Wednesday, January 18, 2017


In my retirement seminars I give participants an index card and ask them to write down how many months or years until their expected retirement date. Almost everyone writes down a range, such as 1-3 years or 3-5 years. The first number usually represents the first year that they are qualified, either age-wise or years-of-service wise, to take the leap. Every year after the first number is negotiable. 

How about you? If you were to do this exercise, is retiring in 2017 negotiable? A possibility?

Retiring is a big decision, and not one to be made lightly. There's a lot at stake beyond financial matters. And so, planning for this decision, being informed about how to best make this decision, is really important.

A seminar participant came up to me after the program to say, "My colleague has a 4-day rule. If he has 4 consecutive bad days, then he'll submit his retirement notice." So far he hasn't gotten past 3 days. This brings up a good point. When we're deciding when to retire, our emotions are not the best guide.

Research indicates that our memory of negative emotions and experiences is stronger than our ability to remember positive emotions and events. In other words, we may have more good days than bad days at work, but unless the good outnumber the bad by about 5 to 1, we're apt to think more days are unpleasant. That's why I like the 4-day rule.

Another factor that impacts our decision of when to retire is what we consider an "appropriate" age. Different professions have different retirement age norms, or reference points from which we measure if we're retiring early or late. Take away these reference points so you can decide if now is the right time for you, regardless of being early or late. The numbers are arbitrary.

Another question is, "What have you done to prepare for retirement?" By this I mean have you thought about what you want to do in this next stage of life? What do you want to make yourself available to? Until you have some idea of what this is, I suggest staying in your job. But don't just stay there and do nothing to prepare for your next encounter with retirement. Commit to exploring new interests and taking on new roles outside of your work role. Use your weekends and vacations to practice being retired. If you're quickly bored with lying on the beach for 10 days, this is a good indicator that you'll find more meaning and purpose, and happiness by creating opportunities to use your skills and knowledge.

Even if your work is positive and gratifying, and you see no reason to leave, you're not going to live forever. This is why it's important to consider the future time perspective. When you look ahead, how many "good" decades do you think you have left in your life? My age is 58, and I think I have two good decades to make the most of my life, my 60s and 70s. Interestingly, when I asked a 68-year-old man this question, he said he has two good decades remaining, 70s and 80s. By thinking about time remaining, we have to ask ourselves if full-time employment is how we want to spend that time. If so, that's great. What's important is to ask the question.

If you're waiting until you know for sure that it's the right time to retire, you might miss the best time to retire. With preparation, at some point we have to take the leap and then flap our wings like our life depends on it. Because actually, it does.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Measuring Tape Mindset

A friend whom I'll call Todd purchased my book a few years ago. Now, every time we see each other, he enthusiastically tells me how he's applying the exercises from the book to his life.

Recently I ran into Todd at our local brewpub, but instead of sharing another story about the exercises I designed, he zealously told me about an exercise he made up on his own. I think it's pretty cool, so I'm sharing it with you.
Since Todd is a semi-retired building contractor, it makes sense that his exercise begins with a measuring tape. Todd said to take a measuring tape and extend it to the number that you believe to be your life expectancy. The number is usually based on your health and family history. It's an educated guess. Then put your finger at your age and notice the difference from the number of years you have lived and the expected remaining years. 

Todd said you can focus on how many inches are already used up compared to the amount yet to go. In doing so, it's easy to become depressed about having so much of our lives lived. Or, take a different perspective. Narrow your focus to the difference between your current age and anticipated life expectancy. Now blow up the image of these years. This is your new focus. This is the time frame from which you have opportunities and possibilities. Don't squander these years. Decide what you want to do with them—then get started.

On my 47th birthday I figured I was halfway through my life, or as Todd would say, "halfway up the measuring tape." Not wanting to mindlessly move through the second half of my life, I wrote down a list of goals. Fast-forward 11 years. The distance on the measuring tape has shortened. And yet, I feel my life has expanded. Not by accident, but by being intentional about what I want in life.

The beginning of 2017 is a perfect time to do the measuring tape exercise. If it helps, literally mark your age and anticipated lifespan on the metal strip. Now what do you want to do with the distance between these two points? What do you really want?

Write your goals on a piece of paper. I prefer this to an electronic version because you can tuck the paper in your wallet or purse, making it easy to view often.

When you're coming up with a list of goals, imagine blowing up the distance between your two points, just as you take two fingers to expand an image on your phone or iPad. Try new ideas, set bigger goals, and commit to being more bold and brave with the distance remaining on your measuring tape.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.