A Beginner’s Guide to Retirement

 
 
 

FROM JUMPING THE WALL TO LIVING THE DREAM

Terri Connett

Just imagine.

You wake up every day without the jolt of your alarm.  You no longer have hundreds of daily emails you can’t deal with because you’re in endless, pointless meetings.  No silly office politics.  No more B.S Brainstorm-of-the-Month strategies to increase profits and reduce your sense of security.

No more of that Sunday night pit-in-your-stomach dread you’ve had since childhood.

Sounds great, right?  So why did it take me nearly two years to find happiness in retirement?  This is, after all, the goal.  Work hard, make good money, invest well and then kick back into your golden years.

But it felt more like a golden shower to me.  At 58 I was forced to retire. That wasn’t the plan. I had more to contribute to my company.  I had nine years left on my mortgage.  My nest egg wasn’t complete.  Hell, the egg was still in the chicken’s chute.  I was too young to draw Social Security and maybe too old to get another decent job.  And the worst part:  I had no control over any of it.

The more I read about my fellow older workers getting the axe, the more I understood this wasn’t personal.  Somehow that helped.  I never liked the “misery loves company” theory, but it did teach me that this is what happens in the business world.

I am fortunate to have landed on my feet.  I stopped bitching and started focusing on the half-full glass of my new life.  Thankfully, I scored a pension from that heartless corporation (I disagree with the Supreme Court: corporations are not people, unless we consider them very mean people).  And although I have a mortgage, I can afford the payments, which allows me to stay in my beautiful house by the lake.  I know others are not so lucky: An AARP analysis found that 1.5 million people over 50 had lost their homes to foreclosure between 2007 and 2011 and another 3.5 million owed more than their homes were worth.  Jesus.

Obviously, money is a major component of a happy retirement.  The first thing I did after divorcing my work- allergic, shopaholic husband was hire a great financial planner.  Unlike Hillary, I really was “dead broke.” Immediately, I started saving, and 20 years later I had enough to retire on!

So if you’re thinking about retiring or if your company is thinking about it for you–even if you don’t know it–I hope some of the following tips will help when you have to fly from your office perch.

Prepare for the question, “What do you do all day?”  When retired people used to tell me they were busier than when they were working I’d tell them, “No way, how could that be?”  An extra 40 to 60 hours per week added to your life and you can’t make it work?  But it’s so true. You fill your days and nights with reading, writing, volunteering, walking, biking, redecorating, watching good and bad television, hanging sheets out on the line, going to movies, attending every farmers market out there and spending time with family and friends.  And the things you used to hire out because you traveled or didn’t have the time (cleaning, gardening, cutting the grass, shoveling snow) are now back on your plate.  Working stiffs won’t believe you, so just tell them you’re living the dream.

Don’t live like a pauper.  Six months after I was sacked I jumped on an opportunity to tour London, Paris and Rome.  The following year I remodeled my kitchen.  Sure, I was big time ferklempt over spending the money.  But I say, live your life.  Who knows how much time we have?  And if I am lucky enough to hit 90 and find myself broke, I’m banking on not remembering the irresponsible lifestyle I adopted in my frivolous 50s.

Limit lunches with colleagues still at the grind.  They have every right to bitch and moan about the prison from which you were released.  But it does you no good to relive the yard fights and power-play gang wars.

Facebook isn’t a substitute for gathering around the water cooler.  FB is a time-suck, period.  If you miss the camaraderie, join a club.  Hang out at the library, work at a soup kitchen, join a motorcycle gang.  Online life is not real life.

Hang on to the fun parts of corporate life.  Remember when Casual Fridays started? One day a week without pantyhose and I was over the moon. So now I keep the fun alive with No Make-Up Tuesdays and Stir-Fry Fridays.  Okay, French Fry Fridays.

Continue keeping a calendar.  For the first time in 15 years of owning my home, I didn’t clean my garage.  Why?  Because I wasn’t working and didn’t have to make time for it.  I could always do it “tomorrow.”  But never did.  So I reinstituted my weekly calendar routine.  Writing it down makes me accountable.

Your internal alarm clock shuts off and your sense of purpose flourishes.  When I was working I would wake up every day of the week at 5 a.m.  Holidays, Sundays, vacations, it didn’t matter.  I was sure that would carry on into retirement.  But the morning after my last day of work I slept like a baby and have ever since.  Like most people, I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose.  But my career forced me to make compromises.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I got the news of my mother’s first stroke, I finished marking up my catalog press proof before driving the 50 miles to her bedside.  I am sad she died four years later but very thankful I dodged a big, fat guilt bullet that day.

Since retirement, I cared for a dear friend as she gracefully and peacefully left this world. I happily spend loads of time going along on field trips, playing bingo and dominoes and just hanging with my dad and his pals at the nursing home.  And I am finally, joyfully, writing.

I’m living my dream.

After a 36-year career in corporate marketing and advertising, Terri Connett is now a columnist for iPinionSyndicate.com.  She writes, with an edge, about social justice, aging, politics and Catholicism. This is her fourth article for Roelresources.com. Terri lives in a small resort town on Lake Michigan’s shore and may be reached at: connetts.on.it@gmail.com.