Truly Reveling in Retirement

Retirement isn’t for everyone. As my favorite opinion writer Anna Quindlen has said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Retirement is unemployment preceded by a party.” That’s essentially true, of course, but it’s what you do with that kind of unemployment that matters. I’m not pushing either continuing to work or going into retirement. All I can do is share that I am now three years into this retirement and, so far, I love it!

thumb_img_1115_1024-2It can be a controversial and scary, even traumatic, proposition especially for us in the baby boom generation.  It seems to me that previous generations took leaving their jobs as a rite of passage. At a certain age, they would step aside and leave their work and move on to a different kind of life – whatever that may be. But when it comes to our careers, many of us in the boomer group just don’t want to leave even with the next generation banging on the door: The Gen X-ers want promotions, they have kids heading to college, they have mortgages, they have smarts and ambitions and dreams that we once had for our working futures, and are now screaming, “Hey, when’s it going to be my turn?”

The world is ripe with industries full of experts only too happy to advise us for a fee on the nagging questions, both behavioral and financial, we deal with before the jumping off point. When should I retire? Should I ever retire? What will I do with my time? Will I be bored? Will I miss my friends? How will my identity change? Shall I start another career? What if there’s no “me” there without a job title? And the ever-popular, how will I know I have enough money to retire? Important questions all.

As I’m starting this blog I want you to know that I can’t attempt to answer any of these questions for you. I’ll happily leave that to you, along with your various paid experts and well-meaning friends, to decide. But even with the publicity that Baby Boomers either can’t or won’t leave our jobs, reports are that we now retire at an ever-increasing rate of about 10,000 per day, according to the Census Bureau. So, don’t worry, I can attest, there are a lot of us out here to play with!

For 43 years I worked in various aspects of health care administration. I worked in hospitals and in health insurance companies. I loved working – I was proud to be part of health care in that time from the inception of Medicare to the inception of the Affordable Care Act, and found it very rewarding.

I never really thought much about retirement until it was shown to me by my in-laws during their retirement in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.   They were not wealthy people but they were part of that Greatest Generation who worked hard, saved and invested well and eventually got to a very comfortable financial place in their lives.  I remember one Sunday my father- in-law sitting at my kitchen island looking through the newspaper when he came upon an ad in the Travel section and out of the blue popped off to my mother-in-law, “Hey, Rose, you want to go to Spain next week?” He had found a great deal for those who could drop everything and just take off at a moment’s notice to parts unknown. She, also always eager to wring every morsel of living out of a day, responded, “Why not?” and off they went. Wow! I was in my late forties then and my career was still in its ascendency. I enjoyed working but, I have to tell you, I was so struck by that level of freedom, that I never forgot it. That was it? It was that simple? Just go? Over and over again throughout the following years, they and their friends were my example. “Where are you guys going now?” I’d say to them, with a touch of envy, but I was still not yet ready emotionally or financially to leap out there. And even if they weren’t traveling, the level of freedom in their daily life was striking. They didn’t have to re-schedule meetings, rearrange conferences, manage staff, complete assignments and deadlines before deciding to do something. “It’s later than you think,” they would say to me.

Then our grandkids came along and my time became even more precious. That kind of sealed the deal. It was my time to start thinking about this. I thought about all the things I wanted to do that I had no time for during my working life. I wanted to write, to travel, to be able to spend time with my grandkids unfettered by work obligations.

When my retirement day finally came, a good friend sent me a congratulatory note and, knowing my desire to write, ended her good wishes with, “I think you should write a blog about retirement!” I thought at the time that it was a great idea. A great idea but a bit premature I thought since I had no experience being retired, just an overwhelming, exciting feeling that this was going to be a new adventure and a lot of fun.

So this is intended to be a blog about my life in retirement interspersed with revisiting some of the worries, ruminations, and considerations that peppered my thinking about leaving my career. After my husband and I were able to address them by reviewing our financial position and, then, broadly figuring out how we might spend our days, we decided that the time had arrived to start concentrating on dreams deferred.

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My blog is now imagined as “Retirement meets new lifestyle”: the traveling to the baroque regions of southern Italy, the vineyards of Provence, the beauty of Australia and New Zealand and the vistas of Hawaii, the writing and the yet unfinished novel, the gardening adventures that led to a poor tomato crop showing but the gardening that also finally led to one pink hydrangea blossom after years of trying to coax color into my bushes, the Italian classes, the home decorating and renovations ( there’s always a new project), the cooking hits and misses, the time spent with new friends that I have been fortunate to meet and old friends that continue to enrich my life.

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Retirement and the days and years that follow may be something you’re thinking about, or maybe something that you’re already into. Or something that you want no part of. In any case, I hope you will join me, and find parts of my journey that resonates with you and that you will share your own experiences. I hope we can have some fun together.

Until we meet again…..

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