How to Know When to Retire?

Floreana Island, Galapagos
Floreana Island, Galapagos

At times when I chat to my wife about how I can’t wait to retire so that we have more free time, play more badminton or do more traveling, she would say that I am wishing my life away.  She says we already have lots of free time, and that we play badminton 3 times a week, and we travel 3 to 4 times a year.

Not that she would get bored after retirement, but she feels that she still enjoys her work at the office, the social interactions with her co-workers, the recognition she gets from doing a good job, and the vibrant atmosphere of working downtown. I guess I cannot argue with that.  I feel the same most times at work, but there are times when I day-dream about spending more time outdoors (especially during sunny days), more badminton (to improve after entering a competition), or more travels (when I look at my travel wish lists).

When receiving a paycheque is no longer the prime motive for working, then one must decide whether the time spent at the office is better off in spending on pursing our passions. Perhaps your major passion is work, then there is no need to think about retirement.  To most people though, it is a trade-off of how best to spend the remaining time we have on this earth.

I just finished watching a TED talk about “Want to be happy? Be grateful” by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He talks about how every moment given to us is a “gift”.  He says: “By experiencing, by becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, as we say. It’s a gift. You haven’t earned it. You haven’t brought it about in any way. You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you, and yet, that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us, this moment, with all the opportunity that it contains. If we didn’t have this present moment, we wouldn’t have any opportunity to do anything or experience anything, and this moment is a gift. It’s a given moment, as we say.”

So, it is probably time to retire when your job is no longer bringing you happiness, or if you think pursuing something else will bring you more happiness.  Is spending 8 to 9 hours a day at the office the best use of our given moments?

Travelers Century Club

Tim, Patti, Michael, Mahmood, Lana, Tom & CaroleFor some travelers, keeping a list of places visited and a “bucket list” is a way to keep memories of trips taken and a way to keep track of places that they want to visit next.

I have always like to make lists.  When I was young, one of my favorite book to read was the Guiness Book of World Records. I would read about the world’s highest mountain, the longest river, the biggest city, etc.  When I started to travel, I love taking photos so that I have a record of where I’ve been.  After many trips, I created a spreadsheet of all the trips I have taken with the dates, locations, and any special or prominent sights seen. Eventually, the list got bigger, and I would get excited that I could add a new country to this spreadsheet.

Soon, collecting countries became one of my hobbies or passions.  30 countries turned into 50, and then soon it was 60 and 70 countries.  I discovered the Travelers Century Club (TCC) online, and I desperately wanted to join this exclusive club for people who has been to 100 countries (by their definition).

Last year, there was a new Western Canada area coordinator, and he was super friendly in our email correspondences.  He invited me to a chapter meeting being held in Vancouver, and I met some very interesting travelers.  It was fun and educational to meet these travelers to hear about their travel stories from far away places.

I have now reached my goal of 100 TCC countries, and I was happy to have attended my 3rd meeting this past weekend at the River Rock Casino lounge.

Maintaining Healthy Relations with Adult Children

P1000342Another issue to consider during our retirement planning process is method to maintain healthy relationships with our two adult children.  It seems like yesterday that they were dependent on us to feed them, cloth them and to provide an education for them.  But now that they are in their mid- to late-20’s, they are both out of our family household and are beginning to build their own “nests”.  One of them is living in London, England, and the other in a condo in Olympic Village, Vancouver.

We skype with our son about once a month, and this is great for keeping everyone informed with what’s happening at each locale.  He is quite interested in what is keeping us busy away from work, and we talk about our upcoming travels and our short term and long term goals.  His girlfriend just moved across the pond to be with him, so it will be interesting to see how they accommodate each other.

Our daughter comes to visit us about once every 2 weeks.  This summer, she came once a week to get help from me on a special project. She is quite busy herself with her shift work, playing on 2 soccer teams, and now working on this special project that she does not want me to say until it is finished.

This last weekend, we decided to visit her for a change.  We walked to Chinatown together for lunch, then to Broadway and Cambie corridors for some shopping.  It was a nice sunny day, with Christmas shopping almost at full swing.  I think everyone had a great time together.  It is nice to have these healthy relations with our adult children as they continue to grow on their own, and we can provide whatever guidance we may have.

