This past week I was asked by Wisconsin Public Radio to discuss how to have a fulfilling retirement (from the non-financial angle.) The producers pegged the discussion to Garrison Keillor’s announced retirement. In an interview with AARP, Keillor said, “I am planning to retire in the spring of 2013, but first I have to find my replacement. I’m pushing forward, and also I’m in denial.” Keillor went on to say, “When I was younger, I was all in favor of it, and now that I’m at that age, I’m not sure.”
I find it interesting that even though Keillor is a well-known and accomplished writer and host of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, he is experiencing the process of retirement very much like the guy-next-door. He is moving through stages. Back in 2006, in an article for Salon, Keillor had this to say about retirement: “It scares the bejeebers out of me.” Now in 2011 he is “not sure” and yet, still moving forward by making his intention to retire known to the public.
Retirement is a process that takes time to get used to. It is common to approach it and then back off. That is why it concerns me when people have retirement forced on them earlier and faster than they had planned. We need time to approach this major life change, hang out with the idea for a while, wrestle with it, and then take the leap after carefully considering the question: “What will I do all day?”
We can learn these lessons from Garrison’s announcement:
1. Garrison has two years to get used to the idea. When possible, allow time (ideally 2-4 years) to prepare psychologically for retirement.
2. Garrison defines himself by more than one role. Begin to add other “roles” to your identity. If you strongly identify with the work-role, then it is even more important that you start right now to develop and place value on other roles in your life.
3. Garrison has a wide social network. Relationships are one of the most important factors in retirement satisfaction. Begin now to develop a broader social network and nurture meaningful relationships.
4. Garrison made his decision public. By making your decision public you begin to get more comfortable with the idea. A public announcement also brings accountability. You are less apt to withdraw your retirement papers when other people know about your decision.
5. Garrison is bringing closure to his most prominent role as the host of Prairie Home Companion by looking for his replacement. Perhaps there is a way for you to bring closure to the identity you have with your work. What will make it feel all right to leave?