The Right Time

Did I retire at the right time?  It has been just over a year now since the date of my retirement.  I have seldom found myself thinking about whether I should have retired when I did.  I suppose the fact that I do not find myself plagued by the question implies the answer.  If I am not consumed with regret about retiring, it must not have been the wrong time to retire.

I am among those who have been fortunate to have a choice in the matter.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was able to choose to retire.  I was not forced out of my job because of a physical or medical condition that would have prevented me from doing the work.  I did not have to leave my job due to the economy or downsizing.  I could have continued working in my job for another five or ten years, perhaps.  At the same time, I felt enough confidence in my financial position that it was not necessary for me to remain at my job for the sake of increasing the size of my retirement nest-egg.

Whether retirement happened at the right time would be a different kind of question if I had had no choice about when it was going to happen.  Being able to choose whether to retire puts the focus of the right-time question on the choice and not so much on external circumstances.

But, first things first.  Before deciding when to retire, I had to decide whether to retire.  Two or three years before I retired, I accepted the concept of retirement.  I do not remember when this happened. The timing is not significant—whether it was two years more or less is not important.  What matters is that at some point, I began to think about retirement as a real option for me rather than an abstract state of being that happened to other people.  I began to conceive of retirement as a period of life when employment—for the purpose of earning a living—would no longer be a necessity.

Retirement is not the same as unemployment, which is not having a job when one desperately wants one.  (I know about unemployment, having lived through that experience for a period of time.)  Nor does retirement mean never working again.  Getting paid for doing work does not necessarily disqualify a person from being “really retired.” Paid work during retirement, however, is not about the money, although extra income is always welcome.  Work, like anything else that I choose to do as a retired person, is about enjoyment of life.  In retirement, the living has already been earned.

When I realized that I could conceive of myself becoming a retired person, I started thinking about when I could make that happen. The decision to retire, it seems to me, is a two-step process: first, you have to accept the concept of your own retirement; second, you have to select a retirement date.  The date may change, but ultimately you commit to a retirement date and follow through.

Selecting a retirement date and sticking to it can be complicated.  I enjoyed my job, and I was always interested in doing it well and finishing what I started.  Part of job satisfaction, for me, was completing the assignment, seeing things through to the end, taking care of loose ends.  My job entailed multiple assignments, each at different stages of completion at any one time.  There was hardly any possibility that a time would come when all assignments would be finished before a new one started.  Even if a date of “completing my work” were possible, predicting when it would occur was not.  I could not select a retirement date based on when my job would be done.

I considered several other factors in selecting my retirement date.  I wanted to give my employer a lot of lead time.  At first, I told my employer that I was thinking about retirement in about two years.  That two-year window slid forward a bit, and so my employer’s advance notice was actually more than three years before my final retirement date. In deciding when to retire, it was important to me to give my employer the opportunity to do some transition planning—ideally, to hire a replacement while I was still around to provide training and mentorship.

Another factor was my age.  When I passed age 60 by a few months, I had outlived my father.  Fortunately, my mother lived into her 80s, so any genetic disposition that I may have toward an early demise is tempered somewhat by the maternal contribution to the mix.  Nevertheless, I am aware of the brevity of life.  If I were going to enjoy the status of retirement for a period of more than a few years, then I could not delay too long in selecting a retirement date.

An additional significant factor was one that I could not predict two years out.  The character of my workplace began to change in subtle ways.  Due to retirements (and one shocking early death), my colleagues—the people that shared my history and experience on the job—began to disappear.  Management changed.  Institutional knowledge eroded.  Experience seemed to lose value day by day.  Progress was not always for the better.  There was a gradual deterioration of the work culture. The decline and fall of my workplace made it easier for me to stick with my final retirement date.  Easier, but in a sad way.

Money is always a factor. In deciding when to retire, I had to consider whether I could afford to become a retired person. If I gave up my income from work, would my wife and I have the financial resources necessary to enjoy retirement together? For us, the question has no certain answer, because we are not excessively wealthy and we do not know what unexpected costs the future might bring. Nevertheless, we could count on retirement income from defined-benefit pension plans. Our generation may be the last to have this kind of pension, and so we feel fortunate. It was a calculated financial risk for me to retire when I did.

I weighed these and other factors and then gave my employer a firm six-month final notice of my retirement date.  I do not remember having any second thoughts during those last six months of work.  In the year since my retirement began, I have not suffered from retiree’s remorse, and I have lost no sleep regretting my decision to retire.  So far, so good.  It was the right time.

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Ejercicio Para la Persona Perezosa

The English version of this post is Exercise for the Lazy Person. The Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de Exercise for the Lazy Person.

Mi doctor nuevo me preguntó recién — ¿Usted ejercita?  Es uno de las preguntas que preguntán los doctores.  Mi doctor viejo me preguntó la cosa misma.  De hecho, desde que tengo memoria, esto ha estado un asunto para discussión en todos exámenes físicos anuales.  Sé que estos chicos toman notas; tal vez nunca las leen, porque mi respuesta ha estado bastante consistente, algo parecido a –  ¡Dios mío! No suficiente!

