You never know what people are thinking about when they hear the word retirement. Some think it only applies to others, as in “Oh, I will never retire, I love what I do and can’t imagine stopping it just because I reach a certain age.” Others, the more realistic ones, realize that the decision is not always in their hands…if they work for someone else, there may be rules, age restrictions, pension distribution and other factors that enter into when one will be asked…or forced to retire.
Recently I spoke to a San Francisco man who was 63 and not even thinking about retiring. He loved his job and was challenged every day with new ideas and opportunities. However, the large, generous company he had spent years working for was acquired by an even larger company which was
not as generous with benefits as the original one. He was told that the new company would not be paying for health care coverage and that he was on his own until his own Medicare began. His HR department told him that if he would retire now, he could be grandfathered in to the old retirement system and its health insurance program, so he decided to take early retirement, even though he wasn’t “ready.” A woman I know had not considered retirement at this time, but her company offered her a “golden handshake” type of retirement and pension and although she was in the middle of several projects she wanted to complete, the financial incentives to retiring now were too good to refuse.
Other people have found a way to stay employed, even if they were forced into retirement. A Contra Costa man had worked for a government agency for his entire career, retired and spent a year traveling, serving on his county’s grand jury, and spending time with his children and grandchildren. Looking for something a bit more challenging, he sought out old contacts and is now happily working as a consultant for the same agency where he had spent his career. A New York woman who worked as a lawyer for the city, retired at 70 but still takes occasional assignments where she can work at her own schedule but still use her skills. A Daly City teacher retired and stays connected to her profession by mentoring new teachers.
If you have not yet retired, do you have a plan for what lies ahead? And a Plan B as well? Too often retirees think they will wake up on the first day of retirement and know how they want to spend their days, only to find themselves bored and depressed. It is not too late to plan for the years ahead. Of course the ideal situation is to have something to retire to, not just retire from. But even if you don’t have a passion, an idea for a new business, or a desire to rejuvenate that high school rock band, you should have a plan. It is the best way to be prepared for the unexpected.