The Transition

We were ready for retirement! We had three financial planners (yes, three…hedging our bets you see) tell us we had plenty of money. We had lots of things to do. Me, gardening, gourd art, growing food, painting, reading, writing and 6 grandkids. Martin, bicycling, motorcycling, gourd art, photography, helping me with the six acres and ditto on the 6 grandkids. We were both accomplished cooks who like trying new dishes. We were set!

Then the announcement was made by Martin to his company. I left work two years earlier. I had adjusted and was happily sailing along in a nice routine. I was looking forward to Martin joining me so it was a surprise to both of us when we were overcome by emotion and stress. I trawled the web looking for information about what we were feeling but came up pretty much empty. Most of what’s out there is about money in retirement not how to enter retirement in bliss. So, were we an aberration and everyone else in the country entered retirement living happily ever after?

Most of the retirees I approached with this question spoke merrily about how much they enjoyed being retired. Congratulations rolled in from family and friends, some of whom were retirees, via Facebook and email. And, of course, the oft asked question we received, “How did you do it?” There was even a tinge of envy in the faces of a few who asked. And a very honest few told us outright how envious they were. So what was wrong with us? We were supposed to be happy. Right?

Even I felt a certain sadness at Martin leaving a company he’d worked at for almost 22 years. In some respects his retirement party was more like a wake than a celebration as I realized how many memories and good times we shared with so many at this company. I also realized it was this amazing company which was a large part of why we could retire early. It was hard to walk out the door that night knowing I would never be back. It was hard to say goodbye to co-workers we had known for over 20 years. Even I shared a lot of memories with these people. I couldn’t imagine what Martin was going through.

As Martin’s last work day approached I also began to doubt our numbers. What if the financial planners were wrong? What if we were wrong? What if we didn’t have enough activities to keep us occupied? What if we got bored doing our hobbies everyday? Was it really the wisest thing to leave a working life behind? Retirement is defined as conclusion, ending, termination. It sounded so final. Even though I was at home for two years, with Martin still in the workplace, I didn’t really feel like I was retired. Now it seemed real and scary and doubtful. Now, when people asked, “What do you do?”, the answer would be we’re retired…concluded, terminated, ended…YIKES! The stress continued to creep in.

But, as I voiced my doubts, on occasion someone would step forward and tell me how they, too, had felt moments of uncertainty. I came across the one brave and honest soul in my circle who looked me straight in the eye and said, “Retiring is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Wow! Finally. Someone who made me feel like the sadness of leaving a working life behind was normal. Then, there was the man who told me it took his Dad 6 months to adjust to retirement and how his family worried about him the entire time. Finally, there was the couple who told me it was a transition, an adjustment and it would take time. How much depended on us. For them, it took two years. It took us about 18 months to transition. The key? Finding renewed purpose in life.

If we had a do over, knowing what we know now, we’d do some things differently. Martin has noted how he’d choose the spring to retire because the weather is more conducive to motorcycling, bicycling and hiking, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains we love so much. Being physically active, getting out of the house more often may have made this easier. I’d want us to take advantage of his company’s Employee Assistance Program for the 6 free counseling sessions they offered. Talking with an expert about the emotional side of retiring may have allayed some of the stress. And, though we traveled extensively for work and find we’re more homebodies, I think a long vacation someplace sunny and warm may have helped us transition. Learning we needed to find a new purpose in life was critical. But, that took some time. Starting this blog put me on the road to a new purpose in life. Acknowledging the activities we were already engaged in may not be enough or the one, was also of critical importance. For those of you who are not yet retired, don’t take anything for granted – learn from my mistakes. Fortunately, we were always risk takers, willing to try new things, take a chance. We also recognize that failure is often the catalyst for success so my advice is try, try again in your search for renewed purpose.

The point in all this is retirement is a huge and I mean HUGE life changing event, not much different from getting married or divorced or having a baby or losing a loved one. It’s change. And, as with any life changing event, it means emotional ups and downs. It means being prepared to roll with some punches. It means good days and bad days until you adjust to a new reality. It means adjusting to new schedules or, with retirement, maybe no schedules. After all, every day is Saturday. So, my best advice is before you retire, regardless of your age, think about how you will make the transition as painless as possible as you reinvent who you are.


Copyright 2015 Kathy Merlino All Rights Reserved

25 comments on “The Transition

  1. Thanks. Retired for nearly 5 months but still worried about getting things done as I still think that I will have to go back to work soon. I know this will settle….eventually.


    • David…so glad this helped. Read my blogs on Stages of Retirement I and II. Everyone who enters retirement goes through a transition…it’s normal! You are creating a new life built on your terms. Best to you…Kathy


  2. Great Blog. I’m 2 weeks into retirement and just wanted to thank you, it’s nice to see that this is all a process and I will survive.


  3. I’ll be retiring in three months and while I am truly excited and ready, there’s that part of me that’s scared to death! My husband will contine working for another year or so and I think this will give me a little time to adjust before he retires.


