The Work Less, Live More Workbook
Get Ready for Semi-Retirement
Legal forms CD included
October 2007, 1st Edition
The tools you need to escape the rat race and enjoy your life!
Productivity in the American workplace is the highest in the world. But perhaps that amazing work ethic you've always embraced has left you wondering, "Is this it?"
Consider semi-retirement. Work less hours and enjoy more time to be with your family and pursue your passions. Find out what it will take for you to semi-retire with The Work Less, Live More Workbook.
Based on the bestselling Work Less, Live More , this workbook provides the tools you need to crunch the numbers and make a plan that works. Easy-to-use worksheets, spreadsheets, charts and exercises make figuring out the numbers a snap! Find out how to:
- invest your money in a proven and safe manner
- supplement your income with part-time work
- start a small business that doesn't consume your life
- figure out a safe, lifelong withdrawal rate
- apply four principles that help retirees save on taxes
- turn a hobby into paying work
- and much more...
Author Bob Clyatt entered semi-retirement at age 42 and has never looked back -- let his insights, research and "lessons learned" show you how to escape the endless workweek!
- Cash Tracking Worksheet
- Track Your Spending (four worksheets: Annual Expenses, Month One Expenses, Month Two Expenses, and Total Expenses)
- Early Retirement Spending
- Total Savings Over Time
- Savings, Income, and Expenses
- Snapshot of Annual Finances in Retirement
- Buying vs. Leasing a Car
- Target Asset Allocation (three worksheets: List Assets, Review Asset Allocation, and Plan Transactions)
- Portfolio Management Fees
- Safe Withdrawal Calculation
- Potential Revenue from Part-Time Work
- Long-Term Planning: Effects of Withdrawals
- Worksheets to gather tax data (Income, Adjustments, Deductions, and Tax Credits)
- Get Going: Accessing Your Creativity
- Strategic Planning for Your Life
- Exploring the Nine Dimensions of Your Life: The Wheel
*Audio files are not available with the ebook
Bob Clyatt pursued a 20-year career in information services and the Internet before semi-retiring at age 42 in 2001. Since then, he and his family live principally off income from their savings in the manner described in his book, Work Less, Live More: The New Way to Retire Early. He continues to work on a part-time basis and is an avid cruising sailor, amateur sculptor and a serious student of yoga. This rich set of activities is only possible because of the large amounts of time freed by working less.
Your Semi-Retirement Companion
1. Are You Ready for Semi-Retirement
- How Ready Are You?
- Connecting to Your Dreams and Talents
2. Budgeting for Your Early Retirement
- Tracking Your Spending
- What Will You Need to Spend in Semi-Retirement?
- Calculating Your Total Savings Over Time
- Calculating Your Savings, Income, and Expenses in Retirement
- If You're Already Retired
- More Personal Budgeting Tools
3. Put Your Investing on Auto Pilot
- What Is Rational Investing?
- Calculating Your Risk Tolerance
- The Rational Investing Portfolios
- Steady Saving Is Key
- Getting the Right Asset Allocation
- Buy Low, Sell High Through Periodic Rebalancing
- Are You Paying Too Much in Fees?
- Decreasing Risk
4. Financing Your Retirement
- How Much Can You Withdraw?
- Supplementing Your Income With Part-Time Work
- Looking Into the Future: How Will Your Savings Hold Up?
5. Don't Worry About Taxes
- How the Tax Code Helps Retirees
- A Tale of Three Families
- The Tax Benefits of Starting Your Own Business
- Minimizing Your Capital Gains Tax
- Estimating Your Federal Income Tax
6. Enjoying Your Retirement
- Semi-Retirement: What to Expect
- Making Your Retirement Count
A. Asset Classes and Funds for the Rational Investing Portfolio
- Funds for the Rational Investing Portfolio
- Descriptions of the Asset Classes
B. How to Use the CD-ROM
- How to View the README File
- Listening Without Installing
- Installing the Files Onto Your Computer
- Using the Financial Planning Spreadsheets
- Using Print-Only Files
- Listening to the Audio Files
- List of Files Included on the CD-ROM
Are You Ready for Semi-Retirement?
