How to find your calling and construct an ideal retirement

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This article has been reprinted with permission from,

Moving slowly into retirement — reducing hours, offering advice and generally making sure institutional knowledge is shared before you leave — can benefit both workers and employers. It seems like an easy sell. Everyone wins.

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Many older workers would like to enter retirement incrementally, but few US employers have policies that explicitly allow this. The federal government does, and so do many universities.

Bizarrely, the federal government is responsible for the notion that 65 is the age to retire; was chosen as the age when American workers become eligible to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits. Many companies encouraged this with pensions. For many of us, the pension has disappeared, but the idea that 65 is the time to retire has not.

What is retirement today?
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Not only is there little agreement on when retirement should begin, there is little agreement on what retirement is. In a previous survey conducted by OnePoll for Human Interest, a market research company, more than two-thirds of American adults said they think retirement is a gradual transitioning from full-time work; 11% think you can work 11 hour weeks and still be retired.

Eric Phillips, senior director of partnerships and strategic insights at Human Interest, calls this slow withdrawal from the workforce “predictable.” Maybe that’s what I was going through when I asked my employer about transitioning to part-time.

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When I started considering working fewer hours, I was working full time as a writer and occasional editor. I wasn’t bored with my job or career, and I didn’t want to retire – I just wanted to work less.

Reading, Many retirees can’t wait until age 70 to collect Social Security benefits, but they can if they use this strategy.

Pick and choose assignments

Now, I work when I want — usually between 12 and 25 hours a week — and politely decline assignments I know I won’t enjoy. In the last few weeks of working full time, I made notes of the tasks I was looking forward to as well as the ones I would gladly give up. This is useful in evaluating potential assignments.

Being retired – but not really – has led to an always-predictable workflow that broadens the topics I write and think about. I rarely skip fitness class anymore, I’m not hopelessly busy, and I have the potential to be a better friend. I started knitting. And I didn’t panic (much) when the market dropped right after I quit my job, because I believed I could earn enough to keep from tapping my shrinking 401(k).

Of course, it comes from a place of privilege. I’m educated, I have the necessary tools, and I can afford to fail. I had my financial planner’s blessing — I had reached full retirement age and could count on Social Security income as a backstop. They are luxuries.

Another benefit of DIY phased retirement: I’m not locked into a schedule where I have to agree to fully retire in a certain number of years or work a certain number of hours. The downside is that I no longer have access to benefits or a 401(k).

Too So long, senior centers and nursing homes. Older adults do not want to spend their time in places where they are seen as victims of decline.

questions to ask yourself

If you’re thinking of designing your own “walkthrough,” here are several things you can consider, according to Jordan Grummett of Evanston, Illinois.Taking Stock: A Dharamsala Doctor’s Advice on Financial Freedom, Building Wealth, and Living a Regret-Free Life,

Grumet, 49, recommends first eliminating the elements of your job that cause the most stress. For him, he was seeing patients as a physician in private practice. While he now identifies himself as a podcaster and writer, he continues to pursue his hospice work—the part of his work that he found most fulfilling.

Once you remove the parts of your job or your life that you don’t enjoy (or need to survive), you can add in the things that bring you joy or a sense of purpose and fulfillment. .

As you do this, draw up a calendar and create a schedule, Grumet advises. When you’re building your own job, it helps to anchor yourself to some predictable meetings or tasks.

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how to trace your calling

Paul Dillon, 77, now an adjunct instructor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, retired as a consultant with a Chicago accounting firm in 2006, just short of his 61st birthday. They initially offered project management and business development services.

Dillon found his calling five years later when a client asked him to research Chicago companies that were hiring veterans. He did far more research than was asked or expected.

He eventually conceptualized a business incubator for veterans. This led to the development of a non-credit college course about veterans, and eventually, to a for-credit course at Duke, where he moved to be closer to grandchildren.

his advice? be flexible. At the traditional retirement age, he found a passion and pursued it. Now this Army Reserve veteran, who also served as a first lieutenant in Vietnam, occasionally teaches courses he created, and is known as a subject matter expert.

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part time retirement

Has Dylan retired? He says he works 10 to 15 hours a week while teaching, otherwise about two hours a week.

The mentoring piece of the DIY Retirement Runway isn’t as difficult as you might think, although it won’t match the kind of mentoring you’ll find on the job.

Mine has largely been helping other writers and editors figure out how to handle the financial part of being a freelancer, something I started learning when I moderated a panel on that very topic.

Dillon believes that opportunities to help can come from just keeping your eyes and ears open and willing to explore new ideas and take small risks.

Not all rewards are financial, he added. Dillon believes that there is an obligation to keep doing good works, citing St. Luke’s admonition that to whom much is given, much will be expected, and tikkun olam Jewish concept of repairing the world.

“You have a lot of talent,” he says, “…go use it for the benefit of others.”

Bev O’Shea is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance topics. She is the mother of two adult children and lives in Georgia with her husband, Cockapoo, and Calico. Read more about his work,

This article is part of Lessons from Leaders, made possible by the Next Avenue initiative Richard M. Schultz Family Foundation And AxisEntrepreneur Innovation Exchange. This article has been reprinted with permission from©2023 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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