"THE GREAT RESIGNATION" AND EARLY RETIREMENT

Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.

THE GREAT RESIGNATION

Recently I read an article on how the pandemic has affected the way people perceive their work/life balance and it's instigating fundamental changes. Facing mortality means thinking about your priorities, and for those who are unhappy in their workplace, it's bringing about a change, and that change is resulting in a surge in people quitting their jobs. This new phenomenon is being called "The Great Resignation" - a term that originated with Anthony Klotz, a Texan psychologist. Millions of people around the world are quitting their jobs - or reassessing what they want from their work environment.

All of this is interesting to me because the pandemic played a part in my decision to step away from the paid workforce and into early retirement. Lockdown gave me time to reassess - and like many others, that meant a big change in mindset....

SOUL SEARCHING

The time spent in lockdown, working from home, being out of the "norm", or just having more time to think about life, death, and what this new world was going to look like, rocked our boats and for many of us there was the opportunity to really think about what felt right for us and what we wanted to do when we stepped back out into the world. Did we really want to return to the toxic workplace we'd been in previously (I certainly didn't!) Did we want to make some changes and what would those changes look like?

I know for some it meant going back to study and changing their focus to having a more flexible worklife - one they could do from home and/or with hours that suited them better than their previous 9-5 routine. For others it meant there was time to look into and assess their finances and decide if they really needed to be working so many hours - or returning to work at all. There were "pandemic epiphanies" happening all over the place. I know that's what I had, it was the final push I needed to admit that I really liked being home and didn't want my "new normal" to end.

Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.

CHANGES, CHANGES EVERYWHERE

Over the last couple of years I've been contacted by several women who have been reassessing their worklife and who wanted to make changes. They told me that they'd found my blog and in reading my story of how I ended up leaving work and retiring early, made them feel like it was possible and not as crazy as they'd been led to believe. They had experienced a different type of living in lockdown and they liked it and wondered if they could live like that indefinitely.

Having that time to dig deeper and tune into what their heart (or gut) was telling them was a godsend, and gave them the impetus to quit the job they weren't enjoying and change to something new, or retire completely - perhaps earlier than they'd planned. They were having a "pandemic epiphany" and it was lovely to be part of it and to be able to encourage them to listen to their instincts and do what felt right after so many years of treading the same path.

Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.

THE GREAT REASSESSMENT

We all know that a great work environment makes for good mental health and a desire to turn up every day to pull your weight and be part of a team of people working together. Variety, stimulation, new challenges, good interpersonal relationships, a great boss - all these things are part of what we all want to see in our jobs. We want to feel like we're contributing and that our employer appreciates us and is working with us to make our worklife worthwhile. People who experience that are happy to return to work after a break, but for others it's a different story.

There are those of us who were in boring jobs, or toxic jobs, or working in places where we weren't appreciated, or where our values were being impinged upon.  A horrible boss or co-worker can drag you down when you know that's what you'll be dealing with day after day. Life went on, we sucked it up and kept turning up so we could pay the mortgage.....but one day a pandemic came along and gave us all time to pause and reassess. For some of us it was a turning point and a brought about a life changing decision. For me it was early retirement, the realization that life is good and can be even better without the stress and drama of an unhappy workplace. I've never been happier than I've been since my "great resignation" and  "great reassessment ".

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Did the pandemic bring any changes into your life? Did you give anything up that you haven't returned to? Did you start working from home and decide to continue? Did you change jobs, stop working, or choose a different path altogether? I'd love to know how the last 18 months has affected your choices - tell me about it in the comments if you have a spare moment.

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Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.

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Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.
Having time during lockdown to think about life, death, and the future has brought with it the desire for change - and possibly even retirement.

35 comments

  1. The pandemic didn't really change anything for me - I already worked remotely and spend most of my time in my house as a result of that. It really just meant that others were doing what I'd been doing for years. I am reassessing, but more because it's been a reminder to me that things can change and what you always took for granted mightn't necessarily be there as an opportunity going forward.