  4. Your thoughts have really resonated with me, especially the “Can we afford it?” doubts. We semi retired last summer and may go all the way next year. It’s definitely about readjustment. As part of this process, I started a blog two days ago. It’s mundane observations really but also I can channel the creative juices I used to use more of in work.


  5. Glad to have stumbled (or Googled) upon your blog. 🙂 Retiring at 53 on Jan. 2, 2015. My hubby will continue to work for quite a few years and I will be the “stay at home mom” that I never was (no kids at home now though). Looking forward to reading more of your blog.


  6. Retired 8 months ago, I have great concerns about what winter will bring stuck inside the majority of the time. Summer was great, garden, travel, motorcycle rides, ect.


    • Hi Dennis,

      Martin and I have found during the winter, check out local colleges for courses. I don’t knew where you live, but see if a local college has an Osher Lifelong Learning Center. There are 119 of them in the US and they cater to retirees. Read my latest blog…try something new, get out of your comfort zone. Before you know it, spring will be here!



  7. Thanks Kathy for your wonderful blog. My husband and I also recently retired early (2013) also maxing out our retirement contributions too. I had to laugh when I read that you had consulted three financial advisors. We also consulted exactly 3 before we decided we could actually afford to make the jump.

    We are still reinventing ourselves and our lives, but are truly enjoying ourselves. My husband has a garden railroad and inside layout he can tinker with in the winter. He is currently building me a bird “mansion” for my Flower garden to replace one that fell apart.

    I am currently entertaining myself working on family genealogy projects and organizing photos for my family into photo albums and planning our travels. That will keep me busy for a while! I love to garden as well and will be spending my time outside as soon as warm weather hits. I’ve also thought of starting a blog on retirement too, just for the connection to others that are going through the same thing.

    Love your blog and look forward to future posts!


  8. Kathy…
    Thank you for the information regarding the Osher Learning Centers. I’m anticipating retirement in the next year or two and “desperately” looking for ideas on how to spend my retirement time. From the information in your blog I was able to locate an OLLI Learning Center at Cal State Fullerton near my home with many classes and activities that look interesting. Like you, I anticipate my retirement with equal amounts of excitement and dread. Financially I should be ok, but the thought of not working after 45 years of employment is nerve wracking. At least if I’m attending classes and workshops to improve myself, I’ll feel like I’m being productive and not wasting my retirement time. Keep the tips coming as they’re much appreciated.


  9. Thanks so much. I think “finding a new purpose in life” is the best advise I’ve received. I’m retiring in 5 days from teaching.


  10. This blog is exactly what I need.I retired from Family child care run from my home.I .had a heart attack Feb of this year .I have been having a hard time getting used to the empty days.Missing the children and living with all the supplies -furniture from the business.I am trying to find a new purpose.I will read the rest of your blog and follow.Thanks Nancy.


  11. Wow, I am glad I found this post. Nobody tells you what retirement is REALLY like. I’m quite a few years away, but think about it a lot. I am scared to death too!


  12. Kathy, I’m enjoying your blog now that I’ve found it! Tomorrow will be my one month anniversary of “starting retirement”…which kind of sounds like an oxymoron :). So far, so good and hopefully there are many years ahead to experience the ups and downs of which you speak…a different and welcome roller coaster from the one I’ve been riding the last 40 years in corporate America. I was grateful for what I learned there even during the many tough times (maybe especially), and am optimistic about what I will learn and experience going forward now. I welcome the wisdom you and others have to share to help me stay on that path. Thanks so much!


  13. I’m on week three of a retirement that was forced by a work situation. Last week I was terribly depressed. This week is a little better. Thanks for your blog. Janice


  14. I think it’s good to be forewarned that it could be a bumpy transition. Transitions are always difficult. And this is a big one. Fingers crossed.


  15. I really enjoyed, and associate with, your thoughts expressing doubts, questions, and misgivings about transitioning into retirement. My wife and I are both teachers, and we have decided to retire together at the end of this school year. After 42 years in the education profession, I feel good about it, but I sympathize with what you went through in wondering if boredom will set in after awhile. Feel free to look at my blog at and let me know if your transition was similar. Best of luck to you and Martin!


  16. A great read. I too am on the verge of retiring and decided to start a blog to give me an outlet. I could have retired in February ’17 but our goals are not accomplished yet. I appreciate your different insight compared to other sites on the subject! Looking forward to reading more!


  17. Thank you for your blog. I am on week 3 of retirement after 33+ years as a school speech therapist. I am so glad to see someone share insight into the emotional side of retirement, which for me will be the challenge!


  18. Hi Kathy,
    Great blog! I can identify with so much you went through. My husband retired last October and we also thought we got it all figured out. He even got contract with Oxford University Press and is writing a book. But we still feel lost on so many levels. We returned to our home in London after ten years of expat assignments, first Houston, then Doha in the Middle East and last assignment was in Iowa. We thought we were ready to retire and in between two grown up kids, two grandchildren, apartment in Corfu, lovely flat in London we should have a blast. So why do we feel so flat and sparkle is out? We are now thinking of joining local Rotary Club and get involved in community work. Finding the relevance and purpose is so important. The journey continues!


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