There’s no reason to jump into retirement with both feet if you’re not really ready. Don’t be afraid to get your feet a little wet beforehand to test the waters. If you’re not sure whether you are ready to retire, here are four ways to take retirement for a test drive while you’re still working.
Take a year off. Several years ago, when I was still working, my boss took a one-year leave of absence from our company. He and his family moved to Florence, Italy. His kids went to an American school, and he and his wife studied Italian. They enjoyed the art, food, and culture of the city, and also took the opportunity to explore other European venues. When he returned to his desk one year later, he realized he didn’t want to spend those hours in the office anymore. He wanted to continue to spend that time with his family, so he retired.
Try a mini-retirement. If you can’t work out an entire year’s absence with your employer, perhaps a month will do the trick. Six months before I retired, I took the month of August off. We rented an apartment in Manhattan and enjoyed a sweltering mini-retirement. I learned that I did not miss my job one bit, and my husband and I got to preview what it’s like to spend much more time together. With no structure to our days, it was good practice to learn how we would fill our time when the real retirement arrived.
Retire gradually. Perhaps a more gradual entry into retirement is more your style. Keep the safety net of your job, but cut back on the hours. Working part-time will give you a chance to explore some new interests outside of work, but still provide some structure to your week. You’ll continue to enjoy the social aspects of your job, but you’ll have some free time to meet new friends too. Take a class at a community college, get involved with a local charity, or just enjoy a good book during your off-hours.
Get a new part-time job. Maybe just a small supplement to your income will be enough to bridge the gap in your retirement savings. Is there a hobby or passion you can turn into a little business? Maybe one of your interests could be a fun part-time job in something totally unrelated to your current profession. Working in a wine-tasting room, bookstore, museum, or the travel industry could all be pleasant ways to spend your retirement years. Perhaps you can dump some of the stress from your fast-paced career and pick up a job that doesn’t bleed into your personal life. Imagine a job where you can leave work at work each day.
Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.