Retirement Planning

Retire or Continue Working – What Is the Happy Medium Decision?

Published by Bob Gustafson

Retire or Continue Working - What is the Happy Medium Decision?

Deciding when to retire can be a very scary proposition, one that can keep you up nights. We often hear from many clients who are truly wrestling with the life-changing decision on whether they should retire or continue working. “I’m worried about working for too long, and then dying before I can have the chance to enjoy my retirement,” they say, nervous about when to pull the plug on their work life.

What makes them decide?

9 times out of 10, many people find the courage to take that step into retirement when a catalyst occurs. It’s often when someone within their circle of friends or family dies – often before they had a chance to step into the calm waters of retirement.

They never got the chance to travel the world or spend their golden years with their kids and grandkids. They worked themselves to the bone for decades, saving for a retirement era of peace and relaxation that would never come. This fate can be more than enough motivation to cut the cord, pull the trigger, grab that brass ring and just retire already.

The big question for many is, “Where is the happy medium between working (and generating income, of course) and deciding it’s time to retire?

When do I reach that line in the sand?”

It’s a question we’ve heard often and have explored from many angles ourselves.

And in recent years, our answers have evolved to this:

Maybe there’s never a line in the sand. Maybe there’s never one definable moment for when to retire.

Maybe there’s another way to look at what retirement IS instead.

Perhaps retirement is being done with the high-pressure job you’re in now and creating an Act Two: switching careers and doing something you love, even if you’ll make slightly less money. You’ll still be making money, adding to your financial assets and retirement accounts. But you won’t face that daunting moment of pure panic when there’s no money coming in.

In addition, you can address that second half of your question about living long enough to enjoy your retirement. There’s a belief that people who work longer live longer. There seems to be a correlation between having a purpose for your life (contributing to society, helping others, creating, etc.) and extending your life.

The philosophy of this belief, from a spiritual perspective, is that humans were meant to work, to add to society. Without a purpose, without meaning to your life – so the spiritual studies say – you could wither away. Work, when it has a positive effect on you, can prolong your vitality. Which can give you more time to enjoy your life.

Retirement = New Beginning

Thinking this way, the concept of retirement can become something totally new for you, not to be feared as a stopping point, but inspired as a new beginning.

Picture this:

  • Imagine working in your new career three days a week, then having four days off.
  • Imagine being able to take a month off to travel to all the places on your bucket list.
  • Imagine waking up excited about a new project you’re starting. Or simply not dreading the routine of your former job (and your commute.)
  • Imagine having time to spend with your kids and grandkids, when they get the best version of you: happy, relaxed, more engaged, and not ground down, depressed, and tired.

Your retirement from your former job can be a brand new day, when you think about what you’d like your Act Two to look and feel like:

  • “I’ve always wanted to be a maker, crafting things and selling them on Etsy.”
  • When I was 21, I put myself on a track to become a lawyer. I’ve always wished I chose marketing instead.”
  • “I would be an excellent blogger.”

What’s your Act Two vision?

What would make you happy and filled with purpose in your new career?

Don’t hit the brakes just yet, thinking about how you could never live on a lesser income. The fact is, you can. If you’re willing to dial back your spending – which you’d have to do in retirement anyway — you can craft your own golden solution for this fresh start, live well, and keep your income stream flowing. A financial planner can help you find those many categories in which you overspend and help you make some comfortable changes.

The line in the sand may be the moment when you realize that Time is the most precious commodity, and when you have enough money, you’ll be able to spend more of that Time the way you’d like.

Listen to our podcast on whether there is a happy medium between retiring and continuing to work. Maybe it can help you design your own new version of Retirement.