by Joe Casey
When you consider the question When can I retire? today it’s less often triggered by a specific date or age – or even a number. It’s more about your readiness. The essence of retirement is freedom. If you’ve earned the freedom to retire, you can taste what it will be like to have the time to do what you want – when you want to. How to structure your day in retirement becomes an inspiring, creative exercise with tons of possibilities. But when will it be the right time for you to walk away? When you’ve built enough financial security to walk away and live on your own terms. When you graduate from the grind to a different lifestyle. When you want time to focus less on pursuing the outward markers of success and more on the other ways you’d like to invest your time.
Readiness is your personal judgment that you’re ready financially and emotionally. It starts with achieving the financial assets to have the security and freedom to retire, but it’s also about the question How will I use the freedom that retirement offers? It’s also about assessing how ready you are to adjust to retirement, let go of many things from your career-focused days and re-invent yourself in your next chapter.
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There are many resources to help you save and invest for retirement, but there are few good resources to help you focus on how to retire well. The traditional supporting structures for retirement have eroded and there’s no roadmap. You have to chart your own course. So retirement planning concentrates on the financial side – until you’re in it and the other side of retirement emerges. You learn quickly that retirement is about both your money and your time.
We see that people are often surprised by aspects of the transition to retirement that they hadn’t fully considered. And they can limit freedom until they’re worked through. Many of these are rooted in things that are easily taken for granted while we’re working – and are sorely missed once we’re not. Here are a few areas to prepare for:
Once you’ve dealt with the core issues in transitioning to retirement, it’s time to optimize your freedom. Contrary to what some may think, this doesn’t happen overnight. Here are a few places to start:
Think twice before deciding if you can retire. Take care to make sure you’re ready financially and emotionally – so you can make the most of your freedom to retire.
Joe Casey is a former senior HR executive at Merrill Lynch, who’s created a second career as a retirement coach. He holds a Masters in Gerontology from the University of Southern California and, as a retirement coach and Designing Your Life coach, he helps people discover What’s Next after their primary career.
Related podcast episodes:
 Silver, M. P. (2018). Retirement and Its Discontents: Why we won’t stop working, even if we can. Columbia University Press.
 Alimujiang, A., Wiensch, A., Boss, J., Fleischer, N. L., Mondul, A. M., McLean, K., … & Pearce, C. L. (2019). Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years. JAMA network open, 2(5), e194270-e194270.