A century or two ago, most people expected to live only into their 30s or 40s and probably felt little need to be concerned about life’s second half. Now, we increasingly have a choice about how much and how long to work. A quarter of American families headed by someone between the ages of 45 and 64 could enter semi-retirement today and live at or above the national median income, according to the most recent Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances.
If you’re one of that group, are you ready to take advantage of your situation? Some of us yearn and plan for retirement and know exactly what we’ll do when that happy day arrives. But most of us need help transitioning from our busy working lives into the less-structured—and saner—pace of life in retirement.
The 20th century’s image of retirement as a leisure-only, 65-and-older lifestyle increasingly doesn’t fit our needs or match our self-images or dreams. The term semi-retirement may seem awkward, but it is the best I’ve found to describe what most people who leave full-time careers eventually find themselves doing. (You may prefer to call yourself early retired, partially retired, or even transitionally retired.) Your activities may feel nothing like Work—that four-letter-word variety that you gladly left behind—and they may not even be paid. But if you’re finding your way to a congenial blend of responsibilities, challenges, and rewards balanced with plenty of leisure time, then you’ve discovered semi-retirement and are part of an emerging trend.
I made that change at age 42 and learned a number of valuable and humbling lessons, which are collected in my first book, Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement. This companion workbook was created in response to requests from readers who wanted to apply the principles from that book to their own situations. The hands-on exercises and spreadsheets in this workbook will help you calculate your financial readiness for semi-retirement, rebalance your portfolio, track your fund management expenses, and ensure that your spending stays within the amount you can safely withdraw each year from your savings. You’ll find nuts-and-bolts spreadsheets and worksheets to help you ensure that your savings are prudently invested and tapped to meet your financial needs over the long haul.
But no less important are the non-financial chapters, filled with worksheets, encouragement, exercises, and resources to help you tap into your fullest potential for creating a fruitful semi-retirement, whatever form it may take. Many people entering semi-retirement experience a giddy sense of freedom slipping out from the routines, priorities, and commitments that have too long governed their lives. Good planning helps ensure that when the euphoria fades, you’ll have plenty of new interests to keep you from feeling bored or homesick for the structure and sense of accomplishment you enjoyed in your old career.
Two of the things I’ve enjoyed most about semi-retirement have been meeting the many people whose stories are recounted in my books and feeling the encouragement of an extended community of early- and semi-retirees. This workbook offers tips and advice that have helped me—tips from people who’ve made this transition themselves, that speak to its triumphs and pitfalls, help you analyze your financial fitness, or help you find your life’s calling. Those who’ve taken the plunge want to share what they have learned and help you join in the adventure. “The water’s fine,” they are calling. “Here’s how to swim, here’s where the rocks are, and when you’re ready, come on in!”
Running a Business That Leaves Time to Enjoy Life
Ever wonder who buys season tickets to major league baseball games and actually has the time to show up dozens of times a year to watch the team? One of the regulars at Oakland A’s games is a semi-retiree named Mike. Mike’s path to semi-retirement started in college where, to help pay his tuition and expenses, he washed windows. After graduating with a business degree, Mike capitalized on his experience in the trenches and began working as an account representative for a large cleaning services company. Eventually, Mike spun off the window washing portion of that business and began running it as his own company.
Over the years, Mike earned the respect and loyalty of a close-knit group of family members and long-term employees who now keep the business running smoothly. As a result, he’s cut work back to about ten hours a week. Though he may work more from time to time on certain projects, once things are stable he cuts his hours again. Mike’s business generates steady profits, and he’d rather have more free time than more money and employees.
Mike’s typical weekday includes a couple of hours of paperwork in the morning, an hour jogging around the lake with his dog, a leisurely lunch with his wife, and an afternoon of projects improving his home and garden. He remains “on call” for business matters but generally confines work to the morning. Not only does that leave him plenty of free time to see friends and family, but it also leaves afternoons and evenings free for ball games. Mike enjoys running a profitable, high-quality, family-friendly business and sees himself continuing in this manner for many years to come.
