At age 54, Jeanne Thompson was the perfect candidate for early retirement. She had the motivation: a demanding job that had left her feeling burned out. She had the financial wherewithal: a buyout offer from her employer. And she had the knowledge: as part of her job, she had helped people plan for retirement.
Thompson told Newsweek that she expected her retirement to be “fantastic.” She was going to exercise regularly, travel for fun, and finally have time to socialize.1
But that’s not how it initially turned out.
“The first six months were rough,” Thompson said. “I worked my whole life and am used to a routine. I was used to people calling, and emailing me all of the time, then suddenly it was very quiet.”
During her 25-year career she was the sole breadwinner, mother of two kids, and had aging parents to care for. Being so busy, she hadn’t kept up with friends outside of work. And her long commute meant she had no time to develop hobbies.
But by the time she took early retirement, her parents had passed away and her kids were away at college. Thompson found herself alone and with nothing to do.
“It was strange having the leisure of downtime,” she said. “Some days I would wake up at 7 a.m. and stay in bed until 9 a.m.” She thought it would be fun to have nothing to do. But it wasn’t.
Thompson had to learn to deal with two of the big challenges people face in early retirement. The first is the sudden lack of being needed. They’ve often left their jobs at the height of their career and find themselves no longer an essential part of an organization.
The second challenge is dealing with the realization that extended idleness isn’t fun. People want to believe that a permanent vacation will finally make them happy. And Thompson actually felt bad for being in this privileged position and not enjoying it.
“I felt guilty because I was lucky enough to retire but I couldn’t figure it out,” she said. “I wasn’t happy.”
Thompson did eventually figure it out. She moved to an area where she’d always wanted to live. She made it a point to get to know her neighbors. She joined an active sports club. And she began working again—but this time as a consultant with the flexibility to help needier clients and leave time for her outside interests.
The idea of retiring just to get peace and quiet can be very attractive in theory. Especially if you have a stressful job. But if your post-career life is not built on a realistic view of your needs, you can be setting yourself up for disappointment.
As you plan for your next chapter, remember that while your need to work full time may cease, you won’t stop being a person who needs social connections, new challenges, and a routine. Your trusted financial advisor can help you navigate a personalized retirement transition whatever your stage of life.
If you ever have any questions about your investments or retirement plans, please feel free to give me a call at 801-545-0696.
Stonecreek Wealth Advisors, Inc.
11576 S State Street, Bldg. 1002
Draper, UT 84020
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