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    1. It was the same for my husband Jo - but for me it was the last piece of the retirement puzzle in that it showed me that what I thought looked like a great way to live....WAS a great way to live. I know that lots of people made other changes based on having time to reassess - so it's nice to know that we didn't go through it all for nothing :)

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  2. Hi, Leanne - Once again you pose great questions. I've been retired for over six years now (it still seems strange when I focus on that number). Still, the pandemic did mix things up for me -- especially socially. Before our various lockdowns, I was playing Mahjong 2-3 times each week. Since then, I haven't played once (not even online). This wasn't a deliberate decision, it just kinda happened that way. More significantly, some newer friendships never went further while some other friendships strengthened significantly. I often wonder what would have happened with these friendships without the pandemic. I am incredibly grateful for how things ended up for me. PS- double-triple hooray for your comments being open!!!! PSS - your birthday celebration pics look fantastic! :D :D

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    1. Hi Donna - I've wondered similar things - some of my friends made big changes over the last year, some are angry at travel restrictions while others have bunkered down and don't want to travel at all. Some hated being home, some loved it. I was so grateful that we could afford to wait it all out, that we enjoyed each other's company at home, and that the life we have now is the same or better than before. I certainly sifted out a few things for me too. And thank you for the lovely birthday wishes - and yes, having the comments back has been really nice - mind you, there has been some sifting there too!

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  3. Covid did change things for me. After an enforced 12 months off due to the pandemic, I decided to cut back to working just one day each week. I kept this token day, as I wasn't quite brave enough to pull the pin altogether.I could always change my mind and go back to full time. Even though I'm enjoying being almost retired, I haven't yet become completely comfortable with retirement, but I'm working on it.

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    1. Hi Jennifer - I think one day a week would be very pleasant - lots of time to enjoy leisure activities and still keeping a little income and interest flowing in. I think the pandemic gave a lot of people the opportunity to see what it was like to not be working all the time - and a lot of us found we really liked it!

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  4. Hi Leanne - well I'm not in the workforce anymore so the pandemic hasn't changed that BUT it did lead to me leaving pilates because though they cleaned between classes they didn't clean during classes - i.e. we rotated around equipment and I would've liked to see each of us wipe down equipment before the next person used it and that wasn't happening. The biggest change though would be that I had more time at home and I discovered art and more importantly my artistic abilities! So that's a lovely positive to come out of all of this! As I've said in my post this week - I feel a shift happening - but I'm not sure how much the pandemic has contributed to that. Hope you have a great week!

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    1. Hi Min - I think the pandemic made us look at all the things we take for granted and to reassess them. Did we want to keep working? Did we want to be so busy? How do we occupy ourselves at home? What other skills do we have? etc etc. I think you discovered a lot about yourself during the last 18 months, and I know I found a lot of things that I didn't know were so important - it changed my focus and that's definitely a positive for me. x

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  5. Yes, Leanne. These two years have been not just been about a disease but also a lot about a great social upheaval - wherein people are reassessing what life means to them and what they can do in their lives. I am sure, decades later the current period will be seen as a turning in the march of human civilization.

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    1. I'm thinking the same thing Pradeep - if millions of people all over the world are making significant life changes, then this will definitely have a place in the history of the 21st century. Interesting to be living in these times isn't it?

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  6. Leanne, All the changes I've implemented during the pandemic were actually in place to happen before. The move (we bought the house in 2019) and even my stopping all the aspects of work...I had decided to drop all the consulting work with the move. So I don't feel like I've had any pandemic epiphanies personally. I am super happy, however, to be able to go back to some of the things I loved to do prior to the pandemic - seeing live theater, going out to dinner, attending art shows. For me, it is a return to the the "normal" (pre-pandemic) life I envisioned for my retirement.

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    1. Hi Pat - I think some people were already set with their new lifestyles (like yourself) and maybe the pandemic reinforced those choices. I know it certainly did for me, and it also made a lot of us appreciate what we had pre-pandemic and to be grateful for each little thing we returned to as life settled back down again.

