What are the signs you’re ready to retire?

I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement lately.

One of our amazing staff members, who has been with Senior Concerns for the last 13 years, retired last month. It just doesn’t seem real.

I always thought of Dana as young. Certainly not the person to retire before me.

Dana has wonderful reasons for retiring. A year ago her husband retired from a more than 20-year career in public service. She has her son’s wedding to help with and some long-awaited travels plans that were postponed because of COVID.

She and her husband also have plans to build their dream home.

Dana’s retirement hit me like a knock on the side of the head.

“Hey Andrea,” it said, “You haven’t even given a thought to your own retirement.”

The second reason I have been thinking about retirement has to do with my friend who fell and sustained a brain injury who I wrote about in my last column. She is struggling and will not be able to do a lot of the things she imagined in retirement.

Her sudden and unexpected injury just underscores how fragile life is, and how every day needs to be enjoyed to the fullest.

As I think more about stepping down from my work, it seems unfathomable. I love what I do. Most days it doesn’t feel like work at all, even when it’s hard or challenging.

My New England work ethic keeps me going too. It whispers to me, you are here on this Earth with skills and smarts, so it is incumbent on you to be fruitful. And it’s icing on the cake that I get to use my talents to do good.

So, just for the fun of it, I began to ask myself what I would rather be doing instead of working. A nice morning walk on the beach, the freedom to sleep in some days or more visits to see my mom all come to mind. But none of these dreams preclude me from doing my job.

I’ve traveled widely during my career, back when travel was fun and exciting—and funded by an expense account. I have no children or grandchildren to fuss over. My husband is a couple years younger than me and loves his job and has no interest in retiring anytime soon.

I do wonder if at some point I will know it is time. If the vision will come to me of what I want to do next—where I will become passionate about something else that will embrace my heart, time and energy.

I loved my parent’s retirement, although at first it seemed that they’d retired too early. My father received what he called “The Golden Handshake” from his more than 30-year career at GTE Sylvania, and at 58 he took early retirement.

They moved to Cape Cod, an area they loved. They began volunteering at the nearby state park. Each week my father swam in the ocean and at the pond, and my mother gardened. They had wine and cheese on the beach at sunset.

In hindsight, it was the best decision they ever made because at age 65 my father began to exhibit signs of Parkinson’s disease. Early retirement allowed them to do so much of what they love as a couple before my father’s condition impaired his movement and brought a lot of activities to a halt.

I have never been a gambler, but deciding when to retire is just that, a gamble. How much time do I have to enjoy my good health? How long does my husband have?

Will our finances be enough to carry us through any storm? Right now, my friend’s son’s is spending over $25,000 per month on 24/7 home care for his mother.

Most everything I read about readiness for retirement is geared to the financial realities.

All this assumes my retirement timeline is mine to create when sometimes life makes that choice. I just hope I’m ready.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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