How Ready Are You?
In the following questionnaire you’ll find a wide range of questions based on the experience of semi-retirees. The questions deal with both the carrots that might be luring you on to a dynamic second half of life (wanting to spend more time traveling or with your family, for example) and the sticks that might be painfully urging you to stop whatever you’re doing now and find a better way (stress at work, for example). The questionnaire is in two parts—one section asks you about your stress levels and job satisfaction, and the other section focuses on your financial preparedness.
Taking this test gives you a chance to see how you compare to people who are already semi-retired, or well on their way there. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you’re already taking the steps that many semi-retirees before you have taken. Or you may see that you are still working toward the kinds of personal finance and personal development goals that will help you prepare to leave full-time work behind.
Though no test can tell you exactly where you stand, this test’s questions, scoring, and methodology have been extensively validated by people at each stage of the semi-retirement journey, coming from many different backgrounds and perspectives. Overall, their experience can give you a good indicator of where you are on your path to semi-retirement.
When answering the questions, choose the answer that most closely describes where you are today.
Is Semi-Retirement Right For You?
1. Check the statement that best describes your feelings about your full-time career work.
a. I love my work and would consider taking a pay cut if necessary.
b. Although I enjoy my job, I’m really motivated by the money.
c. I’m satisfied with my work, though problems and stress are a regular part of my job.
d. Most days I would rather be somewhere other than work.
e. I’d be happy to retire tomorrow.
f. I don’t work full-time.
2. My sense of self-worth is tied to my career success.
Usually Sometimes Never
3. My age is (check one): under 30 31 to 40 41 to 50 over 51
4. If I had a whole month free, I would (check all that apply):
a. Go stir crazy.
b. Take a vacation.
c. Take care of lots of chores around the house.
d. Try something new I’ve always wanted to do.
5. Check the statement that best describes your experience of work-related stress:
a. I am under constant grinding pressure at work.
b. Sure there’s stress, but that’s because my work is challenging and creative.
c. My work isn’t too stressful.
d. I could deal with more stress—my job is dull and I am seeking more challenge.
6. I have a clear idea of things I would like to do in semi-retirement.
Yes Somewhat No
7. I want to spend much more time with my partner and family or friends.
Yes Somewhat No
8. My spouse or partner and I have a shared goal and vision about shifting to semi-retirement.
Yes Somewhat No I’m single
9. I am very interested in socializing with my work colleagues.
10. I feel there is much more I need to do with my life, but can never find the time.
Usually Sometimes Never
Do you have the means to semi-retire?
11. I have saved money most years. Yes No
12. My financial assets (including home equity I could access if I moved to a smaller home) are equal to:
a. 0 to 5 times my annual spending (the amount I spend each year for all my living expenses—excluding my pension)
b. 6 to 10 times my annual spending
c. 11 to 20 times my annual spending, or
d. more than 20 times my annual spending.
13. I generally replace a car after owning it:
a. 1 to 3 years
b. 3 to 5 years
c. 5 to 10 years
d. 10 or more years
e. I don’t have a car.
14. The total amount of my unpaid credit card or consumer debt (aside from debt I pay in full each month on a mortgage or car payment) equals more than one month of my living expenses.
15. I have a budget that I follow every month. Yes No
16. My mortgage will be paid off:
a. it’s already paid off
b. in less than 5 years
c. in 5 to 15 years
d. in 15 or more years
e. I don’t own a house, or
f. I could pay it off tomorrow but choose to invest the proceeds instead.
Give yourself the points indicated below for each question, and then add up your total.
1. a. –5
2. Usually: 0
3. under 30: –4
4. Count each checked
5. a. 4
6. Yes: 3
7. Yes: 3
8. Yes: 5
9. Yes: –1
10. Usually: 3
11. Yes: 3
12. a. 0
13. a. –10
14. Yes: –3
15. Yes: 3
16. a. 2
What your score means
15 points or less: You have some way to go. You are probably in the early stages of your planning for semi-retirement. You may simply need to continue building your savings. Use the exercises in this book to start thinking about what you’d do if you weren’t required to work full-time, and to budget and add to your savings.