Prepare for Aging Bodies

IMG_1767When we were young, we always thought that we will stay forever young, and we would never imagine ourselves getting aching bodies, losing muscle mass, getting tired after some chores.  But slowly, we are realizing that unless we take good care of our bodies, they will go into decline as we age. We get injuries more frequently now after our badminton games, our muscles get tight, and our backs ache if we don’t get a good night sleep.

One day while we were getting some treatment on a possible pinch nerve in our arms with a physiotherapist, we noticed that we can book a half-hour consultation with a kinesiologist.  In this consultation session, we learned that while getting treatment from massage therapists and physiotherapists are good for tired muscles or injuries, we can prevent these symptons by working with a kinesiologist to strengthen our core.  The kinesiologist explained to us that a strong core is needed to keep us in good shape as we age, minimize injuries to our back, neck and shoulders (which causes pinched nerves), as well as help us improve on our badminton games.  We booked a one-hour session between the two of us, and it was fun and educational, as we learned to exercise our abdominal, lat, back, and the muscles around the pelvis.  Strong core muscles also improve our postures, so that we don’t slough as we age.  We wish that we had started this training earlier.

Financial Independence

Uzbekistani Soms
Uzbekistani Soms

Another issue to consider when contemplating retirement is whether you have enough money to fund the many years of no pay cheque.  We have read many financial articles in the Globe & Mail and financial blogs to understand how to do a rough financial plan.  It really helped though that my wife and I are good savers and investors, and we have made our savings grow over time through investing in real estate and financial assets such as stocks and bonds.  And we are also very fortunate to work in companies that have defined-benefit pension plans.  We have always maximized our RRSP contributions right at the start, so even though we may not have worked 35 years for the same company with the defined-benefit pension plan, our RRSP’s have the equivalent annuity amount to give us a combined 70% of our best 5-years of annual income as our pension income (what most people refer to as maximum pension).   So, when we have achieved this, do we want to keep working any longer?  We have a healthy networth that we think we have enough, but is it really enough?  How much is enough? That is the question that it is difficult to answer.  We hope that over this next 12 months, we can confidently say we have enough, and pull the trigger to submit our retirement notices to our employers.


Find Your Passion

One of the key issues to address when one is approaching retirement is finding a new (or confirming an existing) passion to pass your time.  After all, you will gain at least 50 hours a week not needing to commute and to work for a pay cheque.
For me, mIMG_7385.1y passion may be a split between traveling, hiking, or playing badminton.  I have always like traveling ever since I went to San Francisco with my brother back when I was in junior high school and when my wife and I went on a 5-week backpacking trip around Europe shortly after our university graduation.  And during our weekends when we started working, we developed a liking to anything outdoors, such as hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and the ocassional canoeing or kayaking.  I picked up badminton when my two children started to play competitively when they were around 8.  Five years ago, my wife picked up this sport as well, and now we are playing 3 to 4 times a week and entering various tournaments.  We might be hooked because we did well in our first Provincial and National 55+ Championships.
This weekend, we played in a church team tournament, helping our friends win their 3rd title of their annual tournament of various ministries within the church.  This year, there were 14 teams, and our team came first!

One Year Countdown

Sunset in Fira
Sunset in Fira

Ever since watching the movie the “Bucket List”, I have always wondered what it feels like to countdown your days (or the minutes in the movie) until you leave your office for the last time.

So here I am, roughly one year before I walk out of my office for the last time.  I had calculated to the exact date that I can retire and start to collect my company pension without any penalty and to maximize my vacation payouts.
It is interesting how our perspective change over time though, as many years ago, I thought I would retire as soon as I turn 55 (the first date that I can receive my company pension, albeit with a huge penalty).
Month after month, year after year, we just keep trotting to our daily routine, and really not acting on our big dreams and goals.  We read many other blogs on retirements, lifestyle changes, travels, etc, but it is so easy to just keep doing what we are good at.  Inertia, as we learned in our early Physics class, is not easy to move.
Hopefully, with this blog, we will write down some of our feelings as we journey towards a new chapter in our lives with confidence.