Kennedy: Boomers' guide to retirement

The book, "The Retirement Boom," is seen in this photo.

Imagine it's the first day of your retirement.

You roll out of bed, pick up your iPhone and instinctively tap the email icon. Before your overnight emails can fully load, you have a thought: "I don't have to do this anymore."

At first you feel a rush of pleasure, but that impulse quickly fades, replaced by something closer to deflation.

photo Mark Kennedy

Later in the day, a checkout clerk at the supermarket tries to make small talk.

"So, what do you do for a living?" she asks.

Before you recite your job title, you stop yourself.

"I'm retired," you say, suddenly feeling a bit hollow.

Rita Foley, former president of a $1 billion-a-year packaging company, knows the disorienting feeling that comes with unplugging from the corporate world. She "retired" from her Fortune 500 company about eight years ago, as part of the leading edge of the 76 million-strong baby boom generation.

Now, Foley, along with three other business consultants, has co-authored a book, "The Retirement Boom: An All-inclusive Guide to Money, Life and Health in Your Next Chapter." The book is clearly targeted at boomers, including those who already have retired and millions more who are on the glide-path to leaving full-time work.

Foley says that for workaholic baby boomers, retirement (or even semi-retirement) can be such a jolt to the system that it leaves them physically ill. Leaving the rat race can actually blunt their immune system and make them feel weak. Luckily, the retirement flu doesn't tend to last long, she says, but it's part of the adjustment process outlined in "The Retirement Boom" (Career Press, $17), which includes terse chapters with lots of PowerPoint-like bullet points.

"In 'The Retirement Boom,' we talk about the first 30 days as a decompression period," Foley says. "We warn people to not be upset if they feel out of sorts. Some people want to stay in bed and sleep."

In an interview earlier this week, Foley said "The Retirement Boom" authors suggest that newly minted retirees take a chunk of time to focus on themselves before they refill their plates with new time commitments. If new retirees aren't deliberate about creating this transitional time, she says, they risk falling into a trap - taking on new responsibilities such as part-time job offers or child-care requests before they get a chance to recharge.

"We are retiring for a deliberate reason," Foley says. "We are retiring to recalibrate our lives. We want to do what we want when we want."

Here are more nuggets of advice from "The Retirement Boom":

* About two-thirds of workers feel like they are behind in retirement savings, while 56 percent don't know how much they'll need for their post-work years.

This suggests that in the future, boomers are likely to ease into semi-retirement while holding down part-time jobs - which will be abundant because of the labor drain caused by a mass exodus from the full-time work force, the authors say.

* Today's seniors are also likely to be squeezed by multigenerational responsibilities. The book says that 70 percent of AARP members, for example, are still financially supporting their children and grandchildren.

* If you don't know the amount of savings you need to retire, "The Retirement Boom" quotes a rule of thumb: You'll need about eight to 12 times your current household income.

That means if your household income is $100,000 today, you'll need from $800,000 to $1.2 million in invested assets.

* Journaling, meditation and exercise are three pillars of a successful retirement, Foley says.

For more information on retirement and "The Retirement Boom" book, visit www.rebootbreak.com.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.