Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Retirement Finish Line -- The Last Year of Work

My last post on this topic was in October 2012.  At that point, I had already been reading and thinking about the transition to post-retirement life for six years.  That makes it ten years from contemplation to execution – I retired on December 1st.

Deciding to retire is an interesting and lonely journey.  You typically retire only once and there’s no practice for it.  So, in case it’s of any use to anyone, I tried to capture my thoughts through the last year or so of my employed life and I plan to share excerpts over the next few months.

Of course, once you retire, the transition continues.  I’m fortunate to live in a community with a lot of role models – people who have been retired for decades.  But for me, with only one month of retirement under my belt, I’m still adjusting.

One thing you’ll probably pick up from the series is that I had a serious countdown calendar going for the last year or so.  I didn’t post it on my office door (as one of my colleagues did), but I kept it up to date for sure.

Here begin the excerpts. 


 Friday, June 12, 2015

…the other thing that’s eating at me is worrying the next 404 days fulltime plus 122 days planned part-time work (but who’s counting).  I’m mentally ready to be done.  Nothing I do in the day job seems that important to me.  Career has lost its meaning.  Of course this, I believe, is only natural at this stage of life.  The end of life is no longer hypothetical, so it’s hard to spend precious time doing something you’re no longer excited about.

Friday, January 1, 2016

This is it.  The final stretch of my employed life.  The transition to the rest of my life.  How do I characterize the next chapter?

First, as I look back, even though I’ve been working full-time, I think I can call it being semi-retired.  Certainly that’s true since Fall of 2011 -- last four years.  Even with a full work schedule, I’ve had the opportunity to branch out into other interests – taking classes at the community college and elsewhere.  That’s been a gift – one that, until recently, I haven’t fully recognized.

So, if I’ve already been (unknowingly) semi-retired how do I characterize this transitional year (and beyond)?  How about 2016 as the year of “conscious semi-retirement?”

If semi-retirement is a time to slow down, looking back on 2015, I’m not doing so well.  Besides the day job, I crammed in coursework and a multitude of other interests.    Doesn’t sound like going slow, does it?  Perhaps in 2016, the year conscious semi-retirement, I will actually slow down a little and give myself time to reflect. 

As I contemplate life beyond 2016, I think about what I’ll be doing with my life and time.  I sometimes think about paid-employment or setting up a business in a different field – something creative and contributing to society.  But, so far, nothing resonates.  And the prospect of having obligations to meet and a schedule to keep are real barriers to considering future employment for me.  So, the challenge and open question is “how do I want to use freedom from the requirements of paid-employment to contribute for the rest of my life?”

That’s the question to wrestle with through this transition year and beyond.  My advice to me is to leave it as an open question and not rush into anything too soon after employment ends.

In conclusion, 2016 is a year of transition.  It’s to being consciously semi-retired, -- winding down employed life and exploring what’s beyond.  That’s plenty to do. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016 -- 42 Workweeks to Go

Trapped in a salt mine.  That’s the news of the day.  Seventeen miners trapped in an elevator 800 feet below ground in a central New York salt mine.  They’re not immediate danger – nothing collapsed.  Rescuers can talk to them and send them food and blankets.  I’m sure it’s scary but probably mainly inconvenient.

At 42 workweeks to go, trapped in a salt mine is a rough metaphor for how I feel about work.    Although I’m lucky to have employment and the power to decide when to stop, it still feels a little like I’m trapped in an inconvenient circumstance.

At my boss’ request I gave my one-year notice last fall.  Since that time, I’ve let my peers and the folks that report to me know my decision and have written the requisition and job specs to hire my replacement.  I aim to craft a good ending.

Still, I feel conflicted.  I’ve spend my work-life initiating programs to make things better for my employers and my work colleagues.  It’s hard for me to turn that off and be a passenger on the bus.  On the other-hand, it just doesn’t make sense to start anything I won’t see through to the finish.  And, even if I wanted do something significant, my short tenure reduces my power to influence any change.

So I’m conflicted about engagement – mainly initiating or taking on new things, not keeping the operations running.   And I’m conflicted about ending the paycheck.  The fizzling financial markets don’t help matters as I contemplate an end to that.

All of this makes me wonder: What’s the magic number of months, weeks, days or hours for when I feel less conflicted and can begin to celebrate freedom from the salt mine of work?    Intellectually I know it’s time to hang up the spurs, but I have yet to feel the emotional release of my quest for freedom and excitement about the next act of life.

Time will tell.  Meanwhile, just plug along and do what you can. 

Like I said, I made it to the finish line and retired December 1, 2016.  More to come, though, in future posts on the last year of work.  

The posts should be more frequent now that the day job doesn’t get in the way!


  1. You don't speak much at all of your actual work from which you were retiring.

  2. I retired from Human Resources. I found it challenging and interesting for several decades. It was only at the end that it lost meaning for me, which I attribute to my own makeup versus the career. The latter I thought may be a more wide-spread phenomenon.