On the Work Train of Life – Is This My Stop? 5 Questions to Help you Decide if it is Time to Retire.

For a few years now, people have been asking me when I am going to retire.  At age 63, my answer is: “when I no longer enjoy what I am doing!”

Bit of a flippant answer, but I mean it.  I love the business development and coaching work that I do and I am having a good time doing it.  Isn’t that what we hope for at every stage in our lives and careers?

Many people in my age bracket, and younger, are obsessed with deciding when to retire.  Most common refrain being: “do I have enough money to retire?”   But I would suggest there are other questions that are equally valid.

The analogy with a train, let’s call it the work train, is apt.  I have a friend and colleague whom I would say got off the work train too soon.  It wasn’t his stop and I think he has regretted it ever since.  And it is not always easy to get back on the train, or figure out where your destination actually is.

Here are 5 Common Work Stops and the questions you may want to ask yourself to determine if this is indeed your stop:

1. The “I Have Enough Money” Stop – just as money is not the only reason we work, it shouldn’t be the only reason we stop working.  If you are in the lucky place of having enough money to live on for the rest of your life, perhaps this is your stop.  But, in my view, it shouldn’t be the leading decision maker.

• Question: Where does money fit on the scale of what is most important to me?  Are there other factors that are more significant?

2. The “Everybody Else is Getting Off Here” Stop – when you starting hitting a certain age, you look around and see many people your age getting off the train.  Maybe you should too?

• Question:  Take a look at the folks getting off at this stop: are they headed for a similar destination to you?  Have you made other major life decisions based on similar criteria to that of these folks?

3. The “Looks like a Nice Golf Course” Stop – how many times have you heard someone say, in response to the what are you going to do when you retire question, that they are just going to play golf, or work in the garden or lie on a beach.  Really?  For 365 days of the year?  For some people it works, for others they are bored to tears in a few months.

• Question: if you looked at your calendar for the next 365 days, how many of them do you want to spend on this activity?  What else will be in that calendar?

4. The “This is the Place I Can Do Good” Stop – this is a hard one to argue with.  If you have long had a desire to volunteer, contribute your talents to a worthwhile cause, start a values-based business – maybe this is your stop.

• Question:  Is this the best way for me to satisfy a desire to do good?  For some people, making a regular financial donation has a major impact and satisfies their need to make a difference.  For others, contributing their time is the ticket.

5. The “I Want to Spend More Time with My Partner/Grandkids” Stop – this is another good one.  Many of us have sacrificed time with our partners and families for work for too many years.

• Question:  What will it be like to actually have that much time with my family?  Does my partner want to spend that much time with me?  What happens when the grand-kids get older and are less interested in hanging out with their grandparents?

You may well have convincing answers to these questions.  The saying that nobody lies on their death bed and thinks “gee, I wish I had spent more time at work” is worth heeding!

“Keep working” is not the only answer.  In my view, the people who are happiest and most fulfilled in their older years are those that figure out where the fulcrum point of work and other pursuits lies.  Maybe there is a new business to start that also allows you to get off at one of these stops?

Beware the point that looks like your work stop.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but if it isn’t, it may be hard to find another train or destination that will carry you through the rest of your life in the way that you truly want.

This is a topic I love to discuss!  Give me a shout anytime you would like to mull it over!  linda@oglov.com.