Preparing to Retire? Consider These Four Questions

By John Crawford

As the 76 million members of the baby boom generation make their way toward retirement, Babson Magazine asked members of the College community for their advice on retirement planning. This is what they had to say.

Are books and seminars on retirement helpful?

“A little preparation is good,” says David Escher ’72. But no book or seminar can prepare someone fully for the drastic life change that is retirement. It’s like learning how to cook, fish, or hit a baseball, says the 64-year-old Southampton, Mass., resident. Instruction is helpful, but to truly learn, you must step in the batter’s box and take a few swings. “You have to do it yourself,” says Escher, who retired about three years ago from a career services agency.

Should I listen to my gut or my wallet?

Figuring out when to retire can be a hard decision. Trust your instincts to tell you when the time is right. “You have to listen to your gut,” Escher says. “That’s a healthy way to live.”

But don’t forget to listen to your wallet, too. Chances are that, once retired, seniors will have to support themselves for at least another 20 years. “Do the math,” says David DeLong, who has taught management classes at Babson and is the author of the book Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce. “Get a clear idea of what your fiscal needs will be in retirement. People retire, and they underestimate the true costs of retirement.”

Move to Florida?

Many people think of moving south when they retire. Daniel Harris ’64 saw the price of real estate, and he thought about heading there, too. “It was tempting,” says the Hampton Bays, N.Y., resident.

But Harris, 68, an Episcopal priest who works as an interim church pastor, advises retirees to be cautious. Moving is a big step. Think it through. Yes, warm weather can be a wonderful thing, but Harris knows people who moved and didn’t like it. They missed their old hometowns and struggled to sell their new places in order to come back. “It gets to be an expensive and tough process,” he says.

What should I do with my new free time?

This is the all-important question. Figure it out before you walk out the door of your job. “Find something that makes you happy,” says Joel T. Lazarus ’64, P ’94. A 67-year-old judge from Davie, Fla., he plans to step down from the bench and find employment in education. “Don’t get stagnant,” Lazarus says. “Don’t sit around all day watching TV.”

Try something new, Escher says. That’s not something you can do when you’re younger and facing such responsibilities as a mortgage, job, and children. Retirement offers the freedom to be adventurous, he says.