Recently, I sat in an office filling out paperwork for my appointment. When I reached the bottom of the form, which required a date, I realized even though I had an appointment, I didn’t know the date. Too lazy to dig into my purse for my cell phone, I asked the guy next to me, who was also filling out the same form, if he knew the date.

“The third”, came the reply.

“Thanks. Retired,” said I by way of explanation for my lack of date information.

“Me, too,” he sighed.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what was behind the sigh. He seemed a little depressed, heavy. So, I queried, “Not having a good time in retirement?”

He hunched forwarded a bit in his seat and looked at the floor. “I get up every morning wondering what I’m going to do today. I’m thinking of getting a part-time job.”

“Maybe you could volunteer for an organization,” I offered.

“Yeah, I already do that but this isn’t what I thought it would be.”

With that, my name was called and I got up to leave. Before I made my exit, I turned to him and said, “What you’re experiencing is normal. You’re not alone.” He nodded his head but kept looking at the floor.

In 1975 a professor of gerontology named Robert Atchley identified seven stages of retirement. Since then, they’ve been pared down to six but the bottom line is retirement is such a major life transition requiring a redefining of our very role in life that no matter how much we plan, we’re bound to experience at least some of the stages. The guy in the waiting room was in the stage of disillusionment possibly missing the structure and productivity of work, which had given his life purpose. While not everyone goes through this stage, most of us do. It’s similar to the realization, somewhere around age 40, when we say to ourselves, “Is this all there is to life?” You know that moment I’m talking about. The one where you realized you didn’t become brilliant, rich, famous, have the exciting career you dreamed about or whatever you thought would happen to your life. Well, that realization shows up in retirement, too. After the “honeymoon” of relaxation, the feeling like you’re on vacation, the relief of leaving the rat race behind, boredom sets in and you find yourself saying, “Is this all there is to retirement?”

Even Colin Powell talked about it on the speakers circuit a few years ago. After leaving his post as Secretary of State where he was constantly whisked here and there in limousines and government jets with an entourage of assistants, secret service agents and press corps, he found himself walking down Fifth Avenue in New York all by his lonesome to fetch a hotdog from the street vendor. He went on to recount how he ended up on the speakers circuit because his wife of 56 years told him unless he found something to do with his life, they wouldn’t make it to year 57. While his wife’s ultimatum may be slightly comical, she was wise enough to realize he needed to do something to recreate his purpose in life. For both their sakes, she wasn’t going to tolerate his moping. The lesson in Powell’s story is how he reoriented himself by joining the speakers circuit thus creating a new routine for himself. And…securing his marriage for at least another year.

Unfortunately, for many of us disillusionment with retirement and therefore, life, can last years before we decide to take inventory of our situation and decide what we’re going to do when we grow up. For a sad few, the disillusionment stage can last the rest of our lives. That’s a real downer, folks. People who think their “golden years” aren’t golden have no one but themselves to blame. So, take stock! The willingness to take stock of our situation, options, wants and needs is the first step to recovering our retirement dream. Like the guy in the waiting room who was thinking of getting a part-time job, acknowledging that somethings gotta give moves you toward action. Back in 1935 when the retirement age was set by the government at age 65, it was a rarity indeed, for most people to even live to that age. With longevity comes opportunity. Today, with more and more people living to be 100, the idea of sitting out 30 years of retirement in a rocker on the front porch should be enough to get you motivated to find a new hobby, career, volunteer activity or whatever floats your boat.

So, whether you’re already retired and wondering where your retirement dream went or you’re looking at retiring someday in the future, keep the disillusionment stage in mind. It may only last a day or two or it could be years. That’s up to you. Know that for most of us, it probably will come. But, also know, it is an opportunity to take stock, to reinvent yourself, to learn, to be, to give, to reach your potential in areas you may not have ever envisioned for yourself. And, remember, what you’re experiencing is normal and you’re not alone.


The big question we’re often asked about retiring is, “How do you know you have enough to last?” Despite the extrapolations of three financial planners, both the short and long answer is, “We don’t know.” Especially after the last month. We have a budget. But, the best laid plans of mice and women often go astray. Just as it was before we left the paid working world when our household budget had a miscellaneous (read emergency) line item, so it is now in retirement. And, just as it was then, so it is now. You cannot predict the unexpected and the resulting cost.

