One of my biggest questions about retirement has always been, "What will it look like?" I wonder what to expect at the end of the road, and if I will even make it that far. Furthermore, while I’m waiting for retirement, I ponder if it will be worth it, and if I will be the same person when I get there.
I'll be waiting for retirement a good, long time to answer any of those questions for myself. In the meantime, I want to share a before and after story about someone in my life who recently retired.
After 30 years as a Deputy Sheriff, my friend Mr. Green was waiting for retirement. A few years before, I remember him saying that he couldn't wait. He made plans to set up his workshop at home so that he could make extra money. He had made a hobby of building furniture and working with stained glass.
He and his wife were both very ready to see him stay home, away from all the dangers and demanding hours. He had spent time working at a jail, and it seemed like his job was the real prison for him and his wife. Their house was paid for. Their expenses were organized. They had savings in the bank, and a steady pension around the corner. They were ready for Mr. Green’s jail break from working life.
As you might imagine, 30 years as a deputy sheriff had its effects. Mr. Green valued safety and certainty with a fanaticism like some have for their favorite sports team. His home office was more organized than the sheriff's. Heaven forbid if something unexpected ever happened.
He wasn't the type to leave things to chance, or jump into something without a plan. Without a doubt, flexibility was not his strong suit.
As time went on and retirement got closer, something changed in his tone. He would tell stories of other deputies who had retired, and then passed away only a few months later. He talked about staying with the department for a few more years. He could still do the job so why not stay and make more money?
Just six months before retirement it was clear that my friend was under a lot of stress. He seemed much more irritable and far less happy.
It was as if waiting for retirement had made him question everything. It seemed like he was afraid to leave the prison of his job. After 30 years, he was scared to retire.
To complicate matters, his health took a turn. It seemed as though his body couldn't handle waiting for retirement.
The only thing that was clear, was that he would have to retire a few months early. After hearing this, I thought he would throw a fit. His plans had been so thoroughly ruined.
Much to my surprise, my friend Mr. Green didn't claim defeat, but came up with a new plan. Within a few months, his health made a comeback. He and his wife had packed everything up. They put the house up for sale and moved into their RV.
Waiting for retirement wasn't easy, but when the day finally came, they rolled up to the office with only the RV. They signed the paperwork, and just kept on going.
Fast forwarding a few years after he retired, I hardly recognize the couple today. Mr. Green and his wife have spent a lot of time relaxing, traveling, and seeing new places. They've been able to visit friends and family. They've been to both the east and the west coast.
The best thing is they get to spend as much time with their granddaughter as they want.
He wouldn't say every day is sunshine and lollipops, but I don't hear stress in his voice when I talk to him. He tells me things that seem out of character, like "I don't know where we're going next," and "If it doesn't work out, it'll be okay." It's so strange to think that the same person would have freaked out at the idea of not having a plan only a few years prior.
My good friend Mr. Green ran into many obstacles while waiting for retirement. He didn't plan for all the anxiety at the end of his career. He didn't plan for his health to take such a dramatic turn.
For most of his life, the Deputy Sheriff valued safety and certainty. He knew he wanted to retire, but didn't see all the stress that would creep in the last year or so. The anxiety of retiring, and waiting for retirement, had seemingly killed friends and even hit his own health.
To me, Mr. Green’s plan was risky. They had sold their house and said goodbye to the workshop dreams. Years later he told me that he had never been so certain.
Let this be a lesson, that life doesn't always go according to plan. Retirement doesn't always happen the way we want it to. We're not always the person we think we'll be when the time comes to retire.
If you or someone you know is stuck waiting for retirement, please know that we're here to help take some of that stress off your shoulders. We can help you create a retirement plan, manage your investments, and hopefully help you find your own jail break from working life with confidence.