Fancy a ‘trial retirement’? Think carefully about your motivations first

Sep 08, 2020
Testing the waters of retirement before dedicating to it in full could be the smarter option for some. Source: Getty.

There is more than one way to retire. You can choose it, it can be forced upon you by illness or redundancy, or you can play with it. It’s the playing with retirement that I want to analyse in this article.

I hear talk, amongst my clients and more generally, about the idea of a trial retirement. People ask me if I think it is a good idea. The answer is yes and no; it depends. First, let me try a definition. I think a trial retirement can happen to you for a number of reasons:

  • Putting your toe in the water to test whether retirement ‘feels’ good for you,
  • Heeding the siren call of the employer who still needs you,
  • Retiring more than once in order to rehearse it and get it ‘just right’.

Leaving aside financial considerations, there are many ways in which the three multiple retirements could be good or bad for YOU. Let’s unpack them in order to understand some of the emotions and feelings at play.

Toe in the water

So you think that the water of retirement may be too cold. You say to yourself: “I will stop working for now, but we will see….”. This is the retirement that isn’t really a retirement. What about thinking of retirement as something permanent, as a way to ‘turn Monday into Sunday’?

In other words, retirement gives you the chance, at last, to wake up on Monday and do nothing, because of the absence of the gravitational attraction of work.

Some people feel guilty doing nothing on a Monday. That is an emotion you could try to dispel. Or maybe that is one reason for the toe in the water approach you are taking: you don’t feel that you merit so much freedom. That is something to think deeply about.

The siren call

This is the case where you really want to quit work forever but someone else has a different opinion. Your boss flatters you by telling you that you can’t be replaced.

Of course you were brilliant at your job, but are you irreplaceable? Apparently Charles de Gaulle said that cemeteries are full of indispensable people. Mmmmm. This is a component of the first ‘M’ of 64PLUS’ 4M process that I use in retirement coaching: Missing (what do you miss from work). Is it possible that you are simply missing being at work and that you are masking this with feelings of irreplaceability? Part of the process of retirement is to stop that missing feeling.

As a practical matter, I would also suggest that open-ended commitments where the boss has the power to call you back when he/she wants, while great for the boss, may not be ideal for you. That reminds me of a former phase of my life in the world of stock options; the buyer of the option typically has more control than the seller. Control can be a very good thing for YOU to have in your retired life.

Getting it ‘just right’

Finally, we come to the wish to control retirement, domesticate it and make it the perfect summation of a life.

I am not sure there really is such a thing as the perfect retirement. If you like to have control in this way, I also challenge you to think of the responsibility that goes with control. If you are already a grandparent, think of how parenting control and therefore responsibility have largely disappeared from your life. That is probably a good thing for you.

More generally, is losing control such a bad thing? Think of the times you were dragged off to a family barbecue that you didn’t want to attend. Was that the end of the world for you? You may find that letting go of things in retirement has enormous benefits for you.

A final thought. Isn’t retirement, full and forever, a duty that we owe to the next generation so that they can own the workforce and get on with building the new world? Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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Did you have a trial retirement? Did it work well for you?

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