Retirement Pearls

Start the first lesson on retirement — make time your friend. This is what I learned from surveying 125 individuals, ages 55-96.

Whenever you define what retirement age is for you, it means that you have experienced the luxury of living enough years to gather perspectives on the circle-of-life journey. Likely, you probed yourself with poignant questions:

  • When is it time to retire?
  • Where do I plan to live?
  • What delivers passion and purpose for me?
  • Who do I want to “spend” time with now?

I found that people grapple with circle-of-life issues in a colorful variety of ways. From surveying, here are some answers to the first question:

57, female (works 30 hours/week): “I have a fear of becoming irrelevant to society as my parents experienced after their retirement…I made a cognitive switch from deriving my identity from work/success to valuing living life and experiences, spending more time with family and friends. I cut-back work after my mother died.” 

59, male (works 40 hours/week, volunteers 8 hours/week): “I do not plan to retire.”                                                                                     

62, female (works 35 hours/week): “You have to have a plan before retiring so your retirement years don’t lead to depression. Do some of the grief-work before retirement.”

69, male (retired 7 years): “Retirement means a re-assessment, a retooling, a re-evaluation…I want to be more of who I was meant to be.”

70, male (retired 3 years): “Initially I had loss of prestige, identity (career), income, but now I can sleep, and dictate my schedule, exercise.”

71, female (semi-retired 6 years): “I didn’t want to totally retire…Stopping abruptly wasn’t for me. I had a career, not just a job…I missed the day-to-day interaction with colleagues…[who] were busy and I needed to email and keep in contact with them.”    

81, female (works 10-20 hours a week): “I tried to retire, but I was too bored and cranked it back up. Now I have a revived private practice of up to 20 sessions per week…people are not retiring from the university because they don’t know what to do with their time.” 

83, male (works 6 hours/week; volunteers 1 hour/week): “I’m enjoying being semi-retired perhaps more than I expected…a blessing of retirement…is greater freedom of choice about how to spend my time.

94, female (retired 29 years, volunteering varies): “Time for reading, Pilates, getting together with friends, and volunteer work.”

95, male (retired 30 years): “It seems strange to have so much free time.”                                                                              

Encore adults often are skilled workers. They are adept at making strategic choices quickly; they have the capacity for holistic or systems thinking. Releasing a job or career can be viewed as a welcome transition or a psychological deer-in-the-headlights change.

Whatever you decide to do, find meaningful ways to “spend” your precious time.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

58. What is your association to retirement?                                                                                                           59. What fresh start might you begin with today’s time

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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