Friday, January 19, 2018

95 to zero

“I feel like I went from 95 to zero in a weekend!” 

This is how a 66-year-old friend describes his experience with retiring from an engineering career. He went on to tell what it felt like the first Monday morning without work.

“My wife got up and went to work. I was left home. Alone. Not sure what to do with myself. The first two weeks were really rough. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

When I think about going from 95 to zero, I imagine driving a car and then suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting something. The force of momentum sends everything flying forward—including my spine and forehead. If I had advance warning, I’d brake gradually, slowly coming to a stop. Nothing would be forced out of place. My body would comfortably adjust to the change in speed. No shock to absorb. 

Since most of us have advance warning of retirement, why do some people go full speed, and then suddenly hit the brakes? Is there a way to move over to the slower lane, even when everyone around us is still moving at 95? If we can’t literally slow down, is there a way to mentally tap the brakes before being hit with retirement? I think so.

Begin now, even at 95 miles/hour, to get in touch with interests you had before you got too busy with work. Did you play a musical instrument in high school? If so, explore opportunities to play with a community band, take lessons, or join a worship team at church. You might not remember how much fun it is until you try. Plus you’ll be part of a community, which is often missed in retirement.

Increase your physical activity. Investing in your health is as important as investing in your workplace.

Talk to other people who have already retired, especially friends who experienced something similar to your situation—being totally absorbed in work and then nothing. Ask what's working and what's not? What lessons have they learned along the journey?

Consider gradual retirement instead of cold turkey. It’s not that one leads to more happiness. What matters is for you to have a choice.

Use weekends and vacations to practice retirement. Purposely leave your schedule open so you experience unstructured time. Use this time to consider what matters to you—what will bring purpose and meaning to your life.

Also consider the idea that maybe you retired at the right time, but stopped working too soon. Retirement and work are not mutually exclusive. Instead, retirement makes you available to that next thing—and that next thing might be work—just something different and for different reasons.

I’m warning you there is something in the road around the bend—RETIREMENT. Begin now to tap your brakes.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

In Love with Retirement

Today started out like most days—preparing two poached eggs while watching the CBS This Morning show. The record-breaking snowstorm along the East coast had the interest of most viewers. But it was something said on a commercial that grabbed my attention. (And as you’ve heard me say before, “When something grabs your attention, pay attention.”) 

The advertisement was for a financial services firm. The advisor answers a phone call from a familiar client.

“Hi Sara. What’s up?” 

John, I’ve decided to retire early.

“That’s wonderful! Come in and we’ll talk.”

Seconds later my focus went back to poaching eggs, just right—runny yokes without watery whites. I didn’t see much more of the commercial other than John doing his research, running the numbers, and preparing to meet with Sara. I assume he had good news for her—that she could afford to retire earlier than expected.

A lot of people decide to retire early, so why did this commercial have such an impact on me? I think it was the way Sara said, “I’ve decided to retire early.” Her voice projected energy, confidence, and a sense of adventure. I wish I could ask Sara why she decided to retire early. I imagine she knows what she wants and has decided that work is getting in the way. She’s ready to take on this next stage of life.

Just the tone of Sara’s voice brought back memories of my first love for retirement. Freedom to do anything. Sunday nights without setting an alarm clock. Travel. Time to exercise and prepare healthy meals. I think many of us start out retirement with a zest for living. But along the way, the “honeymoon” phase fades. We get into ruts and routines, just keeping busy. We lose our first love.

Sara has reminded me to view retirement through a fresh lens. To approach each day with a sense of adventure. To invest my time and talents in something that matters. To live intentionally.

Imagine you just called your financial advisor to say, “I’ve decided to retire early.” What have you retired early for? What is the next big thing you want to make happen? The New Year is a perfect time to fall in love, again, with retirement.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

You can get it by Christmas! Last minute gifts + RUSH delivery

As the days count down to Christmas, my inbox fills up with emails from retailers offering RUSH delivery and last minute gift ideas. If you’re like me, you know it’s easy to get caught up in a shopping frenzy, feeling pressure to find the perfect gift for each person on your list.

So, with three shopping days remaining, I’ve decided to change my mindset about giving. Instead of things, I’ve decided to share one of my most precious presents—the gift of time. I experienced the value of this gift last week when my sister and I drove to NH to clean our dad’s house for the holidays. As we were eating lunch together I thought, “No gift is better than sharing a meal together and showing our love by cleaning his home.” We could have paid someone to clean his house. Instead, we gave a priceless gift—our time.

