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Posts Tagged ‘Retirement changes’

I Miss My Stairs

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

You can become a blimp by accident. A recent move of mine confirms this.  The house I owned for the last eight years was two-stories and on a quarter acre.  Where I live now is single-story with very little yard. And lawn service for that!  If I don’t turn this around soon, I will be shopping for clothes at the tent store.

It was the right decision, and it’s a nice place.  But I miss my stairs.  My workroom was up, my kitchen down.  Bedroom up, TV and entertaining spaces down.  All day every day for 16 hours or more, those stairs were part of my life.  Between that and yard work (or on rare occasion shoveling the driveway), I got a good workout without ever needing to call it “exercise.” Now?  The most exercise I get without naming it as such is watering the potted plants on the front porch every other day.

Usually, I’m pretty good at anticipating things that are going to be difficult when I make a change.  I totally missed this one.  I’m accustomed to having my exercise hidden in my lifestyle.  Sure I can go to the gym and get on a stair-stepper, but that’s not who I am.  I’d much rather run up to check my calendar or down to take meat out of the freezer for dinner.  I’d rather lift bags of steer manure in the garden than free weights at some workout place.

Much as the move is right as part of a long term strategy, I’m not relishing the need to consciously create “exercise” for myself every day.  Now that I’m really looking at the situation though, I can see there’s more to this than “oh poor me.”

We’ve seen stories about older people who died after they were placed in senior housing after living in more physically demanding homes their whole lives.  Most of the stories I’ve heard assumed they died of homesickness.  Perhaps there’s more to it than that.

My new place was built as part of a 55+ community.  (Go ahead.  Point your fingers and laugh.  I said I would never do this.)  Everything is on one floor and “easily accessible.”  Outside of some extra shelving we added that I need to use a step ladder to access, I don’t even have to bend or reach very much.  That’s all by design—the perfect home for an “aging boomer.”

Are we right in assuming that as we age we should plan to do less physically?  Are we really doing ourselves the favor that builders and real estate agents claim we are with the “all on one floor” concept?  Is lawn service really a plus when we have the time and could still be doing that physical activity ourselves? Does it make any sense at all to give up stuff we could still do ourselves just because we are “getting older?”

My mom resisted getting a clothes dryer for decades. She didn’t want to lose the exercise and fresh air she got hanging clothes outside.  (In case you are envisioning this buxom farm wife, please note my mom was a willowy city girl with a degree in intellectual history.)  She was right on with this one, and I should have been paying better attention. Now I understand. I want my multi-purpose movement (exercise I don’t consciously have to plan) back.

I can still fix this.  Luckily, the move I just made is a temporary one.  I don’t own this house.  When we buy together a year or two down the road, I’ll be aware of this need.  For now, I can make an effort to get “exercise” into my daily routine and accept being a gym rat for the short term.

But far more often, this “less demanding” new environment is permanent.  How many of us are losing our vitality way before we need to by downsizing to places that are designed to take physical activity (aka “work”) out of our lives?

The challenge of doing those daily tasks may be part of what keeps us going.  My dad was diagnosed with heart disease in his 40’s.  Later in life, that included congestive heart failure. For virtually his entire adult life, he went up a full flight of stairs each night to take his shower.  When he died at age 85, he was still taking a daily walk, working on his writing every day, and fully engaged in his community.   Doesn’t that seem like a better way to do this?

We need to rethink this notion that less physical work is good for us as we get older.  Sure, we probably won’t be pitching hay or digging trenches.  But there’s middle ground between the two extremes where we would be much better off.  For me, that includes a flight of stairs.


Retirement for Couples

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

When you’re spending most of your waking hours at work, spending 24/7 with your spouse or partner sounds like heaven. It’s not that simple once it’s time to actually pull it off.

One of the the most unexpected challenges of retirement planning is figuring out how to do it together.  I’m not talking about synchronizing departure dates and retirement party calendars.  I’m talking about how to create a mutually satisfying new lifestyle once work is no longer the central focus of your lives.  And if you are a single-earner couple, this might be even more challenging than if both of you are giving up outside work.

