When Should You Retire?
The Skills and Models of a Happy Retirement
By NAfME Member Paul K. Fox
This article first appeared on Paul Fox’s blog here.
[Portions reprinted from the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association,
PMEA News, Spring 2019 issue – All rights reserved.]
Is It TIME to Retire?
This is a personal question that no one but YOU can answer. This choice may be uppermost in your mind, especially if you are within a couple years of that so-called “retirement age.” Most school districts require advance notification of an employee’s plan to retire in order to retain full benefits and exit bonuses, and to allow planning for the job replacement search and screening process. (Check your teacher’s contract!)
Much has been discussed about the “what,” “how,” and most recently, “where” of retirement, even issues of “privacy” regarding your decision. For a review of these areas and a bibliography of resources, please visit:
- The How-To-Retire-Guide (video)
- Past editions of the PMEA state journal
- The Ultimate Retiree Resource Guide
- Retired Member Network eNEWS archives
The “why” of retirement is also relevant. There may be a lot of influences for someone to consider leaving their full-time career:
- Boredom or lack of stimulation in the current job
- Changing employment status or responsibilities
- Health problems (yours or other members of your family)
- Spouse retiring
- Your or family member’s desire to relocate
- Needs for caregiving (grandchildren, parents, or elderly family members)
- Travel opportunities
- Acceptance of a new position or the start or expansion of an “encore career” (higher education, music industry, travel/tour planning, or another field)
Other involuntary or more negative motivations may “encourage” you to resign your position:
- Music and/or staff are eliminated from the curriculum or building in which you teach.
- You are experiencing a decline in music program enrollment or participation.
- You feel unappreciated, unsupported, devalued, or ignored as a professional.
- You conclude you must retire early to avoid losing existing contractual benefits.
However, the most important reflection on WHEN to retire should begin with the question, “Are you ready for retirement?” and…
Do You Have What It Takes for a Happy Retirement?
A successful retirement is not “all about the money.” Certainly, you are well-advised to make an appointment with an estate planner, elder attorney, and/or financial advisor (probably all three). Bring a copy of your bank and investment statements, annual reports on your pension, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. Make sure you have the “big picture” of your net worth and accomplish the following:
- Determine your goals, objectives, and time horizon;
- Make key distinctions between income and cash flow; and
- Develop a basic plan to help achieve your retirement goals.
However, probably even more important, experts say there are many other requirements that foster preparedness to enjoying your post-full-time employment years. For example, proposed by the editorial team of the NewRetirement website, there are eight essential keys to a potential retiree’s “happy transition.” (Read the entire article for a greater perspective.)
- A Knack for Dealing with Uncertainty
- Resilience: Can You Overcome Adversity?
- Capability to Maintain a Set of Friends
- Cash Flow Mastery
- Ability to Set Your Own Schedule and Stay Motivated
- Can You Relax?
- Capacity to Have a Purpose and Follow Passions
- Do You Know How to Manage an Overall Retirement Plan?
These concepts are supported by the book Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention by Kenneth S. Shultz (DK Publishing, 2015) which focuses on the question, “Are you psychologically prepared to retire?”
- How important is your job when it comes to getting a sense of life satisfaction?
- How many non-work activities do you have that give you a sense of purpose?
- How do you imagine your life to be once you stop working?
- How do you think retirement will affect your relationship with family and friends?
- How much energy for work do you have these days?
Being “psyched” for the “big day” also involves learning personal coping skills, modeling these characteristics of good mental health (from the book The Psychology of Retirement: Coping with the Transition from Work by Derek Milne, 2013):
- Being able to use your talents and energy productively
- Enjoying challenges and gaining pleasure from accomplishing tasks
- Being capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship
- Finding meaning in belonging and contributing to your community
- Being responsive, sensitive, and empathic to other people’s needs and feelings
- Appreciating and responding to humor
- Coming to terms with painful experiences from the past
- Being comfortable and at ease in social situations
- Being energetic and outgoing
- Being conscientious and responsible.
Should I or Shouldn’t I Go Now?
No, this won’t be an easy decision . . . but, you knew that, right? There seems to be a plethora of free advice out there to help (?) you deliberate. (Well, you get what you pay for!) A few samples from the Internet:
- Your bank accounts
- Your bucket lists
- Your health
- The markets
- Health care benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Your spouse
- Struggling to pay bills
- You have lots of debt
- Have major expenses
- Don’t know your SS benefits?
