Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
I’ve defined myself in many ways over the years but one of the most significant in terms of time and investment is as an employee. I have been working since I was 16, taught by my Dad to put half my earnings into savings, and to spend the other half wisely.
Work is a path I have embraced and loved, with a fulfilling career on the marketing side of the high tech industry. Opportunities and salaries were excellent and I never wanted to do anything else but the path I chose forty years ago.
A recent downsize and move brought the meaning of the word retirement to the forefront of my thinking. It has always been a surreal objective, out there somewhere waiting for me. Having always worked, not working—a.k.a. retirement—was an abnormal concept that never fully settled on me.
Then one day it just happens; you realize you don’t want to work anymore. It’s time to do the things you said you would do when you had the time; and now you do.
But what happens to you when you stop being an employee?
Who Am I Now?
Work defines us. Next to sleeping, your job represents the greatest number of hours you spend doing something, and you are doing it for someone else. They say if you chose a job you love you will never work a day in your life, but this is not only false it’s misleading.
When you love your job, you work even harder. You set high goals and strive to deliver excellence to your stakeholders, customers, and managers. Working each day as part of a team, you become each other’s work family; creating a sense of belonging and affirmation of your value in the work place.
Of course, I knew that I would retire, and the past three months have been focused on stepping away from my career job and pursuing interests and opportunities I never had time for. But I still wonder what it will feel like when I no longer have a daily routine and a monthly paycheck. My job demanded long hours and global travel; it was not 9-to-5 and involved a lot of weekends; but it also had amazing benefits and opportunities. I often said I’d know when it was time to quit and I’m ready. But I’m also nervous about what comes next.
I wonder who I will be without my job and my daily interactions with colleagues who became friends. I can’t help but ask myself this question since so much of my life has been shaped by the career I’ve had.
It’s not a hard-stop retirement—that would simply not work for me. I signed up for a consulting job with a former CEO; but we’ve agreed on 20 hours a week because I want plenty of time for all the things I said I was going to do.
Time Versus Money
Retirement comes with a reminder that only you can make that time—no one else is going to do that for you. It comes with a mix of excitement and a bittersweet farewell to a job and a company I have loved.
As you get older, the reality of time passing stares you in the face. You can’t help but wonder how long you will live and since you don’t know the answer, you confront your mortality with the simple truth that the time is now; it’s not something that can be saved and used later.
Everyone gets a day with 24 hours. You can’t siphon off any hours or minutes into a time bank and there is no interest accruing on unspent hours.
And then there’s money. If you’ve saved an invested wisely, retirement is really what you’ve been waiting for. You now have time and money, but sometimes you have to spend one to save the other. It’s a balancing act.
Knowing how much money you have is pretty clear cut. Time, on the other hand, is impossible to calculate when it applies to how much you have left. You can only look at right now and spend what is given to you on a daily basis.
Having more time is not within our control, but valuing the time we have is.
Retirement: What Comes Next?
Retirement is a funny word. When I was a kid, it looked like my Grandparents, or the elderly people I’d see around town. It meant you didn’t have a job and you got to stay home.
We just moved into our forever home and we love it. We’re still decorating inside, landscaping outside, and exploring the city and surrounding area on weekends. Our community has opportunities for involvement and fun; and we have year-round tropical weather.
Retirement comes with a mix of excitement and a bittersweet farewell to a job and a company I have loved, but endings are also beginnings.
What comes next is up to me.