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The Canadian workplace recently has been hit with a wave of retirements so massive that some have tagged it "the Gray Tsunami". So how do we know when to stop working?

With the end of compulsory retirement in Canada, the decision went from a fixed date, 65, to a major life style choice.

The ideal time to retire is when the unfinished business in your life begins to feel more important than the work that you are doing.

I have to admit that I failed retirement after being employed by the Thames Valley Board of Education for 30 years. Retirement lasted one very long boring week. The first thing I did was to try and organize my wifeís kitchen pantry. Ella came home from shopping and told me to get the hell out of her kitchen and find something else to do. Many years later I am still enjoying my education/career program and writing a column each week.

Iíve learned some lessons about what not to do. But more important I figured out what to do. Life has three stages. The first is learning. The second is earning a living. The third is returning. But if you focus on retirement as a time of returning and giving something back to society it can transform your life.

Retirement isnít the end. It can be a beginning. For the past twenty years I have had the opportunity to counsel some very nice people age 16-66. If you want to be happy interact with people who can make you laugh and be involved. Your gray hair/experience is an affirmation that your advice can be of help.

For those of you that yearn for the freedom fifty- five there are the good and bad aspects of retiring. If you are a Canadian male you will probably live on average until age eighty compared to the females who pass away at age eighty-five.

Many men find themselves bored, vulnerable and depressed in their retirement years. After six months they are still asking themselves: "What am I going to do to-morrow"? They may feel a sense of loss because their life has been so closely tied to their careers. Many have lost their sense of le raison díetre, a reason to be,

My daughter, Sarah, encouraged me to sell the farm in Dorchester, retire, close the practice and move to Toronto or Collingwood. After due deliberation I decided not to move; I did not want to lose myself.

A lot of people think that they shouldnít have any stress .There is a word for a stress-free state of mind and it is not retirement; Itís death. Studies have shown that complete retirement may mean an early trip to the grave. Many male executives who simply go off into the setting sun may be dead before their due time.

Lately, some of the teachers, I worked with who were in their early 70's who took early retirement and then sold their homes have had their obituaries/funerals featured in the news papers.

The Institute of Economic Affairs stats shows that: "retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by forty percent."

Do the math and plan your retirement wisely for the next twenty-five to thirty years. Tick tock goes the clock. Compare the new life of leisure to your previous days of working eight hours; sleeping eight hours leaving eight hours for fun.

It used to be fifteen minutes for a coffee break and now the whole damn dull day can be a visit to Tim Hortonís in Dorchester.

George Eastman founder and C. E. O. of Eastman Kodak left a suicide note the day he retired:" My work is done. Why wait?"

Statistics from the U. S- based Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the highest increase in suicide are men age fifty-five .While retirement isnít always the trigger, experts predict the change in life style can be a cause for depression.

There is life/ happiness after your previous career if one does some planning by balancing leisure, learning, volunteering or a change of careers. It is possible to mix and match to risk new horizons.

Itís best to ease out of the work force and take the time to explore your future options rather then retire "cold turkey." Take the time to discover; Where you have been? Where you are? Where you want to be in 5-10 years?

Please take the time to view You Tube, "About Schmidt," with Jack Nicholson to see the harsh realities of early retirement. Please drop me an e mail; I may be able to help

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com