Man with beard clasping hands and looking thoughtful

Think it through before clocking off for good

Making the right choice for your future 

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
3 minute read
Man with beard clasping hands and looking thoughtful

Are you considering whether it is time to hang up the work boots?

The opportunity to retire – to withdraw, retreat and clock off from the workplace in favour of embracing a life of leisure – is a deeply personal decision that requires a brutal look at life.

The key to making the right decision is knowing what questions to ask and then carefully listening to the answers.

First of all, ask whose agenda is best served by your retirement.

Too often we feel pressured by those around us to give up work even though we continue to make a meaningful contribution.

And it makes no sense if we are able and willing to give up something we thoroughly enjoy.

There is also the matter of exactly how we plan to spend our time in retirement.

Some older workers are so preoccupied with hobbies they barely have time to go to work. At the same time, others have never had a hobby and cannot dream of taking one up – even in retirement.

It should come as no surprise that those who glow like a fluorescent tube in retirement have hobbies they love and that keep them occupied.

Then there is the sensitive issue of friendships post-retirement.

Perhaps this scenario is all too familiar to those who have retired. On Friday, a choreographed retirement function, teary speeches and a long, emotional goodbye. The following Monday – nothing.

Your long-time colleagues who became friends have suddenly vanished to leave a hole in your social calendar that is larger than life itself.

The answer is not always black and white

So before you hand in your resignation letter, consider whether your social life is tied to your working life, which might mean you will be giving up more than a pay cheque.

Think, too, about whether the option of easing into retirement is more appealing than going “cold turkey”.

And if you have a partner, then the decision of when to retire becomes a whole lot more challenging.

Ask yourself what role your partner is playing in encouraging you to retire and be clear on if – and how – your partner wants to enjoy your retirement with you.

There is also the prospect of travel, downsizing or moving to a completely different retirement location, all of which need to be discussed in advance of setting the big date

Consider, too, whether you are simply hanging on to work as a refuge to avoid confronting relationship issues with your partner. Tackling those issues well before giving up work might make a world of difference to your retirement experience.

The complexity of the decision of when to retire means it is hardly surprising that many of us end up unretiring and returning to work, at least part of the time.

At the end of the day, the retirement experience is going to be different for each individual and will depend on what they did before retirement – and what they plan to do when the time comes to leave the workforce.