Summer is in full swing and many of my days are filled with looking for monarchs, making jewelry, reading books, writing, watering my potted flowers, and weeding, occasionally. In short, I’ve been busy. In conversation with friends, my husband and I have realized we’ve settled into our empty nest – retired life quite nicely. He left his hospital job almost four years ago and the wellness clinic job he took after leaving the hospital has been over for nearly 3 years! It’s also been more than a year and a half since I left my job at the Conservancy!
We’ve been early retirees – both in our mid-fifties when we left those positions. But, we are also busy people. And, that definitely helped our transition to not going to work on a daily basis. As such we have been able to have frank conversations with friends and family about preparing to retire.
Some of the advice we’ve offered has included the following tips:
- Meet with an insurance agent or financial advisor to determine what type of health insurance policy you’ll need, the cost of such a policy, and most importantly – where to obtain it if it is not part of your retirement package. Insurance options are largely based on what you’ll make post retirement. If you bring in too much, you cannot select a plan out of the Healthcare marketplace. We’ve had a couple of different plans in the last few years due to our children still being dependents and what their income is as well. All the income counts, if they are to be on the plan you select through the marketplace. So, some tabulation is necessary before you select your health insurance
- Secondly, know what you’ll do with your time. If you work a forty plus hour week, know that you’ll have time to fill as a newly retired person. At first, you might not have any problem – it’ll feel like a vacation. But, realize that once the newness of retirement wears off, you’ll have to occupy your time. Some people do this seamlessly – they volunteer, they have time to read, time to pursue new hobbies, more time for family, more alone time, more time to exercise, more time to cook, etc.. But, some struggle after the initial period of not working. This can be especially true if one’s identity is tied to one’s job.
- We have several family members and friends who concern us in this regard. All work and no play is not good for anyone. And, it’s hard to play when you haven’t learned to do so during a 40+ year career. Luckily for my husband and I, we both had many hobbies to turn to when we stopped working. He crafts fine furniture out of solid wood, turns bowls, and likes to tinker in his shop. I developed my writing habit, returned to sewing, and continue to make jewelry. We both like to read and cook, so this has been enjoyable as well. If we did not have interests outside of our professions, well….it would be harder to be satisfied with retirement.
- Consider volunteering. Some of my life’s work has been being a dedicated volunteer. I got away from it two years ago when I was working for the Conservancy. I stopped my after school garden club in 2019 when I was busy with Conservancy event organizing. I had stopped my writer’s circle at our local elementary school in 2017. Now, I am returning to the world of volunteering. It’s truly been a part of who I am and I enjoy it. Therefore, I started another writer’s circle this summer and received volunteer training to participate in habitat surveys for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. For me, these activities are a natural extension of what I did before. It feels good to be back, participating in activities I love. But, if you haven’t volunteered at all – pick something you enjoy doing and try it! Volunteering can be a very satisfying experience. Truly, it kept me going for nearly 20 years!
- Embrace being flexible. Last year, of course, did not allow this. But, now you can travel at will (it seems). This means you can go on a last minute day trip – I’ve always wanted to go to the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin – maybe this summer. And, without the kids being home, we can pick up and go to our cabin without worrying they will miss an activity or try to schedule around work obligations. Even the addition of our dog, Molly, has not tied us down. She goes with us when she can and in other instances, like when we travelled to NYS to see my parents last month, we boarded her for a mini-boot camp at her regular day-care kennel. They love her at this doggie business and she loves to go. It’s a win-win!
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to spend time apart from your spouse as well. You both had lives before retirement – lives that meant you were involved in different pursuits with different people (unless, of course, you ran a business together). But, too much togetherness is not good for any of us. As one of my friends said last Friday night, you need to go out and bring something back to the relationship to keep it fresh – otherwise the stories are all things you’ve heard before and it can get boring.
I hope that we’ve set a good example and provided some guidance to our friends who are considering retirement. We try not to offer too much advice because no one wants that – we are all individuals and have a variety of different needs. Retirement might not be right for everyone. But, we’ve eased into it like an old, comfortable pair of gloves. It can be a very enjoyable phase of life – but it doesn’t have to be dull or boring! Each day can be a new adventure! Life is good!
Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. Thank you to TwoWritingTeachers.org for creating and hosting a wonderfully supportive forum in which we can share our writing and thoughts!