Retiring? Plan How to Spend Your Time

Take a sabbatical, wean yourself from work, maybe hire a coach to prepare for your new life. Clearly, one plan no longer fits everyone.

Have you spent years of your working life dreaming of retirement, imagining that you will then get out of bed when you choose and do what you want, not what some job dictates? Before you shake hands with your co-workers at the goodbye party, says Joan Fitting Scott, you’d best think through your retirement years a little more carefully.

In Skinning the Cat, A Baby Boomer’s Guide to the New Retirement Lifestyles, she notes that by 2010, “nearly 11-million Americans will have stepped away from their place of employment, headed for retirement. For these Americans, retirement will be very different from that of their parents.’

“After all,” she writes, “these are the people who marched in the streets and explored sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Cookie-cutter solutions won’t work for them, nor will they tolerate situations in which people deem them unproductive and irrelevant as they age.”

Instead, these retirees will seek alternative lifestyles, and in short chapters filled with statistics and real-life examples, Fitting Scott outlines some of those possibilities.

Though most how-to-retire books focus on finances, this 74-page book(let) assumes that retirement is already financially feasible for the reader. So she examines how people can choose to spend their time during the second course of their lives.

Part One, for instance, outlines the many options for new retirees, and those approaching retirement. Part Two offers resources for help in deciding among these choices.

The author does note that not every one will want to walk away from work altogether. For those people, options typically range from continuing to work at the same job but with a more flexible schedule, gradually “working down” to full retirement, to getting a new job or starting a business.

There are also the possibilities of working part time or cyclically. The latter would be particularly attractive to those fortunate enough to divide their time between two residences.

But for “those who don’t find the thought of workless retirement a bleak prospect,” Fitting Scott looks at alternatives to our parents’ typical retirement lifestyle.

Citing Ken Dychtwald’s Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old, she says that “more and more, boomers would rather buy experiences than things.” For those, her chapters on volunteerism and philanthropy, lifelong learning and travel are particularly valuable.

An alternative she discusses is the sabbatical. Once the province only of tenured professors, extended-leave policies are increasingly offered in a variety of fields.

Taking a sabbatical allows one to sample the retirement lifestyle before retiring and can help in making decisions.

It can also be a way to recharge burned-out batteries, “find” one’s self and help manage the work-life balance.

Part Two of this book, “Resources for Making the Decision,” offers help with thinking through the retirement decision. From retreats to retirement coaches, self-help groups to company-sponsored workshops, there is no reason to go into retirement unprepared.

References to numerous Web sites and a final chapter of recommended reading can guide one to countless resources for the task ahead: preparing for retirement. Noting a Merrill Lynch retirement survey, Fitting Scott says that, “Those who took time to plan felt more confident that they would have a fulfilling retirement.”

Wouldn’t you like to be one of them?