Long gone are the days when it was mandatory that Canadian workers retire at 65. Now, people can call it quits at any age as long as they have the resources to make retirement work. When to leave the workforce, though, is not an easy question to answer. Sure, travel sounds good, but what’s someone supposed to do when their trip comes to an end?
Deciding when to retire could be the most important career decision of a person’s life. It’s also often the most emotional one, says Kate Dack, a Victoria-based clinical counsellor and founder of Retirement Coaching Canada, a firm that helps clients prepare mentally and emotionally for retirement. Retirement can be an emotional tug-of-war that alternates between dreamy visions of life after work – sleeping in, travelling the world – and worries about post-working life, she explains.
Choosing a retirement date takes some serious introspection. However, if you’re not ready to face a world of no work, then don’t give it up, says Dack. “When some people get to 60 or 65, they’re still feeling energetic and productive,” she says. “Retiring may not seem like such a great idea.”
“Have as clear a picture as possible of what you want your retirement years to look like and to feel like.”
Getting yourself ready for retirement involves a lot of mental work, says Hani Kafoury, a Montreal-based psychotherapist and career coach at Tranzition Consulting Services. The first step, he says, is to recognize retirement as a real possibility and then to start planning a new reality with less, or no, employment.
Think hard about what retirement will look like. “Have as clear a picture as possible of what you want your retirement years to look like and to feel like,” he says. “If you don’t know what that picture is going to look like, how would you prepare for it?”
For those vacillating between retiring now or staying on at work, Kafoury suggests asking yourself a few questions: Do you still enjoy your work? Are you great at it? What will you gain by retiring today? What will you lose? Will your partner and family members support your decision to retire? “Answering these questions may help clarify your position toward retirement, as well as your motivations and possible fears,” he says.
It’s also important to be financially ready, says Dack. Crunch the numbers with a financial advisor to make sure you can actually afford to retire. Some people may have to work part-time to help make ends meet, while others will be ready to hit the road right away. Don’t avoid the cash-flow conversation, though, or your big travel plans could be left on the tarmac.
Ultimately, the decision to retire takes plenty of thought and planning. “You have to have a plan,” she says. “You’re creating a future of new possibilities, and that’s not something you can figure out in a couple of days.”