The timing of retirement is different for everyone

This is the first of a series of articles on retirement lifestyle planning from Donna McCaw, the author of IT’S YOUR TIME: INFORMATION AND EXERCISES TO GET YOU READY FOR A GREAT RETIREMENT. Donna does presentations and courses dealing with retirement readiness to prepare the Boomer generation as they venture into the new frontier of retirement. Her goal is to provide practical information to help people make decisions with confidence.

Retirement can be anything you want it to be. There is no universal one size fits all solution. One unique aspect of retirement is the timing of retirement. When do you want to retire and what influences the timing of retirement? Consider these thoughts:


Have you heard people say this about retirement? “I just want to get it right and not find myself bored. I do not want to regret retiring.”

The ambivalent person may want to try phased retirement, a leave of absence, or an extended vacation to try retirement on for size. Phased retirement will allow for more preparation and more time to make a solid decision about retirement with confidence. It’s kind of like test driving retirement.


Some people just can’t wait to retire, “I am counting down the days.”

The excited person may want to be sure that there is something to retire to and not just from something. Don Ferguson of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame described his experience of retirement as Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff. He was totally engaged in a demanding and busy career and just stopped, ran off the cliff to find himself hanging in mid-air, about to plunge into nothingness. It is so important to do some preparation before a ‘cold turkey retirement’.

It’s important to have activities and options to bridge this transition so that cliff diving is not the early retirement experience.


Other people just live in denial, “I don’t think I will ever retire.”

Denial is not a great option as retirement happens in most instances. Many folks do not get to choose their timing as either a health crisis or a pink slip or buy out or personal surprise means sudden retirement. According to a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, having a sense of control and personal choice is a major factor in happiness about retirement.

The key to retirement planning is to be in charge of timing as much as possible. Pay attention to what feelings come up as well as the financial realities. Adjust the timing if it does not feel right.

Timing depends on how retirement fits you

The Journal of Happiness Studies from Concordia University illustrates the mind shift from career to retirement, from building- a- future orientation to living in an emotionally meaningful present. People do not change their personalities or values and so retirement needs to fit with who they are. They need a sense of purpose, social connectedness, acceptance of self and the life created, and engagement in meaningful activity. Making that transition may take some time and adjustment and communication.

Do you have a spouse?

Only 35% of couples had discussed their ideas about their futures prior to the retirement of one of the partners in a recent study. I see this in my Retirement Readiness courses as I ask people to write down their visions of retirement. I have seen lots of surprises as a spouse hears for the first time what those visions of the other actually are. Sometimes it is a rude awakening!

In less than one-third of cases do women retire first. Usually, the male retires first causing a whole range of role changes, and needs for communication. A couple needs to communicate about their own personal timing as well as what that will mean to them as a couple.

Singles have a simpler experience in setting timing and making adjustments on their own.

The most popular choice of months to retire in June, not just the month of brides and grooms, but it also has the most retirement parties. Summer holidays make a great start to a new stage of life!


  1. retirebyforty

    Great post! Discussing with your partner is extremely important. You want your partner to support the decision and work through it together. June huh? That’s interesting. I thought it would be January after people get their bonus. 🙂

  2. Vanessa

    It is very important to understand which type of retirement fits you, but it is more important to be financially prepared for any type of retirement. You need to make sure all of your assets are in place, and that your debt is low, or non-existent or retirement will be hard whichever way you choose. A good idea would be to pick which type of retirement fits you best, and then use that as motivation to do everything you need in order to financially achieve it.

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