Shortly before I retired, I had dinner with a friend we’ll call Joe. I’d had a business relationship with Joe for 10 years and we had become friends. He went out of his way to meet up with me for a personal dinner while I was in his city on a business trip.
It wasn’t an ordinary dinner.
Joe had just lost his job.Whether you're planning your retirement or it happens unexpectedly, there's one question you should ask yourself. Click To Tweet
What 3 New Things Are You Going to Try in Retirement?
I’d had many business dinners with Joe over the years, and we’d done a lot of business together. The typical banter of a business dinner is predictable, with some discussion on the macro trends in the industry, what’s going on with our respective companies, and the outlook for our ongoing and future business together. Been there, done that. Many, many times.
This dinner was different.
We didn’t talk about business. Not once.
We both realized it didn’t matter anymore.
Joe was facing an unexpected retirement, and I was a month away from my long-planned final day of work. The evening was a bit surreal as I sat across the table from someone who I’d known for years in a business setting, with both of us facing retirement from entirely different approaches.
I was prepared and excited for retirement.
He was not.
What could I possibly say to my friend as he faced “The Cliff” of an unexpected retirement? What would you say?
For starters, I listened a lot more than I talked. Like many of the 60% of people who face retirement earlier than planned, Joe was trying to figure things out. Justifiably, he had a lot on his mind. I’d studied the phenomenon of people being forced into early retirement and knew the reality of The Dark Side of Retirement. There’s a reason I dedicated an entire chapter in my book to the issue. It’s a miserable place to be, and Joe found himself forced there just a few days before our dinner.
So, I listened.
And I did a lot of thinking.
BTW, a quick (and relevant) sidebar…
I just received an AMAZING e-mail from someone who has been struggling with an early “forced” retirement. The subject header in the email caught my attention: “You Changed A Life Today”. Turns out the reader had been forced into early retirement 6 months ago and has really struggled with the adjustment. He happened to hear me on a recent Bigger Pockets podcast interview, a moment best captured in his own words: “I was literally pushing my mower with tears of relief rolling down my face as I listened to your podcast. I AM NOT ALONE”.
The longer I do this, the more stories I hear from people who have been forced into retirement sooner than expected. A sincere “thank you” to the reader for allowing me to share that line from his email. It’s a great reminder that none of you are alone, and I’m honored to know that my work is helping some of you find your new path forward. Thank you for keeping me motivated. It is for you that I do what I do.
Back to that dinner with Joe…
As I listened to him attempting to make sense of his forced early retirement, a thought ran through my mind.Life is a One Way Street. Live it looking forward. Click To Tweet
I began thinking about how I could encourage Joe to start looking forward.
To stop looking back.
Regardless of how we get to The Starting Line of retirement, the reality is that it’s a new beginning. A new path forward. A new opportunity to become whatever we choose to become. Whether you’ve arrived after years of planning, or two days before dinner with an old friend, retirement is all about looking forward. The past doesn’t matter.
It’s a new start.
The reality is that Joe was facing a new opportunity. A chance to become whatever he chose to become. Reframing our mindset is the key in turning that half-empty glass into one that’s half-full. It’s time to put the pride and hurt aside, and think about the future in a positive light. I encouraged Joe to start thinking about where he would chart his path, given the freedom to make that choice?
Joe had been (justifiably) more focused on the recent past and the short-term future and hadn’t put much thought into any longer-term plans. He had more or less decided he was going to retire, but he hadn’t thought much about what his new life of retirement would be.
A question came to my mind, and I decided to ask it.
“What 3 New Things Are You Going To Try In Retirement?”
It was an interesting twist in the discussion. We all know some things we’d like to try, and that one simple question is a non-threatening way to think about the reality that retirement is a new phase in life. A time to experiment. A time to make your own decisions.
A time to try new things.
We both went back and forth with some things we’d like to learn. He wanted to learn how to play the banjo, an instrument I’ve always thought would be fun to play. I thought the guitar would be better for sitting around a campfire. He wanted to learn a foreign language, I wanted to learn how to edit video.
What had been a depressing start to the evening began to get a bit more optimistic. Thinking about that question is a way to encourage yourself to peer into the future, to visualize something that you’d like to learn. To explore an area that interests you.
It’s a positive question to ask during a negative time.
It can shift your mindset. It can change your course.
We agreed that we would follow-up with an email to each other in a few week’s time with our “final answer” to the 3 things we were going to try in retirement. I’ve still got those emails, and I look at them occasionally. You’re probably curious about what we listed as our “Final 3”, but that’s missing the point.
In reality, it doesn’t matter how you answer that question. What matters is the shift in your mindset. Being intentional in looking forward, and building excitement over the things you can do
For the record, I’ve only accomplished one of the three items on my “final” list to Joe. Weird, right? Instead, I found other things that I hadn’t expected, and I’ve done dozens of exciting new things in retirement. I’m still hoping to do an organized swim in a river someday (yes, that was one of the items in my email).
Retirement is fluid, and I’m good with that.
The point is this:
Wherever you find yourself, the attitude with which you approach your life matters. A lot. If you’re not in a situation you’d hoped for, figure out how you can make lemonade from the lemons. If you’re fortunate to be in a good place, take time to give thanks. Strive to look for the positives and minimize the amount of time you focus on the negatives. Choose to have a positive attitude. A bit preachy, perhaps, but important nonetheless.
I came across that email exchange with Joe this week, and it led to the writing of today’s post. I thought it a worthy story to share.
I hope you agree.
It’s a fact that far too many people are forced into retirement earlier than they had planned. If you’re among those who find yourself in that situation, take some time to decide how you’re going to respond. Regardless of how you reach The Starting Line, it’s important to recognize that life on this side of the line presents an incredible opportunity.
Are you going to focus on the negative?
Or, are you going to seek out the positive?
If you’re struggling, try listing 3 things you’d like to try in retirement. It’s an interesting little mind game that can help you think differently about where you’re heading. If nothing else, park the question in your brain, and ask it the next time you’re talking with a friend who’s in a tough spot.
You may be interested in where it leads.
Your Turn: If you’re retired, did you get forced into retirement earlier than planned? Any advice for others who are facing the same situation? Finally, what 3 things would you put on your list? Let’s chat in the comments…