The surprising truth is that while one–or both–of you were enmeshed in getting the job done as a career, the other was doing something else.  And that “something else” is an important part of what you plan together for what comes next.  Assuming all you need to decide is when you stop working is like deciding you are going to have fish for dinner because you got your fishing pole out of the attic.

The key, of course, is honest conversation. That, too, is not as easy is you might want to believe. If you are expecting to resume the carefree fun of when you first fell in love without any effort, please stop and take a look at reality. Neither of you is the person who said “I do” (or even “I would if I could”) so long ago. To get to the good stuff in the future with this person, you need to figure out what’s going on now. With her (or him). With you. With the living situation you’ve been content with for the last umpteen years.

There are a few questions you’ll need to find pretty solid answers to if you want to get this right.

Who am I? A lot of who you really are has gotten buried under what you have had to do to make a living and function as a responsible adult. Getting a solid sense of what the Real You needs to thrive once you retire is going to be a bigger job than going back to the guitar lessons you gave up when you started med school. Find a way to help yourself explore who you are now. ((Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love has an extensive number of fun exercises to help you do that.)

Who is she/he? (your spouse/partner) Unless you have been having long, deep conversations about personal needs and dreams for years, you have a lot to learn about your sweetheart before you step into the next phase of your lives together. This is not the same person you married (or committed to). Your buddy for retirement is that person plus all the experience, insight, and foibles acquired between then and now. Assuming she’s still the same innocent angel when she’s been negotiating deals for the non-profit she volunteers with is naive. Plus, we change as we age and our hormones rearrange themselves. Women tend to become a bit more assertive, and guys are more inclined to nurture than when we were younger. New stuff all around.

What is important (to each of you)? It’s really really important to figure this out. It’s also really really important not to assume you know what’s important to your significant other. Many who have served in support roles are ready to step up to challenges they design for themselves. Some who have been “top dog” are ready to be the support for those who have had their back for decades. But not all. What’s important is unique for each of us. Effectively combining your priorities and your “other’s” for a satisfying new lifestyle depends on each of you knowing what they are for both of you.

How/what do you want to change? What do you like and want to keep or add? What do you want to not have to do anymore? Figure this out.

How/what does she/he want to change? Same deal for your sweetie. You can’t have it all your way all the time. Find the give-and-take and get creative in finding ways to include both sets of dreams.

What are your trade-offs?” Okay, this is something we need to be very candid about. Sometimes, not only do you not get what you want, you don’t get any sympathy for even wanting it. Be authentic in what you decide to do about that. If she (or he) absolutely refuses to do something you want to do, assess where your trade-offs are. Is keeping her (or him) happy more important to you than what you wanted to do? Is doing it on a less grand scale as a solo adventure while she (or he) does something else a good compromise? What are you willing to forego for the sake of keeping the relationship on solid ground? What do you truly have to have to be true to your self?

Where are the log jams? This is the one that no one wants to admit might occur. Either we will agree happily in the first place or we will work in out. But sometimes, that’s not where the conversation goes. In fact sometimes, the conversation goes nowhere simple because the other person doesn’t want to talk about whatever it is that’s the log jam.

What you do in that situation is a function of three things: How much do you want to stay with that person? How hard would it be to go around the objection to do what you want/need to do anyway? How much of an imbalance are you willing to settle for? The situation may change over time, but if the person you love isn’t willing to look at retirement planning issues now, you need to decide what that means for you. (For the record, taking important topics of conversation “off the table” when the other partner wants to discuss them is a form of verbal abuse.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg on living well as a couple as we age. But starting with the tip will at least let you know which way the thing is floating.

Retirement Reset

Monday, July 18th, 2011

We’re still us! Study results reported last week by SunAmerica suggest that Americans in or approaching retirement are “resetting” how they see and want to experience that stage of life.

In other words, the boomers are going to chart their own course yet again.  This is good news for everyone, not just those born between 1946 and 1964.

