Rethinking Retirement

Ed Baldwin Career Advice, Ed Baldwin, Engagement and Satisfaction, Generations

How much have you thought about retirement?

If you’re a generation Y or Z-er then your answer is probably “not much”. But if you’re an X-er, an old X-er like me, then it’s probably been on the regular playlist in your mind for a while.  After all, some of the most fortunate in our generation are retiring.   

So playing along, what does retirement look like for you?

Perhaps it’s sipping a Piña Colada in the shade of a cabana overlooking a quiet, sun-drenched beach. Maybe it’s leisurely juggling naps and chapters of a classic novel from a hammock hung between two majestic oak trees, or globe-trotting to exotic destinations (first class, of course) to see the seven wonders of the world. Or cruising Highway 1 in that shiny new drop-top Italian sports car you just purchased for cash.

Whatever your fancy, we’ve all got a story book ending planned for our working journey. And then life happens.

Your 401k balance looks more like a 201k. The house needs repainted. The water heater needs replaced. The basement flooded. And momma needs a new car because in spite of the 2k you just dropped on repairs, her 2007 Chevy Tahoe still screeches like a barn owl when she fire’s it up in the morning.

And I have how many years to work? Ten, fifteen, do I hear twenty? I can’t believe my work-to-retire horizon coming out of my financial planner’s mouth now sounds like an auctioneer at an estate sale.

I’m at that stage in my career. Almost 30 years in HR, where 27 of them were good years. A few of them, not so good. Shitty in fact.

And through squinted eyes (because I can’t see shit anymore without my readers) I’m staring down the barrel at another 15, maybe 20 more years. Geesh! Will I stay in HR? Will I be able to keep my edge? Can I continue to add value? Do I want to even if I can muster it?

Reasonable questions with very few answers. All these questions and I’ve really only reached one firm conclusion.

Keep on keepin’ on.

That’s right, embrace my life as it is – rather than cringing about how my life has actually turned out – compared to what I wished and dreamed it would be.

Strive to enjoy the journey. And quit chasing that enchanting and yet entirely unrealistic retirement dream. Sure, I know the saying that “it’s all about the journey, not the destination”. But that’s the inspirational fodder that compliments a gorgeous sunset on a Successories poster.

And I just didn’t believe it. Until now.

“The most precious resource we have is time” -Adam Neumann

I’m going to embrace my situation. View my glass (and 401k balance) as half full. Quit worrying about my number – you know the one – that magic number that will allow me to live comfortably in retirement for the rest of my days.

Instead, I’m going to enjoy my job. Enjoy the work I do and those who I do it with. I’m going to be happy earning a decent living. Not killing myself in hopes of that big promotion with stock options and the corner suite.  It’s just not worth it.  I’m going to let my career and my life come to me. I’m too tired to chase it as fervently as I have in the past.

It’s time to enjoy things. Enjoy watching Big Bang Theory reruns with my beautiful wife. Enjoy cutting early from work on a Wednesday afternoon to walk the dog. Enjoy hanging out with my kids.  Enjoy splurging for a Dominoes pizza, and cinnamon bread twists with frosting dip while watching Monday Night Football.

I don’t want or need a big title. I don’t need to be on the road 100 nights a year. And I sure don’t need 60-hour work weeks.  If I work a value-added 45 instead that will make those 15 to 20 years left be far more bearable. And shorter.  Rather than fretting about what could have been, I’m going to enjoy what is.

Because it’s time, and that’s something that I appear to be blessed to still have a lot of in front of me.