Elizabeth Kwong

Elizabeth Kwong, Ph.D., is president of Kwong Eureka Solutions.

When you want to retire, you say, “Yeaaa… please pick me!” When you’re suddenly eligible to walk away, it’s downright scary. I should know; I recently went through this experience. A retirement package was offered, and I decided to take it rather than be forced out without a package.

I worked with a big pharmaceutical company for the last 23 1/2 years of my career. I had a great job and life was hectic but exciting. There’s really not much time to think about what the future would hold because retirement always sounds great—when it’s far away. Then you retire and oops, what happened?

The first few weeks after I retired, I worried about every penny I spent and kept my thermostat at 18 degrees Celsius to avoid a ridiculous heating bill. In short, I worried about everything and at times felt that life was not fun anymore. My sense of humor was gone, and I was thinking of millions of ideas to help generate revenues. But then I started to take inventory of what I had and what I spent, and I met with my financial advisor who ensured that I would be okay.

After going through these few months with such rough periods, I took the time to compile this list of primers to provide you with a softer landing than I had.

  1. Find the road to happiness—before you jump and not after. Think about all the things you told yourself that you would do when you retire. A friend of mine made an ambitious bucket list containing about 100 things she wanted to do when she retired. So far she is at #20 and enjoying every step of the way. One of the feats was to ride her horse in a competition. She won! Her goals kept her on the road to happiness, and she came out a winner.

    The road to happiness will usually involve friends. As you get close to retiring, it is very important to keep your friends even closer than your enemies. You will need them for your mental health and support for the rest of your retired life. Before I retired, I knew that my roadmap would always involve science, which is what makes me jump out of bed every morning. So after I left my office, I started my own consulting company and began to connect with my old friends and colleagues who had been in this business for a while. They all helped me tremendously so that I would not suffer through their tumultuous journeys toward success. What I found out was that there are great research projects out there that needed my areas of expertise to help them achieve the next stage of their work. Ultimately, my road to happiness was paved by networking, and it is now paying off.

Learn more about Elizabeth’s pre-retirement tips in her next blog post on Wednesday, September 5, 2012…