15 to 29 points: You’re getting close. You are well on your way to being ready to semi-retire, but there is still more to do. This workbook will help you budget and continue to save and invest wisely.
30 points and above: You are ready. Life has brought you a long way and if you aren’t already semi-retired, you are certainly thinking like someone who is. Your transition into semi-retirement should be relatively comfortable when you choose to take that step. This workbook will help you fine-tune your investment allocation and rebalance your portfolio, along with helping you figure out your likely taxes.
Whether you’re close to semi-retirement or have a long way to go, this workbook can help you reach your goals. Read the chapters in order because each chapter builds on the previous one. You’ll review your current budget and pull together spending and saving into a concise, informative picture (Chapter 2). You’ll learn how to apply the principals of Rational Investing to your portfolio and how rebalance your portfolio annually (Chapter 3). You’ll see how you can safely withdraw from your savings to fund your living expenses in semi-retirement (Chapter 4). You’ll evaluate your tax situation (Chapter 5). And, you’ll take steps toward creating the life you desire (Chapter 6).
On the Road to Semi-Retirement
Sue and Sean are both about 40 years old and hope to semi-retire in the next ten years. They have been saving conscientiously for the past ten years, ever since reading Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (a book that advocates a frugal life with careful attention to how money is earned and spent).
Long-term international postings with Sean’s engineering firm gave the couple a taste for extended foreign travel, and they have made some important lifestyle choices to get closer to their goal. Though they own a home in the Southeastern U.S., they rent it out and travel together on Sean’s project assignments. Living in hotels and short-term rentals may not be for everyone, but they make the dollars stretch and live almost completely on Sean’s per diem compensation for travel expenses. This lets them save his entire salary.
Sue does part-time contract work in each new location, which leaves her plenty of free time to be with Sean and pursue her own interests. As a physiotherapist, her skills are very portable, and local rehab centers are happy to hire her on a short-term basis. When the couple recently moved to Colorado, Sue had a job within a few days of arriving in town. As an experienced part-time independent contractor, she now earns roughly as much as her coworkers make from their full-time salaries.
Connecting to Your Dreams and Talents
What does semi-retirement mean for you? The closer you can come to tasting that, to feeling almost exactly what an ideal day or month would feel like in semi-retirement, the straighter you’ll be able to steer toward that result.
Try Something New
Are you in a rut? How often do you do something in a new way—go out of your way to meet someone new, visit a new store, try a new product, read a book on a new topic or in a new genre for you, make a new dish, or rearrange your furniture? We all like our routines, and frankly they can be an efficient way to conduct life. After all, having found a favorite café with great coffee and atmosphere, do you really need to keep trying all the other places in town? Still, if we let routine rule all aspects of our lives we can grow stale.
Whether it’s trying a new restaurant, finding new part-time work, or discovering a new avocation, early- and semi-retirees have the time to uncover new things. Develop the habit of staying open to fresh experiences—it can lead you toward new activities that may become immensely satisfying. If you close yourself off to new possibilities, you may well find yourself back at your old job muttering about how semi-retirement is boring or a waste of time. Though discovering your new second-half-of-life avocations can take time and patience—even sleuth work—it’s worth the effort. The whole point of early and semi-retirement is to reclaim your time, and then do something particularly fun and rewarding with it.
Turning a Hobby Into Paid Work
Sometimes figuring out what to do in semi-retirement is as easy as just doing your hobby. Doug was a partner in a major consulting firm that was acquired by IBM. Three years later, the buyout offer came and Doug, at age 50, took it, knowing that the pension would cover his family’s core expenses. He had been puttering around his own woodworking shop for years and longed to be able to work with high-end designers doing woodworking every day.
Luckily, Doug was connected. One of the other parents at his child’s school was a well-known furniture designer whose creations regularly grace the top design magazines and the homes of Manhattan’s wealthy. Doug worked out an arrangement to work side by side with master furniture craftsmen three days a week during the school year. Now, he is paid as a craftsman and offers marketing and business advice, too, when needed. The other two days a week, Doug works in his own shop on his own projects. He spends summers at the family’s weekend home (which also has a wood shop, of course).
