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Senior Correspondent

At 57, I’m up against a biological clock.

No, not that one. That particular clock struck twice in the 90s.

This biological clock that ticks a bit louder each year is that, if everything plays out as expected, my husband and I have 20-25 more active years before the midnight hour when we will become incapable of living as independently as we do now. 

Just like so many of our baby boomer cohorts, my husband and I are in the “pre-retirement” stage. And just as we prepared for our two children so many years ago, we are making decisions now that will ensure that when retirement actually occurs, we are ready.

To be clear, I’m already retired. I stopped writing professionally a couple of years ago, and now I write exclusively for my own enjoyment. But my husband, age 63, is fully employed and still driven by his profession as a health care executive. 

However, we are working with a deadline in mind. He knows that he will have to work at slowing down and letting go of work. Anyone who has lived with a Type A, highly-motivated executive knows what we’re up against. These people don’t naturally slow down, take time off or switch gears. And when they do, it can take days for them to relax.

We need to move thoughtfully into our next stage but keep that ticking clock in mind. And we’ve come up with a plan, of sorts, to help us do just that. 

First, we purchased a one-story ranch house in our neighborhood that we currently rent out. We know that in the next two years, we’ll start renovating that home with the goal to downsize and move in the spring of 2020. Many conversations now are about what items will go to the new house, what the kids might want, what we can give away. 

That purchase alone was a great start toward retirement, because it makes the next step a reality. We drive by the house at least once a day, so we can’t tuck that plan away and forget about it. We’re paying maintenance, insurance and taxes, so it remains a very visible goal. 

Just recently, we made another pre-retirement decision: we are purchasing a small condo in Wilmington, N.C. to escape the cold, snowy, windy winters of the Northern Shenandoah Valley. 

We’ve talked about doing this for almost 30 years, but until recently, it has been just talk.

However, the clock is ticking, and we know that if we don’t take action now, we will regret not acting on our dreams. So, another pre-retirement goal is to take long weekends away at the beach, at least once a month, for my husband to “practice” slowing down. 

Of course, we could take trips without purchasing a condo, but we both like the idea of having a place to bring our dogs, share with our friends and extended families, and start meeting a cohort of pre-retirees who are doing the exact same thing. 

That’s the beauty of planning: we know several couples who did this a few years ago, and from them, we are learning what to do and what to avoid as we move into full retirement.

As the biological clock keeps ticking, we need to stay healthy, relish our friends and family, remain involved in a range of activities, and enjoy each pre-retirement day. Because even with planning, none of us knows exactly when the midnight hour will be upon us. 

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