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Dan McDermott

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.

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