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REACHING THE TIPPING POINT (the retirement decision)

We know that finances are a huge factor in the retirement decision, but there are also other circumstances that need to be considered – and those are entirely personal to the individual.

I was armed with tons of personal research about the process and transition, but what would tip my decision? In my situation, seismic changes were occurring in the workplace – not negative changes and not beyond my capability, but large changes in how we did 'business'. I had played an active part over the past five years in those new directions coming about. The new 'practice' had to settle in which meant little chance for new projects and interests in the next couple of years. (Did I have enough years left before the department came up with the next new, exciting, direction?) Our manager had moved on and we would be faced with a new person which always brings about a new style of management. This, again, is not negative, simply another change. (One friend jokingly said to me, “Do you really want to train a new manager at this point?”). My partner is eight years older than me – when we were younger, that was meaningless, but as we age, you start doing the math . . . COVID had forced me to work from home and I realized that I liked being at home, away from the ongoing conversations and drama that are inherent in any well-sized office space. But during this time, I was kept busy doing my job, oblivious to the fact that my husband was not allowed the opportunity to be more engaged in life. It was only when I overheard him tell his sister, “That was the hardest year of my life” that I realized that COVID restrictions had taken a much greater toll on him than on me. I needed to shift my energy. So, combined with more positive and helpful thinking, circumstances were lining up and telling me it was time to go.

Looking at my journey and reviewing what we know about change left me thinking, “Dang, those early researchers knew exactly of what they spoke.” My life was following precisely the blueprint laid out by Prochaska and DiClemente, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, William Bridges, and Erik Erickson.

But there was one BIG issue left – HOW to make the exit? HOW to jump into the water?

Did I want to go out with a bang, with everyone talking, asking me how I was feeling, and throwing a good-bye party or did I want to leave quietly out the back door, so to speak?

There is a line in a song that goes something to the effect of leaving before the heart finds out. That was me. I carried a weight of emotion that had grown for 40 years and, even though I had made my decision, I had to leave before my heart found out. No ‘big day’ planned. No forewarning (except for the people who HAD to know). NO drama.

Even though the decision was made, I dreaded the final day, again thinking that I was going to be a melting pot. But, as usual, I had created ‘too much drama’. July 16th came, and it was the perfect ending to a 40-year career. Only one other staff was in the office (remember, COVID restrictions). She had been given the heads up by management. In she walked with flowers, a bottle of wine, and breakfast. Lauren, if you ever read this, you are truly an angel. (Strangely, I NEVER forget about food but, for the first time in years, I had forgotten to bring breakfast – clearly, I was a bit rattled.) I finished purging old papers and ‘junk’ that tends to accumulate in an office (remember the retirement decision can last for years – I had been purging for a long time already), did the final shredding, cleaned up, and at 4:25 pm, sent out my final email. I walked out of the office with a smile, no tears. I could not have asked for anything more perfect (for me) for a final day of work.

So, looking back – the retirement decision is a process, sometimes an arduous journey that takes months, even years. You pass through stages that can be laden with emotion before arriving at the final decision. Even though finances are key, there are many other factors - your health, your home life, the state of the work environment. You might start to question your own stability – but this is all ‘normal’ and part of the process.

Start to think about HOW you are thinking – is it helpful or non-helpful? This is a good place to start!

And then it falls into place. A+B=C

But where am I now and how is it going? Thanks for asking. That is a topic for the future.


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