Monday, October 22, 2012

Retiring Early (or Simply Retiring)? Are You Ready For It?

Almost 15 years ago (time goes by quickly), I took early retirement from the public service when the federal government offered many of us a "golden handshake".

At the time — it sounded wonderful. I planned on returning to teaching and to paint in my spare time — a lot of spare time. Supply teaching turned out to be a lot different from what teaching had been when I was fresh out of university, and I could have starved as an artist — lots have — although it is still a great pastime.

Like me, early retirement is viewed by many (especially before the age of 60) as a career change or an opportunity to try different things, to take on part time or contract work, to learn new things, to share knowledge, and so on, instead of it being the end of your work life.

Still, perhaps the biggest complaint about retirement — either early or regularly-scheduled retirement — is boredom. Not having enough to keep you busy or enough meaningful things to do. Lunches with old friends and golf games every day may wear thin over time. That's why it's important to have outside interests — volunteer activities, hobbies and the like.

Not having any work stress may sound wonderful for someone who retires at 65 or older but for someone who retires early — say at 50 — and for someone who retires from a challenging work world — too little stress can create problems of their own. For example, stress researchers have underlined that a minimal level of stress is required to motivate people to perform tasks more efficiently. Not having this type of "minimal" stress can create a void which is hard to fill.

When I retired early my wife was still working. Having me around the house all the time created its own sorts of problems. There were also expectations that I should be doing more around the house. And often I found myself interrupting her routines. After six months of this, she asked me to find something meaningful to do outside of the house! Her exact words were — "go find another job!".