When is the right time to call it a career and retire? In the world of sports, where an athlete’s career is up for public scrutiny, it’s usually time to pack it in when you can no longer produce desired results, and you cease to become competitively relevant. Should this be the model for the rest of us?
One of the great things about being a widely known professional athlete is that you get all the public glorification and accolades when you don a sweater, take your spot on a court, or pick up your equipment. However, when commentators are openly thrusting recorders in your face and asking if this is your last season or game, you can’t help but wonder about finishing it all and exploring what’s next.
The majority of us don’t have jobs or careers that thrust us into such light. I suspect that if those high paid athletes only made the salaries that compare to the regular folk, they too might be hanging around longer than they should, or at the very least they’d be doing more career planning beyond their athletic days.
When should people who do your job retire? For most of us, retirement comes when we either have enough money to carry us through our retirement years combined with some kind of pension, or when our physical or mental abilities become compromised. So a hairstylist who develops crippling arthritis may not be able to continue in the profession even if the spirit is willing.
Looking around you, you may also have noticed there are some people who are just playing out their last few years of employment. These are the people who have ceased to have a zest for the work, find themselves going through the motions and contributing less and less new ideas. Their energy levels are consistently lower than they once were, and very sadly, everyone around them can see it, just as they know it themselves.
Retiring however, doesn’t have to mean shutting down life. After all, it could be viewed as just the next chapter, the next phase of living, time spent doing things you want to do but didn’t have the time to do in your working life. If you are fortunate, you have your health, a little wealth, and the bonus of time and someone special to spend it with.
Having something to look forward to doing is the key I think. So whether it’s travel, a hobby, time with extended family, or trying something you’ve never done but wanted to, the anticipation of something to look forward to can be a positive driving force.
The difficulty is that for some people, so much of their identity has been built during their adult life on their careers. Once contemplating retirement, they will no longer be known as an employee of such and such company. The immediate contemplation of something ending overwhelms the idea of something starting. This kind of thinking turns looming retirement into a future of unknowns with a purpose equally undefined.
Okay, so what’s the point? My point is to think of succession planning now. If companies are already planning for your replacement, why doesn’t it make sense that you should be planning now to position yourself in the next phase? If you’re looking forward to a move to a warmer climate, looking up information on destinations that are possible might be something you can do now that will keep you hungry for the next phase of your life.
If nothing so elaborate is in your future, maybe after all it’s just thinking about spending time with future grandkids. Can you picture yourself tossing around a ball eight or nine years from now, or riding all those rides at the exhibitions and fairs in ten years time? Maybe it’s time to start now to get in better shape so you can be actively involved a decade from now when you want to be.
And if you are planning to write that great novel that’s been in your head all these years, maybe now is the time to build that sunroom that overlooks your favourite view of the yard or the coastline where you’ll be content tapping away on your keyboard.
Looking ahead does scare some people. The fear of the unknown, of being lonely or cut off from others. If you are worried about what might happen down the road, and this may include having enough money to see you through, ask yourself what you can do now to prepare yourself. You may not be able to control the price of goods in the future, or the interest rate at the banks, but you can control your spending, your investments; both in people and in money.
Picture that day when you go in for the last time. Is it frightening or something you are looking forward to? Are you wanting a big send off with a party and presents or are you wanting it low-key and quiet? If that day is less than a year away, make sure you start telling people now who plan these things in your workplace what you have in mind. Then when your day comes there’s no surprise – unless of course that’s what you’ve wanted all along!