Doug relishes the no-stress work atmosphere and the chance to rub shoulders with some of the country’s best craftspeople and designers as a peer. For a guy who spent his career in offices and meeting rooms, Doug feels he has finally arrived at the perfect work-life balance.
Take a Look at Your Sense of Self
Do you secretly get a charge out of answering the question, “What do you do?” or “Who do you work for”? If so, does the charge come because you are enthusiastic about your firm or work, or is it from knowing that your answer is likely to impress the person who is asking? When you pull out your business card, do you expect the company logo to impress the recipient and make you appear more successful, intelligent, or talented?
Most of us like to associate with winners, and successful organizations use that to attract and retain talented people. But if you let your identity become too bound up with that of your employer, you risk allowing your sense of self and self-esteem to become too tied to your work. Though identifying with an employer and being part of its success is doubtless a good thing for a while, it can eventually make it hard for you to move on to more independent pursuits. And it can keep you tied to an organization long past the time when you should leave. A well-developed sense of self, based on internal values and priorities, will better prepare you for the independent life of a semi-retiree.
Let Your Creative Self Emerge
Here are some tips and techniques I’ve learned to help get in touch with your creativity. Some of them may sound silly, and they will certainly feel different or even uncomfortable at first. Allow yourself to be silly, just for a few minutes. You may find out something about yourself that you never expected to learn. After all, until we change our thinking, it can be very hard to change anything else about our lives. And semi-retirement is a big change.
Tip 1: Use your nondominant hand
Try doing routine tasks with your nondominant hand for a few minutes or hours each day. If you’re a righty, brush your teeth with your left hand. Or try eating with your nondominant hand. Not only will you learn to break long established muscle patterns and habits, but your actual brain and neurocircuitry will get a useful stir. Out of this, new pathways to new ideas have a chance to get started.
Tip 2: Listen carefully to music
Get a set of headphones. With eyes closed, listen intently to a new or favorite piece of music. Follow a single instrument, preferably one that is in the background. Concentrate deeply on that single instrument. This exercise trains your concentration skills in a way that is fun and comfortable. Concentration skills also build new brain capacity—meditation, a formal type of concentration, actually creates new gray matter. If you’ve spent years only half-listening to music, it can be a revelation to finally notice what’s been there all along. This is a powerful metaphor that can be applied to other parts of our lives—from relationships to behaviors, or physical environments.
Finding Success in a Creative Field
Many semi-retirees find meaning and challenge in second careers where they can use long-dormant creative or artistic skill and talent. Not everyone who wants to be a professional photographer or painter can actually earn a living in the field. But with financial resources to fall back on and the skills and dedication it took to be successful in their first careers, some semi-retirees are able to break through and achieve noteworthy success a second time, even in highly competitive fields.
Stefan is in the middle of this process. After a financially successful career in the business side of design and film, Stefan longed to move over to the creative side, which always seemed like more fun. Finally heeding his own motto: “When this stops being fun, I’ll do something else,” Stefan began pursuing his long-held dream of being a professional photographer. He enrolled in photography classes.
Stefan recently held his first one-man show of original photographic works (landscape and still-life), and several works sold. With his strong sense of design, he found himself drawn to the world of fashion photography.
Stefan clearly has creative talent, but he has gone further: By beginning to see himself as an artist instead of a business person, and by devoting time and effort to develop his talent, he has started to make real success in a creative field.
He is beginning to get contracts from companies to shoot advertising and catalogue work and looks forward to one day having a steady flow of plum assignments. When that happens, the financial rewards are built-in, which should allow him to systematically reduce the amount he draws from savings for covering living expenses and provide an additional measure of long-term financial security. In the meantime, he experiences real joy in the work, a sense of freedom, and immense satisfaction from having listened to his heart and taken action to follow his dream.