For us, it started in July with eight yellow jacket stings (ouch!!!) to my left hand. Wading into a weedy patch on our property I didn’t notice the little hornets flying in and out of their hole in the ground until I felt the first sting. It turns out gloves with breathable mesh on the top of the hand are not a wise choice. As my knuckles disappeared beneath my swelling flesh and red streaks wound their way up my arm, Martin drove me to urgent care that Sunday afternoon. Even with health insurance urgent care costs money. An unexpected outlay. No matter, we have budgeted a miscellaneous line item for just such an occasion.

Unfortunately, though, we don’t have dental insurance. So, when an ancient filling began to fall to pieces meaning I was crowned queen for a day, that little cap on my tooth literally ate up my miscellaneous, emergency, unexpected stuff will happen budget for the year! That included a 5% discount the dentist gave me for paying in cold cash. But, as fate would have it, we were far from done. Martin got new tires on his motorcycle, a separate budget item, for which we were prepared. However, two weeks after scrubbing in those new tires, he came home from a round of “twisties” to find the rear tire going flat. The culprit? A teeny, tiny, itty-bitty little nail. Oh, just get it patched, you say? A twenty dollar fix. Ha! Not a motorcycle tire say the manufacturers and dealers! Too much liability. So, fork over another $156 to replace a two week old tire including installation and a discount, of course, for the bad luck pity factor.

And, now, for the cat. You’ll recall we have seven of them. Four are feral cats. Or, rather, feral cats to everyone but Martin and me. They are sort of feral to us. So, when one of the little darlings started limping, we just scooped him into a carrier and off to the vet we went. Having apparently landed on something that cut open the space between two toes, he now needed antibiotics for the infection, pain killer meds and warm compresses twice a day. Being sort of feral to us means there’s no way we are going to deliver antibiotics and pain killer to his little feral mouth let alone warm compresses on his hurt tootsie. So, at the vet spa he stayed. She cut us a deal but a week at the spa complete with meds and warm compresses twice daily is not cheap, even if you do bring his food from home.

It was working in the garden trying to forget all of life’s unexpected costs, when my cell phone rang. “You need to come in the house as soon as possible.” Oh crap!!! What now?!? As I rounded the corner from the laundry room I saw soaked towels laying on the hardwood and Martin pointing to the glistening drips of water coming from the ceiling. Our malfunctioning air conditioner overflowed the drip pan and water was coursing over the attic floor and through the ceiling. Fortunately, we can both repair drywall but still… Between the AC and ceiling repair another few hundred down the drain, so to speak.

And, there was more to come but I think you get the point so I won’t continue boring you with additional mishaps. Though the unexpected has blown our budget for the year, causing some belt tightening and reconfiguring, we’ve found it’s no different than it was when we were working. There were no guarantees in life then. There was no guarantee you’d have your job tomorrow. There were no guarantees the financial markets would perform. There were no guarantees misfortune wouldn’t visit. No guarantees things wouldn’t break needing replacement or repair.

Well, there are no guarantees in retirement either. Life in retirement still requires flexibility, adaptability and acceptance of what is. No matter how much you plan, no matter how much you put aside, the best laid plans of mice and women often go astray.
So, will we have enough money to last our lifetime? Who knows? Not us. Not any financial planner. No one. So, we might as well just relax and enjoy the ride wherever it takes us.


OK! I’ve been derelict two weeks in a row. I didn’t post on my appointed Monday date with you. Please forgive me. I’ve been galavanting around the southeast, didn’t have anything I felt post worthy to put out there and so, dear readers I’m a derelict. That said, this experience made me think of yet another great thing about being retired…I can spur-of-the-moment, or not, take off to parts known or unknown. So, when one of my sisters and her partner decided to make a trip south on the spur-of-the-moment (they’re also retired), we were able to say, “Hey, stop by for a visit”, with little upset to our routine. Yes, even in retirement we have a routine. Routines add structure to our lives and it’s structure which makes the special moments special. That doesn’t go away in retirement.

After years of getting up at the same time, getting ready for work in much the same way each day and having to be at your desk, office, station, work site at a specific time, suddenly all of that comes to a screeching halt. You can sleep in everyday if you want. You can get up and throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or hang out in your pj’s ’til noon or all day. You have no place to go unless you manufacture a place to go. You have nothing to do unless you create something to do. So, part of challenge in retirement is how will you create structure. Why? Do you really want to spend the next thirty years of your life sleeping in and sitting around the house in your pj’s doing nothing more than watching the tube, surfing the net and leafing through magazines waiting for the special moments?

