Well, anything worth having comes with risks. Yet the very changes we fear most in life, once we say “yes”, often bring us to richer experiences and cool people we never would have met standing still.
And if you really hate retirement and miss your old job, there may be a way to go back. Or to find a new job similar to the old or related consulting work. I’ve actually gone back and consulted to the same companies I left.
Still, before running back to the old and familiar, make sure you at least take some time to try on the new. Yes, it may feel like starting over at first, since on one level you are. And that can be hard.
But you also bring with you every single thing you did and every person you ever met — and those experiences and contacts can help you step into wonderful new possibilities and adventures. Even if you have to walk through some fear now and then!
Retirement does not mean you stop.
In fact, it can be a new beginning.
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