If You Love Your Job Please Don't Retire
But get yourself a good Plan B
Here’s something that may surprise you. I know it surprised me. I talk to a lot of people about retirement and I’d say probably 50% of them say something along the lines of “I’m concerned about retirement because I really like my job.” These are not people who are being “forced” out of the workplace due to downsizing, or health or any other issues. They are going to voluntarily leave their jobs. They tell me they’re concerned about losing connections, or their schedule or their purpose, or even their prestige. They talk about people not coming to them for help anymore and not having something where they have the same level of expertise. In one case one woman had three different contracts that took up 7 days a week and she couldn’t bring herself to drop even one of them. My question is always the same. “Why are you retiring?”
These folks generally fall into three different broad buckets. The one I probably encounter most often is people who believe retirement means success. They’ve been on a path for decades growing their life, growing their career, growing their family, grabbing the next rung, getting the next raise, the next title, racking up success after success. And, from the beginning, they see retirement as the ultimate success. “You’ve made it.” But have you? What if the journey is the thing, and you’re not done with the journey, yet?
The second bucket is similar. It’s people who just “follow the plan.” They don’t really even think about retirement (maybe monetarily they do. That’s part of “the plan”). They just know that the plan says you work for a certain number of years and then you retire. But, as they approach retirement, they realize that’s kinda the end of “the plan” and they panic. What’s next? It hasn’t really crossed their minds.
The third group are people who want to leave one thing behind (usually stress, but it could be a certain part of the job that they don’t like) and they see retirement as a way to get rid of that one monkey on their backs. Maybe they’ve been dreaming about it for years. But then they realize that they’re gonna lose the whole zoo.
My coaching for the first two buckets is the same. Don’t retire. The data shows that people who work longer live longer. That doesn’t mean you have to work at your current job, but it also doesn’t mean you can’t. Get rid of the notion that retirement is some pinnacle. But, my friends, get yourself a good Plan B, because you never know when life is going to tell you it’s time to retire. Plan B just means think about which aspects of your job give you joy and figure out how to find that joy in other activities. Work on your connections outside of the workplace. Use your skills to volunteer now that the kids are gone. Heck, read my newsletter as a start. :-) Prestige may be the tough one, but even there, you can find ways to build your credibility outside of your workplace or leverage what you have on a smaller scale.
The third group is easier. They don’t have to get over some life notion that they ‘should” be retiring. They just have to determine what the stressor is and eliminate it. Most of the time, they either stay in their current job with some modifications (like a heart to heart with the boss that weekends and evenings are theirs). Or, if that doesn’t work, they can determine what animals in the zoo they love (meaning what parts of the job they’re worried about losing) and find them in another job without the stressor. Then they, too, need a Plan B for when the whole zoo becomes too much of a zoo.
Bottom line, in most cases if you love your job there is no reason to retire at a certain age or stage. Your mom, your professors, your bosses, your family and even society may have told you there was, but as it turns out, they were all wrong. Modify the job? Sure. But if you’re getting satisfaction from your job, that’s success. That’s what we’re all looking for.
But, man, get yourself a Plan B. Start thinking now about an off ramp. If you do it right, soon you’ll be thinking of your Plan B as the success. Retiring will be a necessary and deliberate step on your journey toward your next peak.