If you’re too young to retire, perhaps a reboot will do

September 3, 2020

By Martha Sullivan, CPA, CVA/ABV, CM&AA, CEPA
Partner, Succession Planning Practice Leader

Martha leads HK’s succession and exit planning services division and is a regular contributor to Wisconsin’s InBusiness digital magazine.

It’s 2020 and you’re faced with “retiring.”

What if you’re too young to retire? (I know I am!) What does it mean if all the sudden we find ourselves at a crossroads? Maybe we’re forced to retire because of an employer decision or perhaps for a loved one’s health reasons. Perhaps it’s just time to get out and do something else. Whichever, in your mind you’re too young to retire regardless of your physical age. What now? What does “retiring’ mean anyway?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight — retirement age is a manufactured idea. Even prior to the advent of Social Security, there were forces at play that suggested that a person should relinquish their spot for a younger person to work in. In fact, according to Wikipedia, there was a 1905 commencement speech given at Johns Hopkins University where the speaker, a well-known Canadian physician, stated that a man’s best work was done by the time he was 40. He went on to further state that he believed that the work done between 40 and 60 was tolerable because they were “merely uncreative.” By 60, workers were “useless” and should be put out to pasture.

Time out, Green Bay. Some of the most creative thinking, in my opinion, occurs after getting some experience. Further, I believe age is relative to your mindset. You could be 80 years old and have the mindset of a 30-year-old. You could be 30 years old and have a mindset of an 80-year-old. I believe that your mindset is what defines and drives us in “retirement.”

Second, the word “retire” itself is, by definition, problematic. It is defined as “to withdraw or go away,” “to retreat,” and “to disappear.” Is that how you envision your “retirement”? Sounds more like a death sentence or a magician’s trick gone wrong.

It’s time to rebrand “retirement.” It’s a reboot.

Perhaps you are thriving young millennial entrepreneurs with a goal to “retire” at age 45. Clearly that’s too young to “retire.” Are you really going to cash in the chips and the sit on the couch, eat bonbons, and watch Netflix all day until you go onto the eternal adventure? Of course not! You want to “retire” because there are other things you want to do in your life — some compensated, some not. It’s a reboot, a new beginning. You’re producing a new version of yourself which is the very definition of “reboot.”

It’s the same for the 50- or 60-something that moves from their current job to “retirement.” While there may not be the same stamina or endurance as the 40-something, it is a reboot. It’s a chance to make a change and establish a new you.

Regardless of whether you’re one of the retired by choice or are finding yourself without employment, regardless of age you have the power within you to create a new beginning that will give you energy, connection, and, yes, perhaps even income.

Your challenge is to identify what comes next and go chase it with the same commitment, if not more, than you did the prior gig. Success in your reboot depends largely on your attitude and thinking. Admittedly, the outcomes will be influenced by resources and whether we’re able to stop working for a living. There are economic realities that we all face and must address, which could be a whole other blog post. It’s the energy and attitude you bring to these realities, however, that directly contributes to your outcomes.

I’ve been putting a great deal of thought into this. 2020 has clearly presented us with new realities, most of which none of us care for. Not to be “Debbie Downer” here, but the pandemic is going to be around for a while. That sucks. Really sucks. Yet the sooner I accept that some of the new COVID-ridden realities are here to stay, the better. For example, while there is power in in-person meetings, business is going to be done digitally and with Zoom meetings for the foreseeable future. Further, I can strain against the notion that I don’t have an office to go to or I can figure out how to make it work. The sooner we accept the change in daily behaviors, whether it’s a reboot or some other significant reality in life today, the sooner we’ll be able to work together to create that new, next thing.

Retirement or no, 2020 offers each of us the opportunity to reboot and reinvent ourselves and our lives.

Let me ask you this:

  • Regardless of how old you are, what is that new version of you that you aspire to?
  • What are the talents and interests you can build on?
  • What gives you energy? Saps it?
  • How does that translate into how you like to spend your day?

It’s time to take a few minutes and daydream about your reboot. Then, set about the plans to make it happen, whether you’re 45, 65, or some other “retirement age.”

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