The Emerging Neuroscience Behind Creativity and Personal Growth
Solid scientific research is beginning to find that changing thoughts and actions can change what goes on in the brain and support continued personal growth. Developing your brain’s potential through mental training is being seen as akin to developing your cardiovascular system through aerobic exercise. Whether in learning to moderate emotion, developing a part of the brain to take over for damaged regions after a stroke or other brain injury, or simply altering the pattern and frequency of the brain’s electromagnetic waves, brain training regimens are demonstrating clear effects.
Like a muscle that gets stronger with use, neurochemical circuits widen and trigger more readily with use, improving memory, skilled performance, and emotional response. This in turn supports our efforts to make durable changes in our lives in the way we think, create, and respond to life’s ups and downs.
Though scientists are still in the early stages of these explorations, this research may lead to a dramatic shift in our understanding of human potential.
Useful resources for further inquiry in this area include:
• Edward Taub, Professor in the Dept. of Psychology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, a leading researcher in brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself to use undamaged brain areas for motor or sensory control following brain injury.
• Richard Davidson, Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, who in addition to studying brain function of people with affective disorders, monitors brain function of Tibetan monks to discover how their mental training enables them to consciously and dramatically alter their brain’s neurochemical and electromagnetic activity.
• The Mind and Life Institute (www.mindandlife.org), provides forums for collaborative research between neuroscientists and contemplative practitioners.
• Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, by Sharon Begley, provides a comprehensive yet accessible overview of many of these research topics.
Tip 3: Sketch
If you’re not already an artist, try your hand at sketching. It’s another way to get new neural pathways going in the brain. Sketching is good because it can be done sitting down with minimal equipment, it is humbling to people who are used to being masterful in everything they do, it is fun, it teaches you to really start observing, it connects you to childlike stuff, and it slows you down. And as an added bonus, you just might come up with something you like. No one needs to see your efforts unless you want them to. My own sketches are generally lopsided. Over time, sketching may help you start to see differently—to really notice things that have been staring you in the face all along. This can help you find creative solutions to daunting questions whose answers may be right in front of you.
Get a sketch pad or blank sheet of paper, sharp pencil, and eraser and start with something simple. Sketch by looking carefully at a still-life subject, and then work to get each line down on your page in the correct relationship to other lines and parts of the subject. Try shading darker areas to give a sense of three-dimensional form. If you are sketching a person, study closely how each area of the figure connects to the whole. What makes that person unique? How are his or her hands or eyes different from someone else’s? What does an eyelid really look like?
Tip 4: Notice your internal chatter
Listen to the internal chatter or dialogue in your head. Notice any themes that emerge. Are you nice to yourself; hard on yourself; hard on others? If someone else said the same things to you, how would you react? If your dialogue is consistently negative, work to replace some of those thoughts with more constructive and kind ones.
Tip 5: Pay attention to your daydreams
Notice things that draw your mind back again and again—places, people, or experiences. What emotion connects you to that place or time? Is there something there to learn? If possible, go back to those places with sufficient time and clarity of mind to see if any fresh ideas come to you there. This practice can link you more closely to deeper feelings that are unconsciously informing your attitudes and behaviors today.
Tip 6: Notice when you’re in the flow
In which activities do you sometimes feel a state of “flow,” where time and distractions disappear and you are just deeply immersed in the activity itself, in the moment? Is it possible to organize your time to spend more time doing these kinds of activities?
Tip 7: Make a life list
Make a list of the top ten or 11 things you’d like to accomplish in your life if you had more time and post it somewhere visible. When you semi-retire, your list will be a handy guide for how to fill those days when you realize you have nothing scheduled to do the entire day. Your list will keep you on track like a map and compass, guiding the small steps to create a life that reflects your dreams and values.
Tip 8: Remember your dreams
When you were 18 or 22 years old, what did you love doing or think you might want to be “when you grew up”? If you had all the time in the world, would you want to pick up some of those threads again?
Tip 9: Use your imagination
Imagine a perfect weekend. Where would it be? What would you be doing? Who would you be with? What would be your state of mind? Write down these answers in as much detail as possible. Now do the same thing for an imagined typical week in semi-retirement.
Tip 10: Whom do you admire?
