How to Adjust to Early Retirement
The Retirement Decision
According to the US Census Bureau, fifteen million people in the United States will cross over the minimum threshold retirement age of 62 over the next five years. The decision to either wait until normal retirement age or collect early benefits will be of great concern as they face exiting the workforce.
Due to a company reorganization and merger, my husband made the decision two years ago to take an early retirement. It wasn't easy for him to make the decision. As he heard the plans for restructuring, he deliberated over undertaking a different position within the company or simply accepting a severance package at the age of fifty-seven—not sixty-two. How does one walk away after years of service from a job they love and the many co-workers who have become family through the years? Then there was the question of financial security and having to budget expenses over the next 30 to 40 years. Finally, what does one do with the ten plus hours every day if there no longer exists responsibilities and duties to perform?
After considering all the options and his decision was made, when the time came to separate, my hubby packed up his personal belongings in the familiar brown cardboard box and slipped away from the working world which represented identity and security.
A 2012 Transamerica Retirement Survey reported the majority of workers aged fifty to sixty plan to work after retirement. 52% state they will work part-time while 9% plan to work full-time.
According to the 2012 Center for Retirement Research report, 30% of households are prepared for retirement at age 62. 55% of households are projected to be prepared by age 66, the full retirement age designated by Social Security.
A 2012 survey reported Baby Boomers born in 1946 (who turned 65 in 2011), stated they were fully retired, the average age at retirement for these Boomers was 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women.
The Social Security Administration reports that the average age of retired workers has changed little over time, rising from 72.4 in 1960 to 73.7 in 2010.
According to a CPS 2011 data analysis, the average retirement age for men is 64 and for women 62. (Retirement age is defined as the age (in years and months) at which the labor force participation rate drops below 50%.)
Source: Sloan Center for Aging and Work, capricorn.bc.edu.
If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.— Doug Larson
Is Early Retirement for Everyone?
Experts in the retirement field believe there are a few situations when early retirement is a good choice:
- Poor health and the inability to perform your job well as a result.
- You no longer enjoy your job and it is causing you health issues such as anxiety or stress.
- You have been laid off and a job is hard to find.
If you fit any of these factors, then early retirement is a good choice to make. After all, if you aren't well or you dread going to work every day, you most likely need to step down, out, or take a sabbatical to analyze your situation.
As one retiree shared, work kept her mentally stimulated and challenged to aspire in performance. Would you be able to replace this mental exercise or balance with other activities? Would you be able to find other projects or hobbies to fill the extra time on your hands at home? The social interaction of a workplace allows one to enjoy camaraderie and feel a part of a team. Outside of the work environment, there may be limited friendships during the day.
How are you at budgeting? Once you retire, the regular paycheck schedule is non-existent and you must learn to keep track of your every expense so that your funds stretch out over the next couple of decades or more. Social Security is available at 62 and can deter your withdrawing from retirement savings but consider the possibilities of needing the funds should something out of the ordinary impact your life.
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.— Will Rogers
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At what age do you plan to retire?
Disenchantment: Adapting to a Lifestyle Change
The oddest sensation for some retirees is waking up Monday morning to face an empty schedule. It's like someone has taken the brown out of your chocolate! You are left with a great flavor but it is colorless. You have to adjust your view if you are going to survive.
In the first few weeks, my husband decided the backyard needed attention. He set out for the local hardware store to buy some gardening supplies and tools to mend the yard furniture. He spent most of his days outdoors. During this time, I think he power sprayed the cement patio every day. It was the cleanest I had ever seen it in years.
I watched him through the kitchen window in the early mornings, his expression told me he was trying to wash away years of dedicated service. The cleansing of the patio represented his wiping away (or filing away) what once was a stressful job responsibility but yet one of surety. A paradox wrestled within him. Over time, I noticed a relaxed attitude appeared and the daily washing ceased.
Now what? This is a dangerous stage for any male retiree in his relationship at home. For years, he spent a good ten hours or more away from home while his wife stayed home and kept things in order. And this was her personal territory; managing things so that all flowed well and made sense. But, now that he is home, all household activities come under his interest (and scrutiny). This is a potential area of concern and there should be a big red flag waving in the breeze at this point. Warning: disaster lies ahead!
The Japanese women have a term to describe retired husbands, "Sodaigomi" or over-sized garbage. In fact, many Japanese women become physically and psychologically ill due to the husband's intrusion at home on her domain. Health problems include stomach ulcers, slurring of speech, rashes around the eyes, palpitations, tension headaches, stress, and depression. It is a growing concern for this nation were the longevity of life in this country is the longest on Earth. (Source: retirement jobs.com)
In our situation, my household management included bi-monthly grocery shopping and cooking the evening meals. As I prepared for my trip to the local market, my husband eyed my ritual of taking inventory in the kitchen, utility room, and other areas such as the bathrooms for needed supplies. He questioned the items on the list and why I needed them. Not that he was demanding justification for purchasing them, but he was just curious. At the time, I was a little perturbed with his intrusion on my ritual. I felt heart palpitations. I did not develop rashes around the eyes, just angry eyes.
