Man, wouldn't it be great to hang up your cleats like Tiki Barber? The New York Giants running back announced his retirement during the 2006 NFL season and has lived up to that promise.
He went out in a blaze of glory, racking up 234 yards and three scores in his final regular-season game. His New York Giants then went on to bow out of the playoffs over the following weekend, but it wasn't Tiki's fault. The running back amassed 137 rushing yards during that game.
Few gridiron greats retire on their own terms. Most stick around way too long until nagging injuries and depth-chart moves leave them calling it quits in forgettable fashion.
Not Tiki. He's going out at the top of his game -- something most of us toiling away in the non-NFL world can appreciate.
Game-plan a better retirement
I've been a Miami Dolphins season-ticket holder for 20 years. One of my greatest joys was watching arguably the game's greatest passer every week -- but the last years of Dan Marino's career were just painful to watch.
While he still had the fire in his eyes, his skills had deteriorated. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, clocked in with a pitiful 67.4 quarterback rating, and hobbled from the game with unfinished dreams.
History will be kind to Marino. He's a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame and is a likeable celebrity sportscaster. However, deep down inside, he'd probably prefer to have gone out like John Elway -- with a pair of Super Bowl rings.
Tiki didn't get the ring, but he's also not going to kill his body and his lifetime stats in pursuit of one, either. That's rare in a league that often finds athletes willing to do more for a ring than Frodo Baggins.
What makes Tiki so special is that he's been planning for his retirement from pro football for years.
His New York Giants salary will dry up, but even before he suited up for his final game he had already inked a four-year, $10 million deal with Disney
Despite the gridiron riches, Tiki cultivated himself as a marketable celebrity. There was his McDonald's commercial with Curtis Martin (another running back who, sadly, ignored his shot to leave the game at his peak), as well as the EchoStar DISH Network spots over the past year and the clever Visa Check Card ads he did with his twin brother, Ronde.
Like the game of football itself, Tiki had a game plan for this career and stuck to it. Will you be so lucky? When the time comes, will it be first and goal for you or fourth and long?
Tiki: more than an immunity idol
You're probably like me. You could never make a living on the playing field. That's OK. Maybe you love your job, like I do. Maybe you hate your job, like so many people I know. Either way, have you armed yourself with the preparatory know-how to walk away while you still have time left to enjoy your retirement?
Is your portfolio Tiki-worthy, or is it just limping around as a bench warmer trying to get by with a pair of bad knees?
I'm a growth stock investor, yet even my holdings include a few conservative rainy-day plays, like the comfort-food cooking oasis of Cracker Barrel parent CBRL Group
Time for a checkup?
By the way, how are those knees holding up, my friend? Don't tell me you don't know. You should know exactly where you stand, especially since you go for a financial checkup every single year. What's that? You don't recall doing that? Well, as you prepare your annual tax return, you're taking inventory of your personal finances. Take a closer look at those returns, augment them with other year-end financial updates that you will be getting, and begin to understand how close you are to a sustainable retirement.
Will you have enough of a nest egg for the standard 4% withdrawal rate that my colleague Robert Brokamp recommends to his Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement subscribers?
Don't reflect back on some failed budget plan you abandoned ages ago as an excuse to just "wing it" as the days tack on, your body denying you the vigorous steps of your youth as a grim reminder of your mortality.
This isn't you. This isn't the way you thought it would be. Thankfully, there is still time to be more like Tiki. If you've never kicked the tires of Robert Brokamp's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service, now is the time to take your personal training seriously. Time is ticking, especially when a 30-day trial is waiting for you to set your backfield in motion.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that his hometown Dolphins failed to live up to lofty expectations this season, but he will still cheer them on next season. He owns shares in Disney, CBRL Group, and Cedar Fair. Disney is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Cedar Fair is an Income Investor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.