As the largest generation to enter it looks at retirement, we’re starting to see it as a real stage of life instead of just “play time.”  According to the study, two thirds of us want to include work in some way.  This is not new.  The Met Life Foundation found similar results in 2005.  But this reality needs all the attention we can find for it because finding that way to work is going to take some personal effort.

According to the study, we are more interested in family relationships now than acquiring wealth. This is also good news.  The “wealth” thing is where greed gets into the mix, and that poisons the economic well for all of us.

We now want financial security rather than just having a lot of money. That fits a whole lot better with living a long and happy life.   “Having a lot of money” creates issues about keeping a lot of money.  Having the financial security to do the things you want–or need–to do puts the focus on living your life well instead.

The study also notes that we can see we might be called upon to help someone we love financially–and we are no longer just talking about our parents.   This is a return to caring and a departure from “getting mine.”  More good news for society.

Last, according to the study, we are now more intent on getting the retirement planning right by enlisting professional help (but do bear in mind who sponsored the study).  Preparing for this stage of your life  on your own doesn’t seem like such a slam dunk anymore.

SunAmerica and Age Wave have done a great job of highlighting how Americans are seeing the potential and the risks of this stage of life differently.  But how you set it up for yourself is still up to you.

There are a lot more pieces to this puzzle than “wealth” or even “financial security.”  Take the time to understand and include all of them. What do you want to do next? What gets you jazzed enough to give you a sense of purpose?  How do you want to live and who do you want with you?  You get to decide on all of this–but only if you make those decisions.

A good retirement requires a lot more than just a magic number in your investment portfolio or pension account. To keep yourself healthy and happy, you need to know a lot about yourself, your spouse if you have one, and what’s going to make you want to get up every morning once you’ve finished the career years.


The “Retirement” Transition

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

You’re giving up a lot more than the paycheck and the demanding schedule when you retire.  Usually, we just worry about how to replace the paycheck–and how best to celebrate the demise of the schedule. But to thrive at this stage of life, there’s much more to deal with in terms of what you’re leaving behind.

Our culture sees retirement as the brass ring. When you can grab it, you get a free ride and life is wonderful. In reality, the euphoria of simply not having to go to work anymore wears off after about a year. And if you’ve thrived in a fast-paced, high energy environment for decades, even that year might be disappointing.

Knowing what you value in what you’re doing as a career can help you create a better life after you leave it by discovering ways to include “the good stuff” once you throttle back. But you need to know what that “good stuff” is before you can get creative with finding it a new way.

Things to think about:

The thrill of a challenge: If you love solving problems, work is almost a necessity in some form. Once you give up what you’re doing now, be ready to apply those problem solving skills in a new way. Just saying you’re going to volunteer with a specific organization probably won’t be enough. Unless they already know what you can do because you’ve worked with them in the past, you will start at the bottom, just as if you had recently been hired. So the first problem you may end up having to solve once you are retired is “How can I use the skills I’ve so thoroughly developed and love to use?”

The prestige of a higher level position: Let’s face it. A lot of us have jobs where the very title makes people treat you better. “Doctor” and “Lawyer” come to mind, but so do “General Manager” and “Foreman.” If you like being “special” in that way, you’re going to need to find knew ways to be at the top of the heap. (However, it might be better for all concerned if you just get over yourself and let go of the whole concept.)

And you may not be the one who’s hung up on prestige.  If your spouse or kids trade on your clout,  they need to be ready for their own change in status once you give it up.  If nothing else, an honest conversation with your loved ones about the “intangibles” that are going away is an important piece of your retirement planning.  And if you have perks that they use, they need to prepare themselves for losing those, too.

The camaraderie of your co-workers:  Work provides a pre-established group of friends.  If you’ve been with the same organization for more than a few years, you have “history” with all of them just like you do with your family.  In fact many of us have spent more time with them than with family because of the demands of the job.

Though there are usually promises that you’re going to stay in touch, that tends not to happen when you retire.  When you aren’t trying to get the work done together, the need to connect to these friends wanes.  For them, it takes a backseat to what they’re still trying to get done in the workplace.  Even with the best of intentions, time for each other tends to get lost in the shuffle of these different lifestyles.