- Need monthly financial plan
- Need long term financial plan
- What about the effects of inflation?
- Need to re-balance portfolio
- Retirement worries you
- You love your job
Happy retirement = busy retirement. We keep going back to what PMEA MIOSM® Chair Chuck Neidhardt said about venturing into retirement—also the perfect bumpersticker: “Have a plan!” In almost every case study, retiring music teachers must “move on” to an equally engaging and active lifestyle, finding new purpose and meaning in their senior years! Considering that many professionals are “addicted to achievement” and the sudden cessation from work may cause some emotional turmoil (Sydney Lagier in US News and World Report, July 20, 2010), we should study examples of those who have happily “Crossed the Rubicon” ahead of us into “retirement bliss.”
Leaving your school employment does not mean you won’t continue doing what you have always enjoyed . . . personal music- (or dance- or drama-) making, performing in or conducting an ensemble, composing, accompanying, etc. The PMEA Retiree Resource Registry—the proverbial “directory of past leaders in PA music programs”—lists many retired members who continue to offer their talents and experience to help others in the profession. This is a good place to start for asking “advice from the experts” on just about any topic . . . perhaps even tips on deciding WHEN to retire.
How about a couple more “models and mentors” who made this “change of life” adjustment and explored new directions towards self-reinvention in retirement?
Ben Franklin, Founding Father
“Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine art of indolence, ‘retirement,’ he said, was ‘time for doing something useful.’ Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement were: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of ‘The First American’ in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most ‘useful’ was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure . . . ”
Barbra Streisand, singer, songwriter, actress, and filmmaker
Garth Brooks, country-music singer and songwriter
2000 – “The Year of Retirement?” for two musical superstars
“In 2000, Barbra Streisand performed four farewell concerts to mark her retirement from performing live. At the time, she was 58 years old and wanted to focus more on acting, directing, and recording albums, reported ABC News.”
“Her retirement ended in 2016 when she returned to the stage for her The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! tour, which grossed $53 million over 16 performances, according to Billboard.”
“Garth Brooks shocked fans in October 2000 when he announced his plan to retire to Oklahoma until the youngest of his three daughters graduated from high school, reported Billboard. The country music superstar was 42 years old when he began his early retirement.”
“During his semi-retirement, he did a few sold-out stints at arenas and a 186-show Las Vegas residency with wife Trisha Yearwood, according to Billboard, but he largely stayed out of the spotlight. Brooks returned to touring in September 2014 and continued until December 2017, performing a total of 390 shows, reported Billboard. Forbes cited his 2017 earnings as $60 million. Together, Brooks and Yearwood are one of the richest celebrity couples.”
“If money can buy you happiness,” supposedly these ten athletes were financially more successful after retirement, as opposed to the total earnings they generated during their original sports careers:
- Muhammad Ali
- Jim Brown
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Lenny Dykstra
- George Foreman
- Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”)
- Magic Johnson
- Michael Jordan
- Nolan Ryan
- Dave Whelan
Agatha Christie, British writer
Finally, to answer the question, “What would Agatha Christie do in retirement?” best-selling author Ernie Zelinski quoted in his The Retirement Cafe website the following list of activities proposed to be “her favorite things” from the publication Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977).
- Almost any kind of music
- Railway trains
- Numerical puzzles and anything to do with numbers
- Going to the sea
- Bathing and swimming
- The smell of coffee
- Lilies of the valley
- Most dogs
- Going to the theatre
Ernie concluded, “This list of activities and things that Christie loved may trigger some of the stuff that turns you on and which you can use for an active retirement. This will go a long way towards conquering retirement boredom.”
Is the time ripe for you to retire? Again, only YOU can answer that!
When it becomes the right moment for you to make that “big plunge” to “living your dreams,” KUDOS and BEST WISHES on your rebirth as you explore your own pursuit of retirement self-reinvention and post-employment freedom!
Learn more about the benefits of becoming a retired NAfME member.
About the author:
Paul K. Fox, a NAfME Retired Member, is Chair of the PMEA State Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention. He invites you to peruse his retiree blog series.
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