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By Dr. Daneen Skube
Q: I’m getting into my early sixties and wondering about retirement. I make good money and my work is engaging and fun. There’s no age limit in my work as long as I am competent. How do you counsel clients to think about when to leave work behind?
A: I counsel clients that thinking about when they leave work behind is no longer dictated by birthdays. Instead think about your finances, health, work/life balance, and what emotional paycheck you get from your job.
The popular joke, “Like what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” is true. If you hate your job, then you’ll want to exit work at the youngest age you can afford it. If you love what you do, then leaving the party early makes no sense.
If you hate what you do, you may want to think about a career change well before you consider retirement. Life is short to show up at a job that makes you miserable. Liking your work is more than just fun. Liking your job means you’ll want to work longer and make more money.
When we enjoy our work we’re engaged in doing good work because it enriches our quality of life. It turns out that more people like to work with people who are having fun instead of suffering through obligations. We’re likely to receive promotions and have more opportunities.
Many people think of retirement solely as a financial decision. In reality, retirement is a multi-faceted decision. What are you going to do that’s meaningful? What will make you want to get up in the morning? Where will your social connections come from?
The idea that we’ll stay home and relax (golf, and make gourmet dinners) sounds appealing until it’s the only thing on our agenda. Thinking about a permanent vacation when you have a frenetic career is a comforting daydream. Many retirees discover, however, that a permanent vacation can become a nightmare if they’re isolated, bored, and without purpose.
What I recommend is before retirement, visualize a perfect day. As we get older, we long for work/life balance, more rest, more play, and time for exercise. We may reduce our hours, take less stressful roles, or even start our own businesses. If you have fun at work, why would you leave?
Work generally gives us a community of people who are interested in what we’re interested in. Work demonstrates in our results and paycheck that we’re relevant and valuable. Work keeps us from being isolated.
There’s an increasing body of research focusing on how people age well. The studies emphasize how important social connections and meaning are to seniors. No matter how well we golf, knit, or fish, these activities fail to provide much meaning if done in isolation.
Increasingly, we have role models who are productive and having fun into their 80s and beyond with their work. Age really has become, for most careers, just a number. Wanting to stay engaged with work can motivated us toward better self-care, nutrition, and healthy habits.
I often talk in my column about how to launch a successful career for people new to the workplace. The same amount of thought is wise as we contemplate leaving the workplace. We no longer have to let a number make our choice. We can let our quality of life dictate when and how we let go of the world of work.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).
You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.