Naked Retirement Part II: Practice Does Make Perfect

With apologies to Cubs fans, did you see the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman hit that 413 foot homerun to lead the Nationals to a World Series game one victory? It clearly wasn’t his first big league at bat. In fact, he was the Nationals first draft pick when the franchise began building a roster in 2005. And, he is the only “original” National still on the roster, 14 seasons, 6399 at bats and 270 home runs, later. In other words, he practiced for his important moment.  While the average major league career lasts less than 6 years, a typical retirement lasts more than 20 years, and by comparison, less than 1% of big leaguers have 20 year careers.                    

For many years now, I have suggested that couples practice being retired before they say a final good-bye to their co-workers.  I recommend two levels of practice (think of it as the equivalent of hitting and fielding). Begin by ignoring your paycheck as a means to pay the bills, and instead create a spending plan based on your anticipated pension, social security, and retirement account withdrawals. Establish a separate checkbook register to visualize how the numbers flow and feel. Don’t become an overnight miser, unless that’s how you need to live in retirement. Instead, spend the way you’d really spend. Try this for at least six consecutive months, starting one full year before leaving your paycheck behind. The other part of retirement practice is the physical and emotional. Though you may still be tied to a 9 to 5 workday, spend your evenings, weekends and vacations, during this six-month  retirement “Spring Training”, doing what you might be doing in retirement; day-trips, household projects, a new hobby, investing time in friendships new and old, a special date night with your spouse, or just sharing time together reading books.    Practicing retirement doesn’t guarantee the equivalent of a World Series home run, but it will help you get ready for whatever is thrown your way. You might like to know that Ryan’s potential Hall of Fame career was derailed by injury, making practice even more key to success.


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