Retiring TO Something(As Well As FROM Something)
This week we begin a discussion of the unique opportunities afforded us as we move from full-time work to whatever follows (full retirement, part-time work, etc.) The retired professional men and women interviewed for our book “Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement” (Upper Room Books, 2010) identified three particularly important areas of opportunity that they had experienced: (1) retiring to as well as from an area of contribution or interest; (2) personal (e.g., intellectual and spiritual) growth; and (3) giving care to a loved one in need. We shall focus on the first of thee this week and then the second and third in the postings of the next two weeks.
The importance of continuing contribution, whether through an extension of one’s career, a new career, or volunteer activities, was evident to some men and women well before they retired, whereas others became aware of this need only after they retired. One man, for example, said, “I knew myself well enough to know that I had to put in place something to retire to.” And one woman who went from a challenging position to full retirement described the early months of retirement as so empty that “I flunked retirement and got a part time position that drew upon my experience, abilities, and interests.” What was evident from virtually everyone’s experience was that the classical view of retirement as a time of endless leisure is inadequate at best.
And the experiences of these individuals highlight as well the potential of retired professionals to make very significant contributions to organizations, individuals, and causes. For example, one retired couple, which had been faculty members at a U.S. university, accepted an invitation from a new university in a Pacific Rim country to start a department in their area of expertise. Another retired couple learned of the need for an orphanage in a remote area and worked with local people to start one, that now serves over 50 children. One woman who has lived for most of her adult life with a form of diabetes now speaks to patient and medical professional groups around the country about the condition and its treatment. The point from these and numerous other examples that could be given is that we have an unparalleled opportunity for contribution in the years after we “retire.”
In this context of retiring to something as well as from something, the following questions may be worth considering.
(1) If already retired, did you have a clear idea of what you were retiring to before the fact, or has the way you invest yourself emerged after retirement? Or if you are not yet retired, do you have something specific in mind that you will retire to, or will you let this develop after you reach retirement?(2) Is there some facet of your professional life that you still find sufficiently engaging that you would like to invest yourself in a related area in retirement, or would you like to move on to something entirely different?(3) If you have no particular interest or passion for your retirement years, but would like to explore a range of possibilities, how might you go about this?
(1) If already retired, did you have a clear idea of what you were retiring to before the fact, or has the way you invest yourself emerged after retirement? Or if you are not yet retired, do you have something specific in mind that you will retire to, or will you let this develop after you reach retirement?
A: I was an early “can’t find a new job and salaries have dropped, so might as well retire” retiree in 2006. DH, who has a DBP with good health benefits, worked 1 yr past the age 55 requirement, then I convinced him to retire for health reasons (he suffered a stroke at age 50).
We wanted to enjoy retirement together while still in reasonably good health and active. DH was a little reluctant at first to give up the idea of working longer to earn a better pension, but now admits it was the right thing to do. We’ve had a great time these first six months!
We’ve always been each other’s best friend and we enjoy spending time together. I’m more social than DH, so am the calendar planner and trip organizer.
We’ve always been open to new experiences. We’ve both been doing yoga for the last couple of years but different systems. DH is taking up hiking in the state parks nearby us. I prefer to walk in the city, plus I can’t yet walk as far as he can! We’ve taken a few Exploritas trips (formerly Elderhostel) and really enjoyed them so far: interesting, intelligent travelers combined with an educational approach to touring.
I truly feel sorry for people who are forced into retirement for any reason, who are not prepared emotionally for what it means to create a new lifestyle. My MIL was looking forward to retirement but then her husband died (DH’s stepfather). Now she’s rudderless, unable/unwilling to connect with new people, no hobbies except watching TV or playing PC mah-jongg.
Her old friends are dying off or moving away, and she’s beginning to suffer from a mild case of dementia although her physical health is excellent. She’s become a stereotypical lonely old widow, financially secure but emotionally helpless. We’ve been unable to get her interested or active in anything new, despite the many senior centers around us.
With her as a negative example, both DH and I have talked about where else we might live as we age further, such as senior living housing where one can meet new people. We love where we live, but in 10 yrs or so it’s going to become too much trouble to maintain, and I’m going to want some place less time-consuming.
(2) Is there some facet of your professional life that you still find sufficiently engaging that you would like to invest yourself in a related area in retirement, or would you like to move on to something entirely different?
A: DH was asked to come back on a special project as a consultant for his old employer. The money’s nice, of course, but even better, it gives him a good emotional transition from being full time (with its frustrations but also its ego-stroking feedback) to part-time, where he can set his own hours and not get involved in office politics.
I enjoyed my field and was very good at it. Met a lot of good people I never would have met otherwise. Losing that aspect is the only thing I regret. In retirement, especially like us where none of our other friends/family are retired yet, it means reaching out to meet new people. There’s plenty of opportunities to do so these days.
(3) If you have no particular interest or passion for your retirement years, but would like to explore a range of possibilities, how might you go about this?
A: We have so many interests it’s more a question of picking what we want to do next! My DH and I are voracious readers; we enjoy being on the computer; he’s a wargamer and I take care of the house and garden; we’re both foodies in the greatest food area in the US (San Francisco Bay Area) so there’s never a lack of places to go or things to see.
I’ve done some volunteer work but as I said elsewhere, really am not interested right now in doing it. But I might pick it up again one of these days. There’s a lot of organizations which are always needing help of some kind. DH is very self-contained and is perfectly happy staying home 24/7; he enjoys social activities but doesn’t crave them.
Working on the PC takes hours, as I’m sure you know! I recently started a food and travel blog, plus I have a garden website that desperately needs updating. I’ve become a passionate advocate of financial education for the young, having made lots of mistakes when we were in our 30’s. I was asked by our Millenial friends to create an informal class to discuss the legal and financial issues that they should be thinking about.
I may do that in the next year, as I have a lot of financial articles on file that could be used for such a discussion. There are so many middle-class people that need help, but can’t afford to pay for it, and don’t even know what kind of questions they should be asking, either of themselves or of an advisor.
It's wonderful that retirement has allowed you to deepen your relationship with your family. I feel sad about some of our friends who haven't planned well, or just suffered plain bad luck, and are forced to move out of the US, away from friends and family, in order to have an affordable retirement.
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