After placing in the state time trials, the question Martin has been asked most often in the last week is, “So, what will you do now?” It’s also similar to an often asked question since we retired, “What do you do all day?” And, therein lies the rub. After 40 years or more of someone telling you what to do all day, there is suddenly no boss. There are no corporate directives. There are no promotions to a higher level. There are no new products to roll out. There are no employees bringing you problems to solve. There is no job description. There is no company policy manual. There are no rules. Only you. In retirement it’s up to you to determine your fate. That, folks, is probably the number one challenge of being a person of independent means.

Martin has already decided he won’t be competing in the national time trials. He’ll continue to ride for exercise and the company of a local group of cyclists. He’s already exploring taking a college course or two in photography and/or painting with acrylics. We can always find something new to challenge our brains and satisfy our creative vision. But, understand this. Determining your fate isn’t one big round of finding something creative or challenging to fill your days. Your days also need some of the usual. The everyday. The oftentimes mundane. Because one of the things which has also vaporized with your work life is structure. Maybe not entirely but a significant amount of your routine is gone.

When working, long weekends and vacation days often become moments when we do something special in between the structure of work. Structure is the juxtaposition which creates the excitement of say racing in the state time trials or running a marathon. To be sure, there’s the structure offered by laundry, grocery shopping, house maintenance and family obligations. The latter remains even in retirement. Although for us, shopping and errand running on the weekends and evenings has been replaced with doing those chores early morning weekdays when the stores are pretty close to empty. Now we do laundry whenever the hamper is full. House cleaning is whenever we feel like it or to motivate ourselves, we invite someone for a visit or dinner.

But, back to our daily life and the importance of routine. After years of dinner sometime between 6:30 and 7:30, in our new life, we enjoy starting dinner early and eating around 5:30. Structure. Thanks to a little diluted orange cat named Carmen, Martin still gets up in the morning around 5:30 to 6 a.m. Carmie doesn’t realize Daddy doesn’t go to work anymore so, she sticks to the routine she was raised with, meowing at the bedroom door in anticipation of Martin rising and giving early morning pets and breakfast. I sleep in until Martin brings me a latte bedside around 7 a.m. That’s right, girls, he makes me a latte every morning…structure! Even our choice to age in place on our six acres provides routine, albeit different routines during the different seasons. With an overgrown woods looking like something the Prince had to hack through to reach Sleeping Beauty in the castle, winter’s routine is bushwhacking. This time of year with summer approaching, mornings are spent picking berries and vegetables, deadheading flower beds and doing chores in the garden. Then, there’s house maintenance like cleaning gutters, painting the house trim, fixing a leaking toilet and all the other things you now have time to do yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

So, no matter what you plan for retirement. Skydiving. Bungee jumping. Spending a year in an RV traveling the country. Going to Europe or Hawaii. Sailing the seven seas. No matter what you plan for excitement or challenge, in order to make it truly exciting, you’ll need a daily life of the usual, the everyday and mundane. you’ll need structure and routine. However, even if you have a blog to write, you can take off spur-of-the-moment to parts known or unknown.


One of the Rolling Stones most popular hits was a song titled “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. That seemed to be my theme song for the first 6 months after we officially retired. But, finally after 6 months plus, we have adjusted to our new life. So, today I’m posting what I believe are the steps for getting here from there. Like most people preparing for retirement, we focused on the financial aspect. And, I don’t want to make light of how important that factor is. It’s, in fact, the single most important factor. No matter where you are in life, if you don’t have enough money to at least meet your basic needs, you aren’t likely to be happy. But, as we approached retirement, the big surprise for us was how our enthusiasm gave way to stress and emotion at saying goodbye to a forty year way of life.

Planning your financial security is a piece of cake compared to addressing the emotional components in your retirement planning. Early on I posted The Transition about being broad-sided by the emotional aspect of retiring. We planned, planned, planned for the money but didn’t put a lot of thought into the psychology. I guess that’s because most books, articles and web sites focus on the finances. We had lots of activities, family and friends and a wish list of travel and learning. But, we were very unprepared for the emotion and stress. After 6 months of ups and downs, corrections in mindset and adjustments, I am able to identify what we should have done to make the transition more painless. What is the saying about hindsight? It’s 20/20. I hope my 20/20 hindsight vision will help anyone contemplating retirement. Here we go…

When we decided to retire