Oh sure, I know everyone thinks retirement is about three things: time with family (especially grandkids), travel, and hobbies. Throw in volunteering, if you’re more altruistic minded. But before you can truly maximize retirement, I’ve discovered you have to address these five phases.
As a single woman, it was pretty easy for me. Add a spouse or significant other, and you may need to sit down and talk about expectations, perhaps even before those retirement papers are filed! You may be looking forward to reading the paper in bed every morning while your spouse may be excited about having you prepare a good breakfast every day. And if you retired first, your spouse or partner is now about to infiltrate your schedule and may want to trail around you all day long.
So here are the phases I’ve discovered:
1. Clothes Grief: Regardless of the work environment you are leaving, you will likely look at your closet with new eyes and find yourself quickly grieving over the ridiculous amount of money you spent on clothes that will now go unworn by you. Oh sure, you’ll want to have funeral clothes for every season, and a couple of items you can interchange for church, concerts and other events, but otherwise, get rid of the clothes and into the hands (or on the backs) of people who can use them while they still have any value. Also, you’ll need more room for jeans and your new athleisure wear – that’s right – clothes that are appropriate for either athletic or leisure pursuits, or both. I’m not making this up. It means I was a bit fashion forward when I dashed to the grocery store one day in my sweats.
a. Email – Emails have permeated so many jobs in the market today, and may have become an extended part of your day and life. Once retired, you will convince yourself that something is wrong with your home internet service, because you’re not getting any emails. Next, you’ll look forward to all of the emails from your bank, credit cards, online catalogs and even solicitations before you find yourself in email withdrawal. Reality grips you at the point you get ready to send a Nigerian prince an electronic transfer.
b. Computer games – The email addiction you fought hard to overcome will quickly be replaced by computer games. You’ll start with Solitaire and Scrabble and brag that you are playing Words with Friends with six people around the world, but you’ll soon find yourself wallowing in games with names like Candy Crush and Gummy Drop. I’m sorry, but I can’t offer a solution to this addiction. Jigsaw puzzles are mine.
3. Fitness Fun: It won’t take you long to discover that the walk from the parking lot to your work place, the carrying of an overstuffed, extra heavy tote bag, and the neck stretches as you tried to talk to person in the adjoining work area really were all forms of exercise. Without replacing them, you’ll be asking for more, but lighter weight bags at the grocery store, getting haircuts that require less attention in the back because of the reach, and finding yourself in physical therapy because you pulled a muscle reaching for the remote one day. You’ll try water aerobics and probably some Zumba, but when you’re ready to move on, I recommend the following:
Pickle Ball – My little section of central Michigan is coming alive with this sport, a combination of badminton, table tennis and tennis, especially popular with retirees. I have now deemed this “relocation rehearsal”. We may take our pasty complexions to Arizona and Florida, but at least we’ll know how to play this fun little game which is all the rage there.
Mall Walking – I never “got” mall walking. You have to get up early and look presentable to get in your car and drive someplace. Avoiding those are some of the reasons I retired! Then I stopped at our mall Panera about 9:00 one morning, and there they were, a huge athleisure wear attired huddled mass, fresh from their laps, hands wrapped around cups of the morning’s brew. Then I “got” mall walking, which leads to…
4. Group Therapy: Call it a book club, walking group, quilting class, it really doesn’t matter. Just find a group of people with at least a couple of common interests that you can gather with on a fairly consistent basis. And make sure it does not include your significant other, or the therapeutic value is gone.
5. Personal Time Zones: To the rest of the US, there is Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. You are soon likely to create your own. Examples are:
The Matinee Zone: You will discover the hours between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM are pure bliss for doing whatever you would have normally packed in after work or on weekends. Movies, grocery shopping, lunch with friends, it doesn’t matter. If I am in a grocery store now on a weekend, I actually feel guilty.
The Late Night Zone: When we were younger, we went out at 10:00. In retirement, it means actually staying up to watch the news, then discovering late night TV. You can attend a 9:00 basketball game or play that starts at 8:00. Regardless, you can stop checking your watch because you won’t turn into a pumpkin if you get home later now.
So there you have it. Retirement is a wonderful time of life – as long as you can navigate the phases and come out smiling. Oh there are more phases, but I call them “post retirement” and I’m not ready for them yet. Let me just say they feature the V’s – as in velour and Velcro. Someday, but not yet.