Hasta que yo jubiló, tenía una excusa verdaderamente plausible por mi falta de actividad vigorosa.  Incluyendo el tiempo para viajar diariamente al trabajo, mi horario de trabajo consistió de 12-horas días.  En casa, apenas tuve tiempo para comer, dormir, ducharme, y cambiar mis ropas.  Ejercicio nunca ha estado mi idea de actividad de ocio.  Siempre hay cosas muy interesantes para hacer – una muy baja barra teniendo en cuenta que ejercicio es completamente aburrido.

Pero en cada exámen físico anual, lo prometí a mi doctor que yo haría un esfuerzo.  Como una seña de buen fé, compré una cinta para correr, en algún lugar sobre la marcha, probablemente hace una década. Es un aparato genial que ahorra a la persona perezosa de tener que ir afuera para tomar un trote.  Además, tener una cinta para correr en mi sótano significó que yo ya no tenía que decidir qué ponerse en caso de que alguien me vio correr. Supongo que yo podría haber invertido en algunas ropas de correr elegantes por el precio de la cinta de correr, pero mi real problema sobre corriendo afuera, aún en la ropa más reciente, fue que ejercitar en publico significa aguantando a sí mismo como Una Persona Quien Ejercitar. Para una persona perezosa, como yo, esto es fundamentalmente una actividad fraudulenta.  Su práctica continuada, estoy seguro, podría hacer cosas malas a mi psique.

El aspecto negativo de adquiriendo la cinta para correr fue que eliminó varias excusas perfectamente buena que he dependido para no ejercitando mucho.  Yo ya no podría culpar una deficiencia de vestuario, preservación de mi salud mental, o mal tiempo. Así, mi argumento de suplencia fue tiempo y el hecho que como un diligente, productiva,empleada persona, trabajando 12-horas días, me merecía un rato para descansar. Ejercicio, por definición, no es descansando. Tomando tiempo para correr en la cinta para correr reducía el tiempo disponible para relajación pura, algo que ni siquiera un médico debe reconocer como beneficioso, si no fundamental, para salud.

Usualmente mi doctor compró este argumento y dejó caer la tema, pero creo que él hizo una nota de ello.

Mi médico viejo (quien es en realidad más joven que yo) se convertió en mi viejo médico más temprano este año. Él me envió una amable forma de carta que dijo que él había hecho su “maximal contribución” y sentido que fuera improbable que él podría ser capaz de continuar como mi primario proveedor de servicios médicos. Espero sinceramente que mi resistancia constante contra ejercicio no fue un factor grande en su decisión para proseguir una carrera nueva.

Yo ya había jubilado por el tiempo conocí a mi nuevo doctor, quien no es realmente un “nuevo” doctor, haber estado en el negocio para muchos años. Él no ha sido mi doctor antes, aunque, así  le voy a llamar mi nuevo doctor. Quizás, yo debería preguntar a mi nuevo doctor cerca de sus planes de carrera, pero no quiero le pongo en un aprieto.

Bueno, mi doctor me preguntó — ¿Usted ejercita?  Dí cuenta que mi falta-de-tiempo excusa faltaba un grado de credibílidad veniendo de un jubilado. Estuve preparado para la pregunta, no obstante. Desde entonces el principio de jubilación, he redoblado mi rútina de ejercicio en la cinta de correr desde 12 minutos, dos veces por semana, a 12 minutos cada mañana.  Me siento que esto es un substancial nivel nuevo de compromiso a ejercicio. En una característica demonstración de mi franqueza, expliqué a mi doctor que 12 minutos fue como todo que yo podría aguantar – bien, correr – en la cinta de correr sin estar vencido con aburrimiento. Él sonreí, indulgentemente, y recomendó que yo aumento mi diario ejercicio físical a 30 minutos. No tiene que estar todo al mismo tiempo – él me aseguró. Mencioné que a veces doy un paseo o monto mi bicicleta (en un momento de entusiasmo el verano pasado, compré también una bicicleta estacionaria, que ahora ocupa más espacio en mi sótano cerca de la cinta de correr). Él dijo que caminadas contaría. La cosa importante es hacer por lo menos 30 minutos de ejercicio cada día.

Esta tarde, di un paseo. Gasté cerca de una hora lo haciendo, así me parece que estoy con ventaja. Caminando es bueno, y no es tan aburrido como la cinta de correr. Hoy, las hojas de otoño estaban en color glorioso, y no hacía muy frío. A dar una caminata, no tiene que llevar puesto un traje para correr. Saludé con la cabeza y sonreí a personas a lo largo del camino. No me sentí como un fraude.

Pido disculpas a hablantes de español por adelantado por esos errores que estoy seguro a hacer. Espero que cualquier hablantes de español quien van a leer mis traducciones me permitirán saber sobre mis errores y van a sugerir enmiendas.

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