In retirement, we have the freedom to choose how we spend our time. And we have enough of it to give generously. Instead of spending it shopping for the perfect present, try being present with someone who might be lonely during the holidays. Instead of making cookies, give your partner attention by making love. For the young parents on your list, offer to babysit overnight. Believe me, this gift will mean more than another argyle sweater or merchandise card.

Regardless of how prepared we are financially for retirement, most of us can generously give away our time. No RUSH delivery or last minute discount needed.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Living Whimsically

Who would travel 3,641 miles to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a country where you’re not even sure you can buy a fresh turkey? I know this sounds crazy. It sounded crazy to us too, which is why when I was looking at flights, I assured Dave, “I’m just playing.”

This crazy idea came up because our son, Steven, and his business partner, Lance, have been awarded a startup grant to pursue their interest in bringing technology to the houseplants industry. They’re not living and working a few hours from home. They’re not even living and working on this continent. Dave and I were talking about cooking Thanksgiving dinner in Holland! When we learned the cost of a round-trip ticket from NYC to Amsterdam was under $500, we said “why not?” 

Other than having our son pre-order a fresh turkey from the local  Dutch poulterer (a butcher who focuses on the sale of poultry), and slipping a can of cranberry sauce between sweaters in our suitcase, we made no advance preparations. Instead, Thursday morning we walked into the city in search of the best cheeses, breads, vegetables, desserts and flowers. No rush. Discovery was part of the experience. Once back at the apartment, we found ways to prepare the food with a sparsely stocked kitchen. (Butternut squash cooks quite well on an aluminum lined oven rack.) Everyone got in on the preparations. No American football to watch on the BBC or CNN channels.

Over the years I’ve hosted many Thanksgiving dinners, spending weeks in advance looking for creative decorating and menu ideas. And yet, this Thanksgiving, with no preparation or linen napkins, was extra special. Why? Because we experienced what Bob Goff, author of Love Does, calls whimsical living—being creative, impulsive, playful and unpredictable.

Goff believes most people plan to live a life full of whimsy, but he says, “along the way they just kind of forget.” He encourages us to “find a place where the stuff of imagination, whimsy and wonder are easier to live out.”

I believe retirement is the “easier place” to live whimsically. Freedom and unstructured time allow us to be more creative and impulsive. We don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. We don’t have to prove ourselves; we’ve already done that. (My family knows I can produce a nearly perfect Thanksgiving dinner.) Living whimsically opens doors to discovery and surprise, where we’re fully engaged in living.

What can you do to experience the joy of whimsical living? 

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Living Engaged

I’m driving home from Boston when my iPhone pings, pings again, and once again. Must be something important so I pull over at the next rest stop. The message is from my son. Three images, no text. I zoom in. I think I see a diamond on her finger. I write back, “Is this what I think it is?”

Yes, we’re engaged! Call you later.

News travels fast. Within 24-hours we receive phone calls and emails from friends congratulating us on our son’s engagement. Everyone loves to share in the joy of a newly engaged couple.

Fortunately the excitement of being engaged isn’t limited to a marriage proposal. Author Bob Goff reminds us that, “Being engaged is a way of life, a way of living and loving.” Perhaps a good place to learn about living engaged is to think back to what it felt like to be newly engaged.

Dream Big. You don’t enter marriage with the thought that your life with this person will be good enough. Instead, you make big plans for your future together. You imagine the best and are willing to put forth the energy to make it happen. Retirement is no different. Just because you might be downsizing some areas of your life, don’t downsize your dreams.

Totally Committed. Before you propose marriage, you feel a need to protect yourself incase things don’t work out. You have one foot in, one foot out. Once you’re engaged, you’re all in. Totally committed. Do the same when designing your retirement engagement. By getting involved in significant projects, committing your time and talents to meaningful organizations, and investing in authentic relationships, you experience life fully engaged.

Involve Others. Newly engaged couples express feeling excitement and bliss when they share their news with loved ones, friends, and coworkers. “Hearing that our loved ones were just as excited about our decision only served to reinforce my own happiness.” Share your engaged-life with others. Expand your social networks. Share your dreams and goals. Soon you’ll find that they want to add logs to your fire—supporting and encouraging you to live fully engaged. Do the same for them.

Experience Wonder and Comfort. Engagement brings a sense of wonder that you can spend so much time together, see each other at your best and worst, and still feel prepared to build a life together. There’s comfort in the fact that this person, your very favorite person, reciprocates the depth of feelings that you have for him or her. Where can you find wonder and comfort in retirement? Be curious, open to new experiences, and approach life as a great adventure—fully engaged to life and with life.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.