Early retirement has become a hot topic for a lot of workers. Some look at the high balances in their retirement accounts and think, “Maybe I have enough money to retire now.” Others plan to join the FIRE movement (short for “financial independence, retire early”) by leaving their industry before age 50. And yet others are being swept up by the COVID-caused Great Resignation and think it’s time to call it quits.
However, as you’re waltzing out the door of your workplace for the last time, take care not to slam it. Things change, and maybe one day you’ll want to return to the workforce. Maybe you’ll need to return to the workforce. Either way, before retiring it makes sense to take steps to protect your most important, and sometimes hidden, asset: your human capital.
The ability to generate wealth through employment is our human capital. If you are retiring early, you may have significant human capital left; you just have to decide whether you choose to deploy it by going back to work, redirect it by using it for volunteer work, or let it fade away.
There are a number of ways to protect your future income-earning ability without having to actually return to work. Here are some key strategies:
Make an Effort to Stay Current
If you enjoyed the field you worked in, you’ll benefit by keeping up to date even after you leave.
- Stay current on the issues in your field. Keep your contacts, and don’t let those subscriptions to trade magazines expire just yet.
- Maintain your centers of influence network. Don’t ignore your LinkedIn account, and be sure to continue attending association functions.
- Avoid fading into obscurity. Retirement shouldn’t go from “Who’s Who” to “Who’s He?” Keep your name out there.
If you have simply burned out and can afford to retire, fine. But sometime in the future your batteries may recharge, and your retirement might turn out to be more of a sabbatical than a permanent exit. Hedge your bets by staying up to date.
Maintain Your Licenses
After a time away from your career you may realize you like to work. Don’t let a piece of paper keep you from getting back in the game. There may be expense in maintaining a license, and continuing education requirements can be a nuisance, but keeping your licensing current — at least for a while — is good insurance.
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