First things first: do you even want to retire? Just because normal retirement age is coming up may not mean you absolutely have to clock out for the last time. There are other options.

Retired, not tired

I know a number of people (all of them women, incidentally) who have officially retired but continue to work in the same place on different terms. This is a common scenario where an owner-manager is winding down, preparing to step away completely.

This can be a win-win outcome; the ‘retirees’ continue to do something fulfilling, but with less pressure and responsibility, and the business gets the benefit of their knowledge and experience for that bit longer.

Of course you don’t have to keep working for the same crowd. Standard Life’s ‘My second life’ ad campaign from last year, with the slogan “I’m retired, not tired”, focused on people who ended up doing something different in retirement. Remember Gráinne the tour guide or William the micro-brewer?

Counting the days

If, on the other hand, the daily grind of the ridiculous commute and ever-mounting pressure has eroded your appetite for work of any kind, you could be counting the days.

If this is you, the next question is: can you afford to retire? Are you mortgage free? Are your kids more or less independent? Is your pension pot realistically going to see you comfortably through the next phase of life? If the answer is yes to all of the above, congratulations! Start planning your retirement party.

But here’s another question: what are you going to do with yourself when you’ve retired?

Do you want to write a novel? Take up landscape painting? Go (back) to college? If you have a hobby, a cause to get behind or a squad of grandchildren, then you’ll have something to fill your time, not to mention a sense of purpose when you don’t need to go to work every day. It’s when there is no hobby or dream to get behind that you need to think harder about whether or not you’re ready.

It’s not all about you

For those of you married or in a relationship, the most important question of all is ‘What does your spouse think?’ If he or she has already retired, your plans to keep working may not go down too well. On the contrary, if your spouse is used to you being out of the house all day, every day, it will be quite an adjustment to have you around. You yourself may feel you’ve lost your identity to some extent and have to reinvent yourself. A supportive partner can help you get through that phase. The main thing is that both of you outline your expectations.

You have twenty or thirty years of life to live post retirement. Retirement gives you an almost unique opportunity to change direction. I’m asking you to put some thought into where you want to go so you don’t squander the opportunity.

As Gráinne, the woman from the Standard Life video says, “Within us all is the power to make a change in our lives.”