Whenever my husband speaks about fully retiring, he brings up the name of an old friend who hung up his work boots when he turned 65 -- without doing an ounce of retirement planning.
This man had spent the last 30 years of his life as a top-level corporate executive, working constantly. He retired with plenty of money but not a single hobby. When we visited him and his wife at their oceanfront home, he was spending his days collecting shark teeth on the beach and was bored out of his mind. My husband says he doesn't want to be that guy. If a life of mind-numbing leisure is an inevitable part of retirement, he'd just as soon keep working.
I'm urging my husband -- and anybody else with big questions about what they want in retirement -- to make 2012 the Year of Experimentation. For instance:
- If your dream is to move to a warm climate, figure out a way to spend a couple of months there before you make a permanent move.
- If you have a vague idea about working part time or starting a small business in retirement to help make your life a little more financially comfortable, stop talking and start doing. Identify part-time opportunities. Write a business plan. See if the work suits you.
- If you think being closer to the kids and volunteering to babysit is what you want to do, step up and see what that's really like.
- If you think you can live on less in retirement, trim the budget to that figure now and see what it feels like.
All of these things sound doable -- even fun -- from a distance. And maybe they are a wonderful way to live out your life. But for many of us, doing any of them is a radical switch from the way we live today -- at a time in our lives when any change isn't as easy to adjust to as it once was.