This can leave a big hole where a large group of friends used to be in your life. Isolation is a big downside of tradtional retirement. Identifying new opportunities for friendships is essential if you want to thrive.   Since most of us have spent the vast majority of our time at work for decades, this may be more difficult than expected.  Look at what you need and where you will get your social support before you leave the “home” of your career.  You’re the only one who knows how to go about making a new circle of friends for yourself.  This new tribe has to be hand picked to last.

Settling for somone else’s circle of friends is a short cut you probably don’t want to take.  Find people who are interested in what you’re interested in.  Consider what kind of classes or team involvement might be a good fit for you.  Just “tagging along” gets depressing after a while.  Have the guts and expend the effort to make you own new friends.

Eventually, you need to stop working.  How you go about that is yours to decide.  But look at where you are likely to hit rough road in this new adventure and think of new options for yourself ahead of time for a smoother transition.


When Plans Change…

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Just because you had it all set up doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.  Maddening, isn’t it?  You’d think by the time we’ve marched past 50 that we’d be used to this fact of life, but sometimes it seems that the older we get, the more stubborn we are that what we thought should happen is the only alternative allowable.

Life doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes, it’s as everyday as having new neighbors move in who have a different idea on how a cul de sac is to be used.   You see a round street; they see a playground where their kids can play…and pretty soon all the kids within six blocks are treating “your” cul de sac that way.  We actually lose sleep over these kinds of situations.  Who gains when we do that?

Not one soul.  The kids don’t care what you think one way or the other.  The parents are blissfully telling all their friends from the old neighborhood what a great place the kids have to play.  And you seethe…or maybe snarl…or honk the horn when you are trying to get out of your driveway.

You don’t like being the mean old neighbor.  You don’t like being expected to navigate your way to the nearest main street through kids on bikes and skateboards and scooters.  It’s hard to let go of that one “allowable” alternative–the way it was before the new neighbors moved in.

Let it go.  It is what it is and fuming about it only makes your feelings about it worse.  Find something else to focus on and let it go.

Sometimes, the change is to you.  Right now, my left pinkie does not want to carry it’s share of the load when I’m at the keyboard.  It’s kind hard to blog without a‘s.  My first reaction was to just muster on, making the errant finger get on with what I needed from it.  But that finger isn’t buying my bluster.  When I try to hit the a normally, nothing happens.  Now what?

Let it go.  Find a workable alternative.  For me, that means this will be a short post.

When life goes a different place than what you had planned for yourself, see what’s there.  Sometimes, where you end up because “plans changed” is a whole lot more exhilarating than what you had mapped out.

And sometimes, it means you can’t type a‘s.  Either way, you learn more than you would have had things gone “right.”


Where to Live Once You Retire…

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

One of the nicest aspects of retirement is that your work no longer decides where you have to live.  But does that mean moving to a retirement community in a warm, sunny climate is in your future?  That decision involves a lot more than getting away from your local version of lousy weather.

Where you choose to live needs to be a well-thought balance between what you’ve already built and what you yearn for.  I’m not talking about square footage here.  Where you live now has a lot of pluses (unless you just moved there).

You already have your network of resources in place—your primary care physician and specialists if you need them, your dentist, your hairdresser, your car mechanic, your plumber.  The list goes on, but you get the point:  When you move, you need to find new back up for what you can’t do yourself on….well… pretty much everything.

And, of course, there’s the daunting task of moving itself.  (Just moving everything to the garage when I got new carpeting last fall was enough to make me promise I’m going to live here forever.)   Moving does help you get rid of stuff you no longer need, but with a bit of discipline, you can do that without putting what’s left in a moving van.

Usually, the big loss of leaving where you are now for “somewhere better” is the network of relationships you leave behind–neighbors, friends who like to do the things you like to do, family, and business associates (who just might be people you want to know three years from now when you get tired of “being retired.”)

