How do you plan for a life after working if you have no idea how long you’ll live? Will it be 10 years? 20? More? Teresa Boardman talks through retirement.

Teresa Boardman is a long-time columnist with 400-plus Inman columns under her belt. She writes about her real estate observations and experiences as an officeless indie broker in Minnesota.

When is a good time to retire? I’m asking for a friend, of course. My maternal grandfather retired when he was just 65, but he died a couple of days later.

My parents will be celebrating 28 years of retirement. Both retired before the age of 65, and neither went voluntarily. Both are in their 90s and have been retired for more than a quarter of a century.

Next month I’ll be entering a new decade in my life. I feel as though I will be crossing the line from kind of old to old. I am trying to embrace it and make the most of it. It took decades to get this old. I want to own it and use it — and I like to flaunt it.

Apparently, I look old too because I am being asked if I am old enough to qualify for discounts for people 65 or older. I have to say no, but I think I could pass for 65 if I needed to.

The advantages of aging

There are some advantages to being older and some disadvantages too. On the one hand, my clients do benefit from my experience and wisdom. Experience is a wonderful teacher.

I feel like I have entered those few years where age gives us the credibility that seems to come for a short time before decrepitude.

Those skills we call “soft skills” seem to improve with age and practice. Communication and presentation skills improve. I could not have written this column when I was in my 30s. It would have been so far beyond me, I probably wouldn’t have tried.

On the other hand, there are stereotypes about little old ladies that can make life challenging. Being self-employed makes it easier. I don’t have to worry about someone deciding what I can or cannot do based on my age.

Some of my friends are retired. After the Great Recession and the collapse of the housing market, I thought I would have to work until I was 112. Now I am backing off on that, but I don’t know when I’ll retire.

Planning for what exactly?

We are supposed to plan ahead for retirement, and I did, but I forgot to plan for a few of the things that have happened in the past decade. Plans that were made long ago have been changed by unforeseen events.

It’s hard to plan when I don’t know how long I will live or what I will die of. It would be a shame to save up for a long retirement and then die early. It gets even more complicated when considering the needs of a spouse and other family members.

My job isn’t like my grandfather’s job. It isn’t physically or mentally demanding. I can see why my friends who worked in occupations that are physically demanding retired as soon as they could.

I started my career in a government job. Many of the people I worked with back then have retired or will retire soon. They have wonderful benefits and pensions that will make it possible for them to live quite well during retirement.

They also made sacrifices that I wasn’t willing to make. I cannot imagine spending decades with the same employer and in a government job. The glass ceiling was very low. I remember how my peers talked about retirement and the things they would do. It seemed as though they were wishing their lives away.

There are people who use age as an excuse. They refuse to learn new things or to try something different. They get by with doing a crummy job, allowances are made for them, and they help keep stereotypes about older workers alive.

The inability to change and grow is a kind of death. The inability to learn isn’t a natural part of aging. It is an attitude some older people have that is kept alive by stereotypes.

When will I retire?

There are really only two reasons I can think of for retiring. One reason would be to help with grandchildren, and the other would be if some kind of physical or mental impairment made working too difficult or impossible.

In my case, the mental impairment might be a total loss of filters. As I age my filters are getting weaker. They were not that strong to begin with. Eventually, the lack of filters will make it so hard to work with real estate clients and agents that I will have to quit.

Selling real estate and running a real estate company seems like one of the best careers an older person can have. With some planning, it’s fairly easy to take time off, and we do set our own hours.

My plan it to go into a new decade of my life with a strong desire to learn new things, some half-baked business ideas and a few personal and business goals.

If you are over 55 and do not have retirement plans or even a business succession plan, you are not alone. If you did not plan your whole life around the goal of retiring, you are not alone. If you don’t think you are ever going to retire, you are in good company.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

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