Hanging It Up: How to Tell if You're Ready to Retire

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Over the course of our lives we experience a handful of milestones. Some are sweet and unexpected — like a new baby or a job that moves you to a new and exciting place. Other moments in our lives, we see coming and in some cases, have even planned for our entire adult lives — like retirement. But how do you know when is the right time to retire? This question is tricky, and you’re the only one who can answer it.

To many people, retirement feels like the end of something, but it’s important to remember for something wonderful to begin, often something else must end. Try to keep this perspective of adventure and opportunity in mind when you’re looking to retire from or sell your quick lube. If you carefully plan and consider all the financial and emotional implications of your retirement and approach the situation realistically, retirement can be the onset of a new and exciting chapter in life.

National Oil & Lube News knows retirement can be a difficult transition, so we reached out to former operators and a current industry operator whom we knew would have sound advice. We asked them what things should you consider before passing the baton and what you can do to ease the transition? If you are starting to think about retirement, this article is for you.

Before coming out of retirement to open his Castrol Premium Lube Express with his wife Jean in Millsboro, Delaware, Gary Marsiglia had gone through the process of selling a company he had built and grown. At 46 years old, Marsiglia thought he was ready to live the “good life” but soon the reality of retired life hit him. That’s why he said — among other factors — age of the person retiring plays an important part.

“A lot of people think, ‘this is great I’m going to retire, play golf, go fishing and hang out with my friends.’ But I can tell you first hand, that wasn’t the case for me,” Marsiglia said. “I’ve retired once already in my life. I did it around the age of 46. I was running a family business of about 33 employees when a friend of mine who also had a family business he’d taken over, decided to sell, retire and live the good life as they say. I quickly got bored. I didn’t think about what I was going to incur as far as expenses either. There’s a lot of income lost when you do decide to hang up your boots.”

 First and foremost, if you are thinking about trading your quick lube pit for an RV and a pit stop along Route 66 the most important question to ask yourself is, “can I afford it?” Create a game plan for your retirement; what kind of income does your lifestyle require to maintain it? What are you willing to give up? What new expenses will you incur? Remember, often for shop owners, some of their expenses like cell phones, vehicles and health insurance, among other things, are tied to their companies.

“Sit down with your accountant and review your lifestyle with them. Make sure they look at the things you’re expensing through the company. Keep in mind how the loss of a direct income will affect you. If you have an accountant and you’ve had a long-term relationship with that person, then they’re going to know you financially and be able to advise you whether you can retire and whether the income — all or some of it — is going to be taxable,” Marsiglia advised. “Consider what you’re going to do with the money initially. If you get a lump sum are you going to take it and pay it out over a period of time? Is there going to be interest attached to that money? You simply cannot afford to retire without considering these things.”

Joe Haggard, a former NOLN contributor and fast lube owner, said the worst time to retire is when you’re in what Haggard calls, the burned-out-and-fed-up mode.

“We’ve all had those days,” Haggard said. “The OSHA guy came by, Leroy quit, the air compressor broke and you just say, ‘Martha, let’s sell the damn thing.’ The best time to retire is when you can afford it, when there’s something else you’d rather do than run a fast lube and if you’ve spent an adequate amount of time planning for it.”

If you can check those three boxes, go ahead and consider retiring. In your time planning ahead, you should prepare to sell your business for the best possible price, among other things like preparing your friends and family and getting your post-retirement financial plan in order.

“Rejuvenate your thinking,” Haggard suggested. “Repaint the place, spiffy up the restrooms, make sure the landscaping is neat and pretend you just opened the business. You want to show the highest possible profit before you sell.”

Next comes the final and equally as important part, preparing yourself mentally for the sudden change in your daily routine. Personal preparation is equally as important as financial preparation. As Haggard put it, on Friday, you’re the CEO of a business, you have employees, bureaucrats and maybe even a banker or two at your beckon call. By Monday, you have a fat check in the bank, but nobody is calling to see what they should do about a situation at the shop; no one is trying to loan you money. If you’re not prepared for that reality, it can be a harsh and hard change.

“It’s not just about selling your business and getting the money; it’s about getting your brain and mind set up so you have something to keep you going,” Haggard said.

For Scotti Lee, another long time industry consultant of NOLN and former lube shop owner, retirement was a family decision.

“My family and I started talking about my retirement together. My wife had retired a few years prior, so it was just a natural transition for me to do so, too,” Lee said. “My advice would be to stay busy. If you don’t stay busy, you’ll go crazy. You’ve been busy running your business and going here and there, and the day you retire you no longer have to be at those places.”

Lee suggested when your last day comes and you sign the paper work, hand over the keys, say hello to your newfound freedom take a week or two-week vacation.

“It will help you remove yourself from the scene. While you’re on the trip consider what your days will look like when you get back. Do you have a hobby like hunting or fishing? There are lots of places that need volunteers and could utilize your skills and talents; consider how you can get involved and help out in the community,” Lee said.

Sure, retirement is the closing of one chapter, but even more so, it’s the beginning of a whole new book. Adventure awaits, and if you prepare right, the possibilities are endless.

“I have a very good friend who when he retired, bought an RV, sold his beautiful home in Dallas, Texas, and has been traveling with his wife in their motorhome ever since,” Marsiglia said.

Retirement means you can say bye to your alarm clock if you want.

“The good part of retirement is the freedom. If you want to buy a boat and sail around the world or climb Mount Everest, you can pursue that,” Haggard said.

Also, keep in mind retiring doesn’t mean saying goodbye to the industry you love and have invested so much time in, forever. There are still ways you can keep in touch with industry news and trends.

“In the early stages, the fast lube industry was always like a big family. We’d go to our conventions and meet and greet everybody. We’d talk about what to do and what not to do. That sort of thing is still open to you after you retire. You don’t have to disassociate yourself just because you don’t own a fast lube anymore,” Lee said.

Change is scary, but from change also comes some of life’s best and most memorable moments. Right now, you can probably think of times when your life dramatically changed and yet, looking back, you wouldn’t change a thing. If you prepare correctly and the timing is right, years from now you’ll look back and retirement will be one of those things.  

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