What type of person do you admire? What is it about them or their life, their work, or their activities that appeals to you? Do you wish you could hang out with them or be like them? What steps might be required to get from here to there? How can you learn more about the persons you admire or the activities they are involved in?
Tip 11: Write
Write down fragments of ideas, thoughts about any of these tips, long stream-of-consciousness entries about how you’re feeling about work or politics or relationships or the next chapter in your life. Writing down your ideas is a time-honored way to get things moving around you—either to process and get past something that has been bothering you or to start weaving the threads together for something new and useful to happen. Whether or not anyone reads what you write doesn’t seem to matter—it’s the act of writing that counts. Pictures, diagrams, and scribbles are all nice additions to plain old words.
Tip 12: Ask yourself for help
Before falling asleep, frame a question that is puzzling you, from “What should I do with the rest of my life?” to “How can I learn more about welding?” Keep a notebook handy and write down any ideas that come to you during the night or first thing upon waking in the morning. Follow up on those ideas.
Tip 13: Retreat and renew
Go on a silent retreat in a monastery or spend a few days hiking and camping at high elevation. Try to give yourself a little free time upon returning, with a notepad or sketchpad handy. New ideas and perspectives typically come to people after such experiences.
Tip 14: Give yourself encouragement
Cultivate confidence in your new ideas—take them seriously by writing them down, acting on them, talking about them with others, or otherwise tending them as if they were seedlings in a garden. Some will wither away, but others, with time and care, can grow into something of substance. Look for inexpensive ways to explore and expand on your ideas until you see which ones have the potential to grow. For instance, rather than jump straight in and open an art gallery as your first step in semi-retirement, try visiting with art gallery owners, volunteering at a local co-op gallery, or even getting a part-time job or internship in an established gallery. None of these steps are expensive or difficult, and you can learn a lot about your dream of owning a gallery without breaking the bank or becoming emotionally distraught if things don’t work out.
Tip 15: Take the long view
Figure out how to salvage something of value from any so-called “failure,” and give yourself plenty of slack if an idea doesn’t work out. Who knows when or how today’s failure will set up tomorrow’s inspired success? Practice framing any disappointments along the way in positive terms.
Tip 16: Ask for help
If you have a spiritual tradition, access its prayerful or contemplative element. You may be surprised at how powerful and helpful this simple practice can be. Or, try asking other people for help instead. Frame your question clearly and ask someone you trust to help you.
Tip 17: Try yoga
In additional to traditional sports or workouts, I’ve found that a well-rounded yoga practice can bring physical exercise, diet, spiritual practices, and meditation into focus and provide a solid foundation for personal discovery. Yoga is now a mainstream activity and local classes can be found almost everywhere. If yoga doesn’t appeal to you, look into other low-impact exercises with a spiritual and reflective dimension (such as tai chi). In any case, try paying attention to your breathing—working to lengthen and deepen your breaths when possible.
Tip 18: Look to art
Any creative work or artist you feel drawn to can be great inspiration for your own creative journey, even if your path will have nothing to do with fine arts. Whether it’s painting, music, writing, dance, or drama—make exposure to creative works part of your life.
Putting It All Together
I’m the type of person who usually reads through lists of useful suggestions and never actually stops to do the exercises. But I am going to nag you gently to do better. In fairness, at one time or another I have actually done all the things in the list above.
So pull out a sheet of paper and pick one or two of the above tips to develop. Next week or tomorrow try a different tip. When you brush your teeth tonight, which hand will you use to hold the toothbrush?
Here’s a worksheet that might help you (also on the CD-ROM included with this workbook—open the “Get Going” file). It’s designed to get you thinking in action steps—coming up with concrete activities and committing to doing something. But we all know that the best intentions don’t always make it to fruition. That’s why the final column gives you a chance to draw a picture, describe a memory or feeling, or make any other reference that pops into your head about the task and actions you’re hoping to accomplish. By tapping the creative and unconscious, you can help unblock or build resolve in support of an action that might otherwise be swept aside in the swirl of good intentions and overriding priorities. Images and poetry hooked to your goal can keep it coming back for you, against all odds.
