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Would You Retire if You Could?

Dave Bernard

For some people, the reward at the end of a long career is the fulfilling retirement life they will finally be able to enjoy. After years of tiring work, ever-increasing responsibility and the endless struggle to save a little after all the bills are paid, savoring the freedom that comes with doing what you want sounds wonderful. And with 10,000 baby boomers reaching age 65 each day, many people will soon confront the reality of their second act.

But not everyone who has the financial ability to retire actually wants to. If the financial side of things were in order, would you retire as soon as possible?

We hear countless stories of happy people calling it quits long before 65 to begin a life focused on what matters to them. Everyone wants to work less and relax more -- no surprise there. Some people brag of quitting the working world at almost unbelievably young ages. But I cannot fault anyone for trying to get to retirement sooner rather than later.

When you become a new member of the retirement club, you will experience what for many people is a welcome first: Time to do the things you want rather than have to do. If the morning arrives and your bed feels just too warm and comfortable to get out of, you can lay there until you are good and ready to get up. There's no reason to rush through your cup of coffee to get to where you have to be. When a new novel by your favorite author is released you can dig right into it. This freedom is what many people find most rewarding about living in retirement. One reader of my blog said it perfectly: "I am hooked on leisure. I revel in the vast expanses of time that stretch out ahead of me, and I can choose to do, or not do, at my leisure."

Should you feel the urge to do something a bit more productive or inspired, you are free to do that. The hobbies and passions you have only been able to enjoy on a limited basis can now become the focus of your attention. Feel free to volunteer where you feel most inclined. Write the book, song, or movie you have always wanted to. And best of all, you get to choose just how much time you spend where.

For some people, work is not such a bad thing. Interacting with co-workers, sharing challenges and achievements and having some place where what you do is valued can enrich your retirement years. Why retire from something you enjoy to brave some new unknown? The definition of what constitutes a fulfilling retirement is different for each of us. If doing what you enjoy and want to do happens to be work in some fashion, who is to say you should do anything other than what makes you happy?

Some retirees-to-be feel pressured to keep working so they can continue adding to their nest egg to cover every possible contingency for their retired life. Fearful of an uncertain future, the thought of retirement seems risky. As long as they have a job, they plan to keep at it. Why pay for health care when your employer will pick up the tab? The risk is they may find themselves at an advanced age and no longer able to do everything they could have 10 years earlier. Sure they have lots of money to spend, but not as much energy to enjoy it. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to really explore what you are most interested in and passionate about. In the end it is up to each of us to decide if a job and those incremental dollars earned are truly worth the sacrifice.

Do you have enough to do to keep yourself occupied for the next 20 years? There is only one way to find out. If the time is right, make the move, take the chance and give retirement a try. It just may end up being everything you ever hoped for. And if it isn't, you can always go back to work.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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