Those three are just the tip of the iceberg, too.  You can thrive with a retirement move, but it needs more thoroughly researched than watching the Weather Channel for your dream location a few times a month.  Before you put a For Sale sign on where you are, there are a lot of things to ask yourself:

• What do I not like about where I live now?  Sometimes, just retiring might solve the problem.  Traffic for regular commuters can be horrendous.  Once you make your own schedule you may be able to avoid it most of the time.  Or maybe it’s a case of not having friends where you are now.  Are the time demands of your job what’s keeping you from making them?

• What problems am I expecting this move to solve?  Changing geography doesn’t change who you are.  A new location quickly becomes a disappointment if you think it’s going to get rid of woes that move right along with you.  What are the real issues and what other solutions are there for solving those problems?  Look at all the options rather than just assuming a move will solve everything.

• Who am I going to miss?  Make a list of all the people you love who are going to stay where you are now.  Is the move you’re planning worth having them somewhere you’re not?  It’s easy to lose track of your valued everyday relationships when the romance of living year-round in a resort climate blooms.

• How long do l want to live there?   Maybe it’s not something you will want to do long term.  If you aren’t sure, you don’t have to buy real estate right away. Consider living in the new location on a rental basis for six months or a year rather than pulling up stakes and moving there forever immediately.

• Is this something that I’ll enjoy everyday? What do you think of the “off season” where you’re planning to move?  A Seattleite who moved to Arizona as retirement admitted when she moved back that having to open the garage door with an oven mitt in the summer was just too much for her.   Some people are fine with taking a fifth wheel to a sunny clime for two months in the worst of winter.  Are you sure you’re not one of them?

• What kind of lifestyle am I envisioning?  Barbara Morris refers to retirement communities as “senior ghettoes.”  Pay attention to that.  When you segregate yourself from the full breadth of society, your view of the world starts to shrink.  The best way to stay vibrant is to keep your world expanding.  If you do end up in a 55+ community, have ways to get beyond the walls and stay in touch with the full social range.  Relying on the compound fun exclusively will make you old long before you need to be.

• What else is going to change that I haven’t factored into this idea?  There’s a lot more to it than getting away from the snow…gray skies…humidity…whatever.

Moving may be the best answer.  But be sure you’re asking the right questions when you decide.


Sensing Your Worth

Monday, December 29th, 2008

As we count down the last hours of 2008, let’s look at how well we did, rather than just lamenting the horrid year it’s been in general.    That action is particularly important if you’re not currently in the workforce.  One of the things we lose when we leave work behind is the regular assessment of our own performance that comes as part of any job.

It may not be an official “performance appraisal,” but the work environment has ways of letting you know whether you are doing well or not.  Maybe it’s the difficult customer who will only work with you. (Oh, joy!)  Maybe it’s the stack of papers graded or the sleeping toddlers in the nap room.  Maybe it’s the bottom line.  Maybe it’s the novel you’ve gotten far enough to leave in the bottom drawer to “steep.”  Maybe it’s the bottom of the pot you just scrubbed.

Maybe it’s billable hours, projects completed, tons of fish processed, or total sales.  Whatever it is, cherish it if you have it and look for a way to replicate it if you don’t.  Work gives us vital information about how well we are doing.  It has a lot of room for built-in feedback.  And that’s precious stuff.

Those little everyday review processes give you something you really can’t thrive without–a sense of your own competence.  So you really do want some kind of evaluation process in your life, even if paid employment isn’t currently part of the picture.

If we were doing this right from infancy, we’d be using clearly defined personal benchmarks that go beyond the current work setting as we measure our own merit.  This is rare though and hard to maintain.  My younger son used to do it via goal setting, at least before he got sucked into corporate America.  Each January, he’d rework his life goals and commit to what he wanted to make happen that year.  He’d work on making those things happen throughout the year.  Then each December, he’d do his “final reckoning” for that year’s goals and start the process all over.  Goal setting works well for young lions.

