What Are Your Retirement Dreams?

Actuaries tell us that a 55 year old can expect to live another 30 years. How will you spend those days after you leave the workforce? The author provides some suggestions on how to find your retirement dreams and make them a reality.

Most of the articles you read in FedSmith are about the financial side of retirement (and I’ve written quite a few of them).

For example, you might learn about Thrift Savings Plan rates of return, Social Security earnings limits or CSRS versus FERS survivor benefits.

This time we are going to take a quick look at the non-financial side of your retirement. This article is a re-hash of one that I wrote seven years ago.

Actuaries tell us that a 55 year old can expect to live another 30 years. Coincidental perhaps, but if you are a full career federal employee in the CSRS retirement system, you are able to retire at 55 years of age with 30 years of service. Under FERS, a full career federal employee can retire at an age no older than 57. Think about it – you are likely to live as long after you retire, as you worked for Uncle Sam prior to your retirement. Look back to where you were 30 years ago and consider all the changes you went through during those years. Then look ahead another 30 years – do you have any idea where you will be then?

The plans you have now for retirement may be colored by your view of retirement as retiring from something (i.e., work). It is healthier to think of your retirement as retiring to something. Looking forward in anticipation is better than looking backward in relief.

Right now you may anticipate spending all your time in hobbies you have neglected during your working career. Early in retirement planning, retirement is like a dream to us. It is a good dream (we hope), a dream that may have us fishing, travelling or making something in our workshops.

Well before we retire, we should give our dreams a reality test in order to see how well they will translate into actual retirement. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to people who have retired before you. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, person to retire. Find out what issues others faced as they made their adjustments from work to retirement.
  • Will you be able to fill in 50 or more hours of time each week without getting bored? That is about how much time (including your commute) as was spent working when you were employed by Uncle.
  • Consider your options. They may be:
  • Part-time work.
  • Volunteer activities.
  • Returning to school.
  • Taking up another occupation altogether.

One thing that can get in our way when we plan our life after retirement is that often there are other, more immediate, needs facing us. We are inclined to focus on these short-term needs and put the long-term view aside. We must do our best to resist this natural tendency when we are planning our retirement life. Consider the following:

  • Develop an action plan for retirement. Include long, mid and short-term targets in the plan.
  • Don’t plan by yourself. Share your concerns with others who are close to you and include them in the planning process.
  • Test your plans if you can.
  • If you are planning another career, volunteer in that field and see how you like it.
  • If you are planning on relocating, rent a place in that area and see if it is as good as you imagined.

Richard Bolles, the author of What Color is Your Parachute?, recently a new book entitled What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement? The book can be a great help for those of us who are still defining what our retirement life will look like.

Don’t base your decision to retire on whether or not you are eligible and can afford to. Look closely at your interests and goals for a happier and more satisfying retirement.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at johnfgrobe@comcast.net to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.