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  7. It's certainly been an interesting time over the past 18 months hasn't it? I'm not surprised about people re-examining their life choices during this time and your insights as to how you've been impacted are very thoughtful and honest. I enjoyed reading your post (as always) and taking a moment to think about how life has changed. My main impact has been the inability to travel spontaneously and so I have missed many events, changes in my grandchildren, I've not been able to travel interstate to see my daughters and my sister has been struggling with many issues. Normally I'd be able to travel to see her and help out but I haven't been able to visit her in these 2 years, which has been hard for us all. Travel to see my daughter and granddaughter in England has been out of reach too, which has made me sad. Technology has been a lifesaver in lots of ways with meetings online with friends, exercise classes online, and regular Facetime chats with family. I've enjoyed my blogging during this time and making connections. I've pinned this post too by the way :)

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    1. Hi Deb - travel has been a big one for so many people - for those missing family and for those who had "trips of a lifetime" booked or being anticipated. I'm sure we'll get travel back eventually, but it doesn't make up for those missing years - especially with grandchildren, but it has certainly made us appreciate family and having access to those we love. I'm beyond grateful that my family is within travel distance (except when they lock us down into zones) because it breaks my heart to see those who are struggling - thank goodness for Facetime etc but nothing beats a hug.

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  8. Really interesting topic and as per usual, you have experience and examples from your life to add weight to the issues. Interestingly, for us, this time round, lockdown felt more like 'our regular retired life' except with annoying long hair...we both hated how hair affected us...lol. The thing I have learned since all of my cancer treatments were over, and family is very busy and independent is that I have the TIME I longed for in my 40 years of employment. B and I enjoy each other's company but we also make time for separate interests and activities. In general, we are doing well...and at almost 72 for me and 73 for him, the pacing and time of this decade is serving us well...we take nothing about our current health status for granted so we enjoy the moments!! It’s always good to see your blog in the link up for Life This Week! Thank you so much for being a part of this community. Next week I am announcing my plans for 2022 on Denyse Whelan Blogs. See you then too, I hope. Denyse.

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    1. Hi Denyse - we've been the same - learning to take things at a slower pace and not fight the things we can't control. We've also found that we enjoy time together and time doing our own thing. I like that we're not too intertwined, but also not too separate. It's nice to have chosen well who I'm spending my life with!

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  9. Leanne,
    another great article!!
    You know that I was in a similar situation and resigning was the best thing I ever did!! Thanks so much for stopping by!!
    Hugs,
    Debbie

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    1. Hi Debbie - it's strange how we feel like it's such a huge leap to leave the workforce, and then we look back and wonder how we ever thought it would be hard. I love my life now and I think the pandemic just reinforced how lovely my way of living is these days.

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  10. A great and thoughtful post, and the title pulled me in. While I am not sure it happened because of the pandemic, after all these months, and last year having to close in-person worship for several months at a time during much of 2019 and then again for about 3 months between December 2020 and February 2021, and the rough personal year with my husband's health issues, I have finally made the decision to retire the end of June and switch from party time pastoral ministry (about 25 hours a week) to filling pulpits only with no administrative or pastoral care. Long term between blogging and connecting with others who are mid-life and like myself beyond midlife, helped me see that I could indeed live a different kind of life. I don't want to be isolated, but I do want to spend time doing things taht are most easily done from home, baking, making bread and writing and more time for those things.

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    1. I think there are a lot of group gatherings that were impacted by lockdown and then we had to rethink why we attended or whether things could be done differently. Our church is currently figuring out how to create services with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people - it's a big dilemma. I'm so glad you're finding your new choices so satisfying. I think we drill down to what's really important to us in Midlife and beyond and start living lives based around those things - it's a very pleasant way to be (and maybe the pandemic gave us all an extra push towards making those choices?)

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  11. Oh you turned your comments back on Leanne, I knew you would relent and come back to having them on. I retired early and actually hated it but I started my blog, a podcast, I studied to become a Group fitness instructor and am about to lodge my last assignment for my Cert IV Fitness to be a Personal Trainer. Life is too short to be stuck somewhere you don't want to be. Enjoy your retirement in what ever way is right for you.

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    1. Hi Sue - I actually thought about you when I wrote this post and how you leapt into study and didn't let the pandemic stop you - in fact it seems to have offered you lots of interesting opportunities with online fitness classes etc. I love that we've all had time to re-evaluate what life is about while we were locked down - and for a lot of us, we realized it was all about family, friendships, and finding a good work/life balance. I think Min's post on re-calibration was a good example of getting the balance right.

