By Raheela Gill Anwar

You know it’s coming down the pike, but the timing hasn’t been right. The truth is, once retirement is on your radar, it’s never too early to start considering your options. You may be surprised to learn that it can take up to three years before retirement is official to evaluate your interests and develop a plan to make full use of your time, talent, and resources in the next phase of your life.

If you intend to dial down your full-time professional engagement, now is the time to:

  • Explore your options for embarking on a different career track or way of working
  • Reflect on promises you made to yourself or dreams you’ve always had
  • Take action to fulfill your promises or dreams for work, family, lifestyle, leisure, service, and learning

Here is a way to get started: TALK, TEST, TRY

TALK:

  • Share your plans with friends and your professional network and ask for input. You might get some uninvited opinions, but you also might hear ideas that spark your interest.
  • Prepare a retirement resume. Many people think having a resume is only for a job search, but it is also a great way to summarize your skills and background and tell your story to individuals who may not know you (and you may get requests for a written summary).
  • Ask for referrals to organizations that may be looking for volunteers, interim or permanent leaders, or board members.

TEST:

  • Explore your current interests by writing out what excites or motivates you; consider taking personality, skills, or competency assessments to help narrow down your interests.
  • Volunteer for an event with an organization that interests you so you can evaluate its culture.
  • Gain a realistic view of time vs. treasure. Non-profits will often expect a monetary or in-kind donation along with a time commitment, or they may seek the same from your network of friends or colleagues. Be specific about what you’re willing to commit.

TRY:

  • Learn as much as possible about the organization before making a commitment to a board seat, for example. Soak up knowledge by meeting with the staff, former and current board members, or even auditors. Research their previous fundraising activities and their reputation in the community.
  • Determine the commitment’s length. Is it a three-year term, and are you expected to find a replacement for your seat when the term is up? What happens if you have to exit early for any reason?
  • Examine how the commitment meshes with your other recreation or non-recreational commitments. If you have commitments that can’t be moved, what is the policy for missing meetings, or is the organization flexible on scheduling?

Whether you decide to continue working, develop a new venture, volunteer, become a board member, pursue a hobby, investigate a new interest, travel, or create a combination of these possibilities, it’s never too early to plan your second act.