Get Going: Accessing Your Creativity
Tip #5: daydreams
Visit pond (bring sketch pad)
Ice skating—age 8
Tip #6: flow
Basketball with Jake
One-on-one Saturdays in the 80s, sweat, tank tops, and people-watching
For more help in making the transition from work to retirement.
• Try one of the new online assessment tools—they offer tests to identify your preferences and strengths, and help you use the results to find new interests. You’ll also learn your favorite ways of thinking, relating to others, and dealing with common challenging situations, with an eye toward using this knowledge to seek out and be more successful in your new activities. Three paid services that offer these types of tools are:
n MyNextPhase (www.mynextphase.com)
n RetirementSuccessProfile (available only through a retirement coach; find one at www.retirementoptions.com), and
n TurningPointsNavigator (sign up or find a course at
• www.retirementwellbeing.com has worksheets to help you identify your strengths and how you might apply them in retirement. The website is written by John Nelson, coauthor of What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement: Practical Planning for Money, Health, and Happiness, by Richard Bolles and John Nelson.
• Learn about Positive Psychology and how you fit into the classic measures of happiness at www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.
• Learn how to live long enough to enjoy your reengineered life with the longevity calculator at www.eons.com.
• Take a Meyers-Briggs personality test at www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp.
• Find your personality type on the Enneagram of Personality by taking the free test at www.enneagraminstitute.com/dis_sample_36.asp.
• Don’t Retire, REWIRE!, by Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners, is full of strategies, case studies, and encouragement for making the transition to avocation in semi-retirement.
• A Whack on the Side of the Head, by Roger Von Oech (with great illustrations by George Willett) is a perennial favorite for boosting creativity. The title is drawn from the Zen tradition of whacking a ready and willing student on the shoulder as a way to give birth to satori—a sudden moment of enlightenment.
• What Color Is Your Parachute?, by Richard Bolles, helps people find their way to the vocation or avocation of their dreams. It includes lots of self-assessment exercises. At some point, you may decide that finding your calling is a lot of hard work, and that maybe a whack on the side of the head is easier!
• The Artist’s Way and its related workbooks, by Julia Cameron, help people find the artist within through a careful step-by-step process. She places a big emphasis on keeping a journal and doing new activities in support of personal transformation. Her approach is helpful to anyone making a life change, not just artists.
How Sculpture Found Me
Soon after I started early retirement, I made a list of ten things I wanted to accomplish. In addition to more time devoted to family and health, the list included “writing” and “sculpture.” Though I had always enjoyed writing, I’m still not sure how “sculpture” made it onto the list.
More than once, I came close to crossing this item off the list as somehow mistaken, but one day, a few years into my own semi-retirement, my son asked for help on a school project. He needed to make a Minotaur from clay. Because parents were allowed to help and I had the time, I said “Sure!”
I set about “helping” the next day while he was at school. In a burst of creative fervor, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning pushing and pounding clay around into a credible-looking Minotaur. No one was more surprised than I with the results—my son was delighted and my wife instantly told me that I had to start taking classes at a local arts studio. Within months I was enrolled and starting new sculpture projects.
I’d hoped to learn how to make busts that didn’t crack and that looked vaguely like the person they were supposed to represent. For the first few years, I took a class every Friday afternoon, slowly building my skills. By the third year, with a home studio and more skills under my belt, friends began asking me to create sculptures of their kids, which began to blossom into a perfect semi-retirement-friendly little business. New commissions followed and one loyal patron has even begun making regular studio visits to see each new piece in case she should want to add it to her collection. Recently, I’ve started displaying my work at art fairs and juried competitions and applying my old marketing skills to selling art.
Family vacations now include a visit to a museum or public sculpture. The garage is overflowing with finished and half-finished pieces, molds, armatures, and so forth. Hours spent working on a new piece fly by, and I’ve made lots of new friends in the sculpture world. Whenever things get a little too crazy, I remind myself to slow down well before it starts to feel like work.
With ideas about what you’d like to do in retirement now percolating, let’s turn to the next chapter, where you’ll start to figure out the financial side of semi-retirement and the financial steps you can take now to semi-retire on schedule.