It’s a little harder to buy in on once you end up the non-rational depths of personal reality.  What good is a goal if your best strategy for the situation is to surrender to the Divine and accept life as it unfolds?  Goals serve as beacons, but they can lead you onto the rocks if they tilt because of a poor foundation.

But we need something to tell us how well we are doing.  That’s why we love games and those little tests in the Sunday paper.  We need information to confirm our own value.  We seek it even if it’s in some lame game show assessment of what you know.

Sometimes, we don’t even reach for that.  In retirement, we end up leaning on what we used to do to give ourselves validation.   Between jobs, it’s even harder not to rely on the past accomplishments to feel good about yourself.  But history is a weak second as raw material for personal worth.  Authenticity demands you stand tall on what you’re doing NOW.  How do you do that without a title?  Without the regular paycheck? Without the business cards and the company car?

This is the perfect time of year to create something better to take your cues from.  It’s a simple but powerful two step evaluation.  Assess your life with the following two questions.   They are unquenchable signal fires for your personal worth, regardless of the situation.



Your answers pretty much sum up the quality of your life.  If family is important to you, but the vast majority of your time is spent at a job you hate so you can buy stuff you don’t need, you lose,.  Even if your bonus was six figures  If you value learning and growth, but haven’t explored a new idea in six months, you lose. Even if you already hold a PhD in astrophysics and are working on the space shuttle.

To make life worthwhile, regardless of what the economy, the culture, and your favorite sports team are doing, there must be a strong link between what you believe is important and how you spend your time.

If you’re coming from your own truth, what’s important doesn’t stay behind when you leave work.  You take that commitment with you, no matter what the circumstance.  Lay off… botched bailout..organizational implosion–all are temporary obstacles if you keep your focus on doing something about what you think is important.

There is stength in doing the difficult, but only if it’s grounded in your belief that it’s important to get done.

What Retirement Changes — Access

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

By Mary Lloyd, CEO Mining SIlver

When we are yearning for the brass ring called “retirement” nothing about what’s going on at work seems like it will be hard to relinquish.  The stress level?  You can have it.  The people who aren’t pulling their weight?  What bliss to see them in the rear-view  mirror.

But there are a few things you are going to miss.  One of them is access.  Typically, you’ve spent decades doing this work all week, every week–except for vacation.  You’ve learned a lot about that work.  You’ve solved a lot of problems to get it done.  It’s a content area, where, much as you probably don’t want to believe me, you are going to continue to have interest.  You might even be thinking of “doing some consulting” in that arena.  Or working part-time or on a project basis in it somehow.

None of those possibilities is a bad thing.  But be prepared for one of those little surprises that come with  retirement–your access to information changes.   When you retire, you exit the loop, whether you want to or not.  You aren’t part of trying to get the problem solved so you won’t be privy to new information, be it a new product coming out from a key supplier or the exciting stuff on the horizon that’s laid out in the ten-year plan.

Congratulations on your retirement!  Please wait for the press release about what we are doing now.

You don’t think it will be that way for you, right?  You have good friends there.  They will keep you up to date about what the company is doing.  You are part of the key industry associations.  They will keep you abreast of whatever’s going  Maybe.  At least for a little while.

But as your status as “retired” becomes more accepted,  your access to key information becomes more unreliable.  You have become….”one of them”….one of all the people who are NOT a part of getting the current work done.

If you did a good job of building alliances and maintaining business relationships, you may still be able to tap into the information channel.  But two things will be different.  First, the information you get will not be cutting edge.  Your friends can’t afford to tell you until things are pretty far along–because you are now an outsider.

Second, the farther you get from your work days, the less you will be perceived as a resource or sounding board.   Even if what you know and can do is better than anything they currently have on board, the tendency is to use the people on site to solve the problem.  You hear less and less and your friends who still at work turn to the people in the cubicles near them for advice and help you used to give.

There’s nothing wrong with you or them, although there’s plenty wrong with the system.  The assumption that we lose our knowledge of the content area and ability to solve a complex problem within months of when we retire is robbing us of a huge amount of talent we desperately need to be competitive as nation.  There is so much we could be doing without committing to the shackles of a full time, all-the-time job.

