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“When to Retire? Now or Never” by Patricia Cavanaugh


I went to France to visit family during the month of August.  It was a wonderful time full of adventures with my granddaughters, late night chats with my daughter and fun household projects.  I feel very at home in France.  I speak a little French, which helps me feel a part of the little village where my daughter and her family live.  But these trips always bring up the dilemma of my next household move and the question ‘when to retire?’

Presently I live in the beautiful Oakland Hills, singly.  I have good work and many friends close by.  But I know as I age I will feel more comfortable if I live close to family.  I like to do my next stage of retirement planning about 5 years ahead, then be open to what life presents and adjust my life design accordingly.

My plan at this time is to live for part of the year in France and the rest of the year near my children in southern California in a retirement community.    But how will I know when it is time to make the move?  One way is to use a financial calculator to find when it makes financial sense to make a change.   But I am speaking here of the kind of internal knowing beyond the financial indicators.  This knowing comes from a conscious sorting through of emotional and physical indicators.

Presently I have some professional goals that I want to meet before winding down that part of my life. I have used the strategy of being at the end of my life and looking back to see if I have experienced and accomplished all I wanted.  When I do that, I find a longing for more opportunity to work with people going through life transitions.

I also want to begin to develop friendships, a sense of community and a professional network in the places I plan to spend my life when I move into my 70’s.   This feels like more of a challenge for me…to pull up stakes and move after 25 years of being in one place.  Perhaps I can begin to combine the two desires of being closer to family and the upcoming generation and continuing with my professional commitment.  Taking one small step at a time, paying attention to the internal nods and nudges, the signals that have helped me stay on my life path in the past will help me step forward now as I move towards the middle scene of my 3rd act.

This last trip to France has stimulated thoughts that the pull of family and grandchildren is a deep genetic one.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky elders who are part of a new biological trend with fourth and fifth generations of a family living on the planet at the same time. At a 2010 talk at Stanford, Dr Robert Sapolsky reported on studies demonstrating that animal species, which include elders, tend to have more sustainable lives.  Nature maybe encouraging the length of human life in never before seen numbers as a way of stewarding the human race through a challenging transition.  Perhaps this tug to be closer to family is not only for my own individual needs as I age but also for my children and grandchildren as they grow, develop and mature.

I would be grateful for your thoughts.

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3 comments to “When to Retire? Now or Never” by Patricia Cavanaugh

  • I think moving closer to your family at this point, or some time in the near future, is a wise move. They will want to take advantage of you both as a parent and grandparent but also as someone who can help guide them through major moment in their life and learn for your experience.

  • I understand your feelings on not wanting to leave a place that you have lived for 25 years. I made a big move a few years ago and it was a very difficult thing to do. One of the biggest things that helped to ease me through that transition was that I moved closer to family, some of whom I had not been able to spend much time with. Creating deeper connections with them and having their support through during that time was invaluable. I am sure you will find it the same when you move :)

  • Patricia Cavanaugh

    Thank you Jessica for your thoughtful comments. I think that we can offer life experience and wisdom to the next generations.

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