Last month marked my three year anniversary for the start of my Victory Lap (VL). I thought it might be a good time as we head into 2018 to look at how it is going and maybe give you some thoughts on what I have learned, read and experienced in my VL so far.
A bit of background, I worked in the financial services industry for 30 years and left in 2014. My wife who also worked for the same institution, and continued working until 2015.
No matter how much you read or plan for retirement, there is still going to be lots to learn and things that will surprise you. Overall my VL has been wonderful, with travel, improved health, learning new things, more time with my family and no winter traffic commute. But it has not been without a few challenges. We have said it before but it bears repeating a happy retirement does not just happen it requires planning and work to be successful and fulfilling, so with that in mind here are a few lessons and thoughts from my VL so far.
If you need to work due to financial reasons, or plan to work take some time away before starting your new work life. If you are like me this might be your first break in 30+ years. If you had a family maybe you took family leave, that is a wonderful time but hardly a break. Give yourself some time to process what has happened and allow yourself time to see how wonderful your life can be. If you have to work to reach financial independence make sure you are emotionally ready to return, ensure you are the best you, you can be. We believe work in an important part of VL and if you have financial independence make sure it is on your terms.
Connect with your friends. Leaving a long career if not planned will always have a negative connotation, friends and family may worry about how it has impacted you. Many of your friends may want to give you “space”, as they worry about how you are dealing with the transition. I sent a note to my close friends and family just to let them know I was ok, share my short term plans and let them know I would reach you to them when I was ready. VL is a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and deepen your relationships with friends and family that may have suffered in your busy working years. Happiness in retirement comes from sharing experiences with the people we love. See 101 Awesome Things #5. In Mike’s case he has re-connected with his 30+ year work friends, in my case I reconnected with university friends.
Many of us leave work and can’t get out the door quick enough however no matter how you leave, by choice or by pink slip, make sure you reach out to customers, referral sources or anyone that was important to you at work. Let these people know you are doing well and ask for permission to contact them in the future. You have developed a relationship with these people and they may be a source of business, referrals and friendship in your VL. If they are not interested in contact that is fine too. At a recent event we talked to a lady who was planning to leave her first career and was starting her own business in the health and wellness industry, a service that benefits everyone so why not help your former business contacts. One caveat, make sure when you do reach out that you are upbeat, if you are feeling any ill effect from leaving the corp. take some time to recharge your batteries, and ensure you have a positive outlook when you call.
Relationships change in Victory Lap, be prepared and don’t be afraid. You have developed a pattern for the last X number of years with that your spouse, children, and friends. You will now be creating a new pattern. You have more time and hopefully less stress, so you can build a more positive relationship. You can be more in the moment. Your dinner talk will not include “shop talk” like what Bill did at the office, you can talk about important things or not. If you retire with your spouse you may find the change amplified as you both discover who you are individually and who you now are as a couple. You both need time to learn how to thrive in VL. Figure out how much time will be our time and your time? Embrace the change. You will miss some components of work whether it is the mental challenge, sense of achievement, social interaction, etc., so you will need to find ways to fill these needs in VL.
One recommendation universally shared by retirement pundits, and one I support based on my experience and conversations with friends and acquaintances, do not make any major “life decisions” immediately after retiring. Take some time to digest and adapt to your new life. Decisions on moving, downsizing, buying motor homes, investing your nest egg in a new business venture, or purchasing that one a kind property, should be allowed to fallow. While some opportunities may be missed, there will be another opportunity around the corner. A snap decision may add stress to a possibly stressful retirement transition and may cost you financially. We all handle the transition differently and there is no right amount of time to rest and recharge, but make sure you feel relaxed and have a positive outlook for your VL. Feeing relaxed is probably a good sign that you are ready to make some decisions.
VL gives you 2000+ hours of time don’t feel a need to rush and fill all that time, enjoy the slower pace remember you may have 20+ years of VL so no need to make all your plans in the first 3 months. Enjoy!