Eventually, the lunacy of kissing off the last thirty years of people’s lives as “unproductive” is going to change.  But it’s going to take time.  So what can you do to maintain your access to the important information about what’s going on in the meantime?

  • Be gracious about sharing what you know. If those who are trying to learn what you did so well know they can ask you questions and get good answers, your image as a resource will remain strong.
  • When you do help, learn all you can about what’s changing. Your value as a mentor depends on knowing how to handle current situations.   Ask clarifying questions to be sure you understand the nuances of the new problem.
  • Whenever someone calls for information from you, get some from them, too.  Don’t be shy about asking about what’s happening and what’s new.
  • Solve the problem in the here and now. Telling someone  facing the problem for the first time “Hell, we solved that by doing ___ back in 1978.” is asking for the door.  The current solution may well be the same as what you came up with then, but referencing it just reminds people that you are not part of the current effort–and not entitled to all the information those in the loop get.
  • Be a mentor. If the company has a formal mentor program, check it out.   Often these programs provide access to information that would otherwise be at your own expense or not available to you as a retiree at all.

Keeping active in the parts of your work you enjoy is a key part of a satisfying retirement  Find a way to keep doing what you love.  Without going to work every day.

Retired Time — What Others Think

Friday, November 14th, 2008

When you retire, you certainly have more timee.  What other people expect of all your “extra” time, especially friends and family, can get dicey though.  And the disappointments that come from loved ones not spending time we thought they’d want to spend with us can also be pretty painful.  This is another piecer of what retirement changes:  time with others.

Finding time when you’re retired and your loved ones aren’t is just plain difficult.  The extremes of not dealing with this issue are feeling like a doormat because you’re spending all your time doing what these other people need done or feeling like an orphan because they’re all away doing something else.  They’re among the most unhappy experiences of this stage of life.  Both are avoidable.  They develop when we aren’t paying attention, either to who we really are, what we really need, or both.  So pay attention–to yourself.

We all want to help. especially when it makes difference to someone you love.  But you don’t want to be taken for granted or taken advantage of.  Yes, most of us thrive on being needed.  But that’s different than being expected to carry a load that really isn’t yours.  Taking care of grandkids full-time without pay is being taken advantage of (unless you have a place to live by doing it).  Carrying a heavy volunteer load at church because “You have more time,” is being taken for granted.

Maybe you do and maybe you don’t have “more time.”  Maybe you’re spending every waking moment learning how to build kites or Not So Big Houses or play baswe guitar.  Others don’t know what you are really doing with your time–they just assume since you aren’t working, you aren’t doing anything.  And that doing what they need is better than doing nothing.  Don’t agree with them by default.  Speak your truth.  If you want to spend your time that way, say “Yes.”  If not, there’s another word.


“No.  I don’t have time for that.”  Or maybe “No, I have other things that are higher priority for me to work on right now.”  In truth, there’s only one word you need to do this well… “No.”  A sweet smile.  A shrug.  And you’ve re-declared your freedom.

It’s harder with aging parents who need a significant amount of help.  Yep.  Those tasks have to be done.  And you might need to be the one to do them.  But don’t do it all if there are others who can share the load.  And don’t buy the guilt trip if anyone suggests that you should do it all because “you aren’t working.”

The bottom line on this challenge is WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO?  Be honest.  And then be ready to stand firm while others try to convince you otherwise.  Harriet Lerner does a great job of laying out how to do this in her book The Dance of Connection if you need some pointers.

The other end of the spectrum–when loved ones don’t have time for you–involves dealing more effectively with yourself.  What you are telling yourself about what should be happening?  We retire to “spend more time with the family.”  Too often, “family” is off doing other things and doesn’t have time to spend with us.  What do you do then?

For starters, don’t take it personally.  Young lives are complex and hectic.  Important relationships that aren’t part of the everyday scene can get ignored without any intention of doing so.   When you are available anytime, “tomorrow” seems like a a better day to plan something.