Next, he announced that he wanted to accompany me to the grocery store. I swallowed my first response of "no way" and consented to his request. You would think after forty years of marriage your relationship was so well oiled nothing could prevent it from getting off track. I was so used to being solely responsible and independent for restocking of household needs that when my husband chose a cart and pushed it inside the store, I was furious. This little act represented an imposition on my lifestyle and authority. How dare he?
What We Learned
The first year of my husband's retirement was a roller coaster ride with more downhill tracks than up. It was as if we were learning to live together all over again. For him, he had to adjust not only to filling his schedule with projects, hobbies, and activities but to my work schedule and social activities outside the home. My adjustment was in accepting his need to fill his schedule with meaningful responsibilities at home such as projects and cooking.
Today we enjoy shared interests as well as separate activities. We have learned to communicate our thoughts and to listen with an open mind to the other's concerns. We realize that each of us needs quiet times during the day for renewal, prayer, or just relaxing. It is equally important for us to spend time together doing something we enjoy on a daily basis.
Surprisingly, my husband now does the cooking and grocery shopping. Yes, I have relinquished this important responsibility over to him. I am so reliant upon him for this. The other day when I had to cook because he was ill, I walked into the kitchen and felt out of place!
Stages of Retirement
Retirement is a transitional process individuals experience once they have exited the workforce. The stages of retirement below serve as a guide as to how some people will view this stage of life. It is not indicative of all people, it merely describes a general modification of lifestyle for a retiree.
Stage One: Pre-retirement
A gradual disengagement from the workplace. The individual begins to envision and plan for retirement. Thoughts may center around possible life-changing events such as new hobbies, volunteer opportunities, or an extended vacation.
Stage Two: Retirement
Three possible paths are taken after the termination of paid employment:
- Honeymoon: The person may travel treating it as a much-desired leisure activity. The mindset is one of permanent vacation and a season of relaxation.
- Immediate Retirement Routine: One retirement is official, the individual transitions into a full and active schedule based upon pre-established interests.
- Rest and Relaxation: Due to overly active employment schedules, this person will choose a period of low activity in order to rest the mind and participate in activities once beyond their reach. Often, the person will return to a moderate to active activity level after a period of rest and relaxation (It may take up a few years to reach this stage.)
Stage 3: Disenchantment
After the "honeymoon" is over, some people experience a sense of disconnect to the once productive work schedule and will become disappointed or disillusionment with their present lifestyle. Triggers may include the death of a loved one, a sudden change in lifestyle, or relocation due to factors such as downsizing.
Stage 4: Reorientation
This stage often motivates a person to re-access their retirement path and to sketch out a plan to expand and enrich their present role. Choices made include involvement in the community, taking up a new hobby, accepting part-time employment, or downsizing their present living arrangement.
Stage 5: Retirement Routine
Reaching this stage of satisfaction in retirement may take a few years for some people. However, this phase is rewarding and restful for the retiree as he or she has accepted and perfected their view of retirement.
Stage 6: Termination of Retirement
Eventually, an individual reaches the stage in life where they no longer can function independently due to ill health, disability, or normal aging. Life is a day-by-day goal and future planning is simply to enjoy the present circumstances of life.
Based upon a study by Christine Price, PH. D. Ohio State University
Retirement: A Season of Discovery and Insight
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap…
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go…
But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.
I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.
Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That’s how it always is with God. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15
Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.— William A. Ward
Present Stage: Reorientation
At this time, my husband volunteers at a local homeless shelter a couple of times a month and helps out with church-sponsored events. He also has a daily exercise routine and is completing his Certified Management Accountant (CMA) degree online. He networks with former coworkers and lunches with friends to keep in touch socially. Interestingly, he has developed a hobby of taking photos of the Florida wildlife and native floral plants. I remember a time when he paid little attention to my remarks about hearing a bird sing or seeing a rainbow in the sky. Today he takes videos of both and the other day I was taken by surprise when he said, "Look, there's a rainbow!" and "snap" went the camera.
Early retirement was a forced situation in his case. It has been an opportunity to experience what full retirement looks like and what steps are necessary to enjoy Stage 5, the Retirement Routine mentioned above. I heard him on the phone the other day talking to a potential employer. I was a bit sad thinking how my day would be empty without him around the house working on projects or chatting about events. Worse yet, who is going to cook my lunch? Even so, life goes on and we adjust.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.