The majority of childhood is composed of leisure time, the main chunk of adulthood combines work and play, and then the expectation is to return to play mode during retirement.
The issue with that traditional cycle is some people fine enjoyment in working. There is a growing trend to retire in phases, or even intermittently, in part because of longer lifespans and because some might not yet have the financial stability necessary to retire permanently.
It used to be that people retired once. Their colleagues gave them a party at work, pitched in for a gift, and then that was it. Golf, gardening, travel and grandkids. Some even sold their homes and moved to a resort area. Either way, the work phase of their life was over.
The temporary or partial retirements that are more common today mean leaving a job and taking an extended sabbatical. After a while, a person may return to the same job either full or part-time or take on a completely different job — something fun and interesting that doesn’t follow him or her home on nights and weekends.
Others phase-out of their jobs. They spend fewer hours at work and more time on the tennis court and spending time with peers their age.
Many pseudo-retirees also change their living situations. They may downsize to a smaller home or move to a retirement community with recreational and healthcare amenities to make it easier to get around and stay healthy.1
In other words, retirees are no longer doing retirement “cold turkey.” They are phasing down their housing and work situations incrementally. This strategy can work well for people who want to spend time fixing up their house or doing more gardening and lawn care. But if the time comes when the to-do list becomes more of a chore than a joy, they can downsize to a smaller house where the yardwork and home improvement projects aren’t so demanding.
One key factor to consider with phased downsizing is to gradually reduce the “stuff” you own. Maybe rethink those grandiose plans to renovate rooms and buy new furniture when the kids move out. Perhaps just downsize and keep only your favorite furniture and décor items. The process of downsizing in phases helps you reduce clutter and possessions slowly, as your children move into their own places and start to want hand-me-down items.
This idea of minimizing coincides with another trend that’s on the rise, “inconspicuous consumption.” Traditionally, people demonstrated their wealth via the designer labels on their clothes, the types of car they drove and the sizes and locations of their houses. Those things aren’t deemed as impressive anymore. Researchers analyzing recent U.S. data have found that between 1996 and 2014, conspicuous consumption as a share of all household spending has declined for the wealthiest households.2
In other words, it’s no longer trendy to drive a sports car and live in a big house. Even high net worth people are living more minimalist lifestyles, choosing instead to spend their money on experiences and conveniences, such as housecleaning, gardeners, organic food, yoga classes, travel and education.3
It may be worth pursuing this type of inconspicuous consumption to help simplify and downsize to an easy, more manageable and enriched retirement lifestyle that is both affordable and meaningful.
1 Robert Strauss. The New York Times. Jan. 2, 2015. “Easing Into Leisure, One Step at a Time.” https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/03/your-money/slowing-down-in-stages-on-gradual-path-to-full-retirement.html?rref=collection/sectioncollection/your-money. Accessed Sept. 30, 2017.
2 Dan Kopf. Quartz. June 11, 2017. “The new, nearly invisible class markers that separate the American elite from everyone else.” https://qz.com/999078/the-new-conspicuous-consumption-is-a-lacrosse-playing-child-and-an-npr-tote-bag/. Accessed Sept. 30, 2017.
Tips for Phasing Into Retirement
Many of us have occasional feelings of financial insecurity both pre- and post-retirement. During our careers, we may be concerned we won’t be able to provide and meet all of our obligations; during retirement, we may be concerned about running out of money. But phasing out work can help reduce that concern. Even if working only part-time, there is income coming in and, therefore, less savings being spent. The following are some tips to help prepare for a phased retirement:1
- Start work on a phased retirement plan years before you embark upon it.
- Identify what you want to do.
- Use that time to go back to school to train for a new career, and consult a life counselor or retirement coach.
- Get your networks in place; build up your social media contacts with past and present colleagues and friends.
- Sharpen your skills, such as on the computer, so you’re more marketable.
- If switching jobs/careers, consider taking three to six months off first with some planned activities and enough time to get bored — which will help provide incentive.
- Set new goals each year in your phased retirement for health, relationships and adventures.