Take a careful look at the possibility this is the case if you are thinking of moving to “be near the kids.”  You move…they don’t have time…you don’t have your old circle of friends.  Pretty soon, the high point of your day is Seinfeld reruns.  If you still want to do it, please start with a trial run.  Find a furnished apartment and spend three or more months where they live.  Then be honest about what you experienced.   Does how it went match what you need?  As a bonus, you can start making friends in the new locale, which will make the transition easier if you do decide to move.

What other people think of your time once you retire can be pretty wrong-headed.  They think they know and they don’t.  Tell them the truth about what you have time for and are interested in.  About what you really want to do with them.  And if they don’t have the time you want to spend with them, no moping!  There are great people who do.  Go out and find them.

Retiring Means You “Have Time.”

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

One of the biggest pluses of retirement–at least before we get there–is that we have 100% control over what we do with our time.  But once we have that control, what happens?

All too often, it translates into stuffing anything that comes along into our days and calendars to make sure we are “busy.”  The very thing that we yearned to get away from becomes the modus operandi all over again.  I cringe when people brag “I’m so busy now that I’m retired that I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”  Is that what you retired to do?  Be “busy?”

Going from “not enough time” to “all the time in the world” is a big change.  As we move through our career years, that eventuality becomes more and more alluring.  But once we get to actually make the transition, an interesting thing happens.  We start to recreate the “crazy busy” of work life with all kinds of commitments and involvement.

Understanding why we do this might be good.  I think it’s a case of seeking the familiar.  We know how to be busy.  We’re not so good at relaxing.  We might also be subconsciously resisting the assignment of “doing nothing” that the current cultural mindset assumes for this stage of life.  (I personally detest that role.)

The first weeks of retirement are easy.  You sleep as long as you want.  You linger over your coffee and actually notice how wonderful it smells and tastes.   You go out in your yard and really see what’s there.  You putter with a plant that needs help or a errant brick at the edge of the patio.  You start to look at travel brochures or check out websites.  But after a while, all this time becomes unnerving.  Then comes the  “I have to fill it with something!” reaction.  That’s when we start saying “yes” to everything that comes along.

“Do you want to join my book club?”  Sure!

“My health club is running a special promotion.  Do you want to join?”  Yeah, that might be fun.

“The volunteer fire department needs volunteers, are you interested?”  I’d love to.

Never mind that you are dyslexic, loathe being a gym rat, and faint at the sight of flames.

So is there a better way?  Yep.

The first thing is to know what you really like to do and where you truly want to put your time. So if you haven’t done that part already, some of that newfound time needs to be spent on learning more about yourself.  Really.

This kind of discovery appears selfish to many, but it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community.  When you know what you like and want to do, you end up doing that instead of “anything that comes along.”  People who are doing what they love are happier and healthier.  Plus the community gets the benefit of that focus if you decide to work in some way, either as a volunteer or for pay.

The second piece of a good time management strategy for retirement is to leave room for the unexpected. We need to learn to leave gaps on the calendar for starters.  That, in and of itself, can be scary to many of us.  A blank space is so….empty!  Taking an hour or two might be relatively easy.  But how about a day?  A week?

Try scribbling “save for as yet to be determined adventure” over an entire day.  Then, when that day arrives, do what sounds like fun at that moment.   If you’re really gutsy, try a whole week at it.  Then watch how you actually use that time.  Do you sleep longer?  Read more?  Watch TV that you’re not really interested in because you don’t know what else to do?  If it’s this last one, go back and read the previous paragraph again.  You need to know more about yourself so you can focus on what you truly find enjoyable.

The third step is to find out how you like to structure your time. Predictability is a good thing in the right dose.  All of us need some amount of structure.  How much is your call.  Do you need a morning routine to get your day going well?  Or is it better for you to start the day a different way every day.  (I was going to say “morning” but maybe you don’t get up in the morning.)  Some of us like standing commitments, like a bridge club or golf tee time.  Some of us run from that stuff and always will.  Either way works, as long as it’s your way.