Expert's View

Do you know what you’ll do with your time when you retire? Image: fizkes/

Are you thinking about retiring? I mean really thinking about doing it within a foreseeable time frame, as opposed to daydreaming about it. It’s one of the big decisions of life and should not be made lightly. Let’s run through some of the questions you’ll need to answer to make up your mind.

(Note: We’ll assume you already are eligible to retire, or will be eligible within that foreseeable time frame.)

Do you enjoy what you’re doing now? Is your job a fulfilling one? Are you ready to give it up? If the answer to the first two questions is “yes” and the answer to the third is “no,” you’re probably not ready to retire unless some other factor—your own health or that of a family member that requires your daily presence, say—is more compelling.

On the other hand, if your answers are two “nos” and a “yes” (or close to that), you may be someone who should consider retiring now rather than later. Still, you should think carefully before deciding to leave. That’s because you should retire when you are ready – not on impulse.

If you are leaning strongly in favor of retiring, you’ll still have to answer a few more questions. For example, what are you going to do with your time after you retire? Based on average life expectations, you could spend nearly as much time in retirement, or even more, as you have spent working. That’s a lot of hours to fill.

If you don’t have anything specific in mind, it’s time to start thinking hard about what you’ll do with all that spare time you’ll have when you retire. That’s an especially important consideration if you are single. If you are married, just remember that togetherness is one thing, but 24 hours a day is another. Just remember the old saying, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch!”

If you’ve made up your mind that you want to retire and know what you hope to do with your newfound freedom, it’s time to answer two other questions. Can afford to retire? Will you not only be able to get by on your annuity but have enough income to actually enjoy your retirement?

If the answer to those questions is yes, great! If they aren’t, are you aware of any income-producing opportunities that will help you fill in the income gap? Depending on your arsenal of skills and abilities, there may either be quite a few or there may be few. Many federal jobs involve highly specialized skills that may not translate well for working elsewhere.

The bottom line is this: When you retire, make sure that your current and future income will be sufficient not only to cover your needs but as many of your desires as possible. Be open to the idea that that may require you to continue generating some earned income, and be realistic about those prospects.

To sum this up, there are three questions you need to answer before deciding to retire:
• Are you ready to retire?
• Do you know what you’ll do with your time when you retire?
• Will you have enough money to enjoy your retirement?

Former head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management, and longtime FEDweek contributor, Reg Jones is known throughout the federal workforce community as an authority on pay and benefits.

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