Retirement Readiness: A Trial Run

Have you thought about how you will live in retirement?  Or are you so eager to leave the workforce that you’ve neglected to consider how you will spend your days? If the latter sounds like you, you may need some retirement readiness training.

In my 30-plus-year career, I’ve pretty much seen every side of this retirement readiness thing. Some folks embrace the chapter fully, expressing a new sense of purpose and fully engaging with all that life brings now that they finally have time to embrace it. The only question they have is, “Why didn’t I retire sooner?”

But other people seem to flounder. Some miss the day-to-day structure and camaraderie of the workplace. Others pine for the sense of identity that came with their role or title. Folks in this camp often go back to work in some capacity.

With these thoughts in mind, I enjoyed reading “What I Learned from My ‘Faux-tirement,'” a lessons-learned essay from Morningstar’s Christine Benz based on her six-week mini-sabbatical.  Benz wanted to see how she would manage a stretch of unstructured free time.  As we learn, the exercise proved to be reasonably constructive.

One interesting observation Benz made was that her concentration noticeably improved. Because she didn’t have to multi-task her way through each day, she was able to focus on the task at hand more effectively. That’s good news for anyone planning to undertake intellectually challenging projects in their retirement years—or even for those who enjoy serious reading without interruption. Benz also observed that the slower pace gave her the freedom to become more introspective and curious.

Of course, she did her share of navel gazing. She also fell victim to excess media consumption. Still, she was mostly able to self-correct along the way.  Benz’s observations about balancing her days, controlling her spending, and taking the long view are helpful in showing future retirees what to expect.

Truth be told, I will be taking my own mini-sabbatical next year—but given that it’s already filled with travel plans, it appears that my own retirement readiness experiment will have to be pushed to another day.  No need to rush.