AH, SUMMER. Over the July 4 weekend, we spent time relaxing at our neighbor’s house. A three-year-old jumped into the pool from the diving board for the first time. He had a big smile and many supporters.
It’s always fun to chat with neighbors we haven’t seen for a while, and also meet new visitors. One man swimming with his kids turned out to be an investigative reporter for a local news station. We didn’t talk for long, but his job seemed interesting. He cautioned us, “Don’t be my next story.”
Investigative reporting is a form of journalism in which reporters focus on a single topic—perhaps a corporate or political misdeed—and conduct in-depth research and interviews. Such stories can take months or even years to report.
If you’re looking ahead to your retirement, I’d advise you to become an investigative reporter on the topic. This is especially true if you’re interested in non-traditional approaches, such as a retirement that’s phased over time.
This sort of extensive research makes sense because, in seeking to understand how best to tackle a major life change, you should be deeply informed. That means not only doing research and reading widely, but also talking to people. Their insights could turn out to be among the most valuable guidance you receive.
Similar to a professional reporter, know that it may take months to do your research and develop your conclusions. Indeed, I’ve gotten helpful insights into the retirement process simply by asking others about their thoughts and plans. One former colleague shared that what felt like his “first day of retirement” actually came about four months after he stopped working. He was getting ready for an annual week away with friends and realized that he could really take his time and focus on the preparations. After a busy end to his career and several months of home projects, he was getting used to the unstructured time and could really enjoy just being retired.
Another former colleague, who’s still working, said his thinking had shifted recently. He always thought of retirement as the financial independence to work when he wanted. But with his career in a “sweet spot” right now, it’s occurred to him that retirement will be less about his financial readiness—and more about how exciting and enjoyable he finds his work. When it doesn’t provide the meaning that it does today, he’ll know it’s time for a change.
Dan, thank you for this great analogy: retirement planning as investigative reporting. Your story really made me think.
As I look back, from my early 20’s to my early 60’s, all my “investigative reporting” centered on personal finance. I love to pore over The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, Humble Dollar, etc. I created and maintained forecasts for years.
Where I failed to investigate was on the emotional side of retirement. Four years into retirement, and I am still trying to get comfortable with this new life style. (The pandemic certainly did not help.) Still trying to find a way to be useful.
I would like to highlight some of your words: “Ask Around” and “talking to people. Their insights could turn out to be among the most valuable guidance you receive.”
I appreciate your comments and perspective having retired 4 years ago. Hearing that my story “really made you think” is perhaps the best compliment of all.
The last line of your post says it all, when it’s time you’ll know.
And when you do know it’s all about balance.
You probably can’t have a enjoyable retirement without sufficient income and assets, but all the money in the world won’t make you happy in retirement without people and activities you enjoy.
Being prepared is not just focused on the end game, but by several years before planned retirement as retirement not by choice is always lurking.
“…retirement not by choice is always lurking” is experienced by many more people than most of us of a certain age ever realized, and today is a near certainty.
This is a great summation about timing, balance, and preparation. Planning early not only helps with readiness…but it can enhance your happiness notion with the anticipation!