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    2. Oh and yes.....I'm feeling more balanced blog-wise again and turned them back on last week for my birthday post. I'll see how I go and might just stop and start depending on how my time management etc is going. It's nice to reconnect with a lot of people again - and it's allowed others to gracefully slip away - and that's okay too.

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  12. Hi Leanne, I'm grateful to have the freedom and flexibility to spend my time my way. The pandemic has changed how I pursue some of my leisure activities (e.g. read e-books as opposed to paper books) However, I've been able to continue my activities. For me, some of the changes are actually better than before the pandemic. Thank you for your contribution to #weekendcoffeeshare.

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    1. Hi Natalie - my Kindle has become my best friend. I rarely read a "real" book these days - it took until lockdown (and no library) to make the change, but now I doubt I'll ever go back to taking books out of the library. I've been grateful for the freedom of being able to adjust to lockdowns and to enjoy being home - it reinforced how much I enjoy being retired these days.

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  13. Congratulations on your retirement. This pandemic has such plum earth shattering impact upon lives

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    1. Thank you for the congratulations (I don't think anyone ever bothered to congratulate me on retiring early before). And yes the pandemic turned a lot of things on their heads, but I've found I quite like a lot of the changes that have come into my life as a result - so it wasn't all bad news for me.

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  14. The biggest change for me was realizing how much I love working from home. It's so much easier, not having to dress for the office, commute, pack a lunch, and drag myself home exhausted at the end of the day. At home I can be more comfortable, fix a healthy lunch, take exercise breaks more easily, and even do laundry or dishes on breaks. So much less stress.

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    1. I think working from home was one of the biggest positive outcomes from the pandemic Janet - for those who could continue it's such a great way to have that elusive work/life balance. Our son now works from home 2 days a week - he loves it and his employers have downsized their office space because so many of their employees are happy working from home and coming in to the actual office for less days. Sounds pretty fantastic to me :)

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  15. For many years my father commuted a total of 90 miles per day, 5 days per week. When the pandemic happened, he started working from home. He hopes he gets to keep this arrangement once things go back to normal. A reasonable compromise is to go into the office once per week. The good that came out of this pandemic was the ability to work from home -- if your job permits it that is.

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    1. Hi Julie - our son got to work from home and really enjoyed not having to travel in peak hour into the city every day. He returned to work but only goes into the office for three days a week now - a good compromise. I hope your dad gets to find a balance too.

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  16. So good Leanne. For our whole family, we were in jobs that continued working outside the home, though my hubby did work from home for a few months. Ultimately I'm a homebody who would love to stay home, BUT because the need to work, I'm thankful that I do love my job. I loved your thoughts and that quote at the beginning

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    1. Hi Kirstin - the key is to love your job - then you don't mind if you work from home or from the office because it's a pleasure to go in. I would have loved to have had that in my last job - it started out so well and deteriorated rapidly unfortunately - and I imagine there were others in a similar boat and the pandemic gave them the final push.

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  17. So glad to be able to leave a comment here.
    Hadn't heard the term The Great Resignation but I know a number of folks who are reassessing and know of even more who have quit their jobs to investigate what comes next. As you know, I loved my job but the combination of needing surgery (and not having enough sick leave to take time off with pay) and a horrible school principal made me retire early. The pandemic has changed the face of education and added to the responsibilities of those working in schools. For the first years of retirement, I longed, ached to be back among children and books. But I think Covid has helped me shut that door once and for all. The added responsibility of washing down all of the books, quarantining them, preparing video lessons, not touching the children - even to give them a quick hug, having to work in a mask all day. All of those requirements have helped me close that chapter of my life.
    My husband had a taste of working from home for the first months of the lockdown and would love to be allowed to do that the rest of his career. Since that is not an option, we are making a payment and a half each month on the remaining balance of our mortgage so we can get this house paid of in the next 18 months or so. And then maybe he can retire early.

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    1. Yes Leslie, I think the pandemic was the final decider for a lot of people as to whether they wanted all the extra hassle that comes with being more "hygienic" in the workplace. I've really come to appreciate being away from sick people and from having to do extra stuff to do the job these days.
      Great idea about doing the extra mortgage payments so your husband can retire - I think he'd love to join you in being free from the workforce and more flexible in how he spends his time. Roll on 18 months!

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