Is a Retirement Gap Year Right for you?Submitted by Concierge Financial Planning, LLC on December 20th, 2016
“Well, I’m not sure, but I know I don’t want to work anymore!” responded Mary, my 60 year-old client, when I asked her what she planned to do with her time once she retired from her job as an attorney. As she squirmed in her chair, I realized that I recognized her tell-tale unease; It was the same squirm I saw from both of my sons when I asked them what they wanted to study in college and, for my eldest, what he wanted to do after graduation.
At that moment, it hit me: It’s OK for both 60- and 16-year olds to not know exactly what their next step in life will be. We don’t always have to have our minds made up well in advance.
“Why don’t you take a gap year?” I suggested to Mary. “Take some time to explore.” Mary knew she wasn’t going to spend her golden years on the porch in a rocking chair. She was ready emotionally and financially to retire from her job, but not from life.
As a CFP, we are always told that our clients need to be able to visualize their retirement—how they want to spend their time and where they will live. After spending eight years focused on retirement planning I realize that isn’t the only way to go. A gap year can be just as educational and defining for a retiree as it is for a college student.
A few months ago I met with Jeff and Tracy who retired a little over a year ago. Jeff was happy as a clam to be away from the office commotion, but Tracy was missing her job as a teacher and was itching to be back at work in some capacity. I spoke with Tracy yesterday and she excitedly told me about her new job working for a tutoring service. It was everything she wanted—teaching kids on her schedule without all the politics of her old school job. Tracy said that over the course of her year off, she had been able to define exactly what elements of her working life she missed the most. She then set out to capture those elements in a new position.
Faith and Ben couldn’t wait to travel when they retired. They hit the road the day after his farewell party. A year later, they still weren’t ready to stay home full-time. During their travels Faith and Ben had been introduced to an organization in Central America that worked to help the indigenous population living in poverty. Now they go to Guatemala several times a year to volunteer with that organization. You never know what opportunities may present themselves as you travel through life.
Personally, I took gap “years” to figure out what I wanted to do after my children were grown. I never pictured myself owning my own business and helping people retire, but everything fell into place once I had the time and freedom to go back to school.
Mary’s stress seemed to dissipate as I told her about the gap year possibilities. “I’m so relieved,” she told me. “I’m just going to tell everyone who asks, that I am taking a gap year! In fact, they’ll be jealous!” Suddenly that big dark question mark over Mary’s head turned into a world of possibilities.