Finding Retirement III – Still Searching

Finding Retirement III – Still Searching

Long-time readers will know that I have spent the last three years thinking more seriously about retirement.  Here are links to the first and second installments of my journey.

Lessons Learned

Last year I observed that choosing fixed days to ‘work’ and ‘not work’ wasn’t successful for me.  There were times when I was at work wanting to be elsewhere and times that I was at play and was busy thinking about work.  This year I embarked on a trial where I would sit down Sunday and decide when I had to work and when I had clear plans to have fun and I then tried to block out the rest of the week between the two.  This worked reasonably well in terms of allocating total time.

What didn’t work as well was managing my focus at work.  Because I work weekends much less often, especially in the summer, I would sometimes end up with a four-day weekend.  When you show up at work Tuesday and you haven’t been there since the Thursday before, it can be hard to be clear on what to attack first and sometimes just cleaning up email takes half a day.  The big lesson here, not that readers want to hear it, is that there is a minimum amount of attendance at work that is needed for ‘transitional retirement’ to work on the employer side of the coin.  It is easy to show up to golf after four days at work and get right down to the business of hitting too many bad shots and having lunch with friends, but it doesn’t work the other way around as well.

The other lesson – and one that my friend Harold has been preaching for a while is that at older ages, it isn’t easy or very likely to finish the year healthier than when the year started.  Just as soon as you lose a little weight or solve the problem with your left shoulder, you end up with plantar fasciitis and a bum right shoulder.  This is Harold’s argument in favour of full retirement, get out while the getting is good.  When you are 25 and you are not taking care of yourself, you don’t really grasp the magnitude of the long-term damage that you are creating.  I preach to my three 20-something kids all the time.  They might hear me, but they are only half listening (not sure I would have listened at all at that age).

The Road to Retirement

I have concluded that there are three boxes you need to check to move from full-time working to full-time retirement.  The first box is finding something that you want to do when you are retired.  The second box is being ready to let go of work.  And the third box is to get your financial house in order to be able to afford to leave T4 income behind.  There is no right order to checking these boxes although for most it happens in the order above.  For most people, long before the finances are in order there is a clear line of sight on what they would rather be doing and a sense that there has been enough work that it won’t be missed.

For us, the finances have suddenly shaped up in the last five years which has taken me by surprise – although this year’s market is a little bit of a setback.  I was still in the ‘keep working and keep saving’ mode and although the financial picture still isn’t entirely clear because all three kids are home – this is likely going to change quickly in the next few years.

I have always known that golf will be part of my retirement, but it won’t be all I do.  I can’t golf six times a week like my buddies Rick and Dave can – and in fact with the whole plantar fasciitis fiasco I am reluctant to assume that I will even feel like golfing three times a week after I turn 60.  But over the past three years I have found that going to the gym, golfing, reading and wasting at least 30 minutes every day on TikTok can fill days quickly.  My daily walk with Paula and Henry is the highlight of most days – but only when its 5OC or better (below that I am happy if Paula and Henry want some one-on-one time together).  I have Tuesday get-togethers virtually with the boys from University and Friday is Retired Actuaries Club – so I don’t think I will be bored when full retirement finally arrives.  Paula is suggesting she might let me manage 2% of our savings which surely will require time spent researching and rationalizing some bad decisions. 

The missing piece is the letting go.  I still just love my work.  I love consulting and I love meeting with clients, industry partners and prospective clients.  I love working with everyone on our team.  I had a client call a few months ago looking to buy a business in Ontario that sponsored a defined benefit pension plan.  Twice this year lawyers have called asking for help with an arbitration.  This stuff fires me up still.  It isn’t the money, it’s the problem solving and, in particular, the effort it takes to clearly communicate the problem and the sometimes-unique solutions that I see.  Travel to Toronto has restarted and it’s great to see people face-to-face.  In summation, I know I am super lucky to have chosen a career that is intellectually fulfilling and not physically demanding which allows me to continue past what was once considered ‘normal retirement age’.

A friend from first year university resurfaced this year.  Kim did get the accounting designation that she was pursuing when we first met, and she seems to be in her own world of slowing down but not stopping.  Like me, the role she has taken doesn’t require an ‘all or nothing’ hard stop.  As we talked, she helped me realize that my approach to work has not mirrored those that grind hard for 30 years and then jump ship when their defined benefit pension plan says it is time.  At that moment I suddenly realized that I was trying to fit myself into the retirement framework that wasn’t designed for me.

The Journey Continues

I have a much lesser sense of urgency about finding retirement right now.  The classic ‘if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it’ applies here.  My plan for 2023 is to just let the year unfold.  I will surely be working and will also be making time for the gym and for golf.  I am home most nights and Paula has never had to complain that I am not around enough.

There may not be a fourth installment on this subject for a few years because I wonder if I could just keep balancing things the way they are for 5 or 10 more years.  Stay tuned and in the meantime, I would love to get together in-person, via zoom, or on the phone if you have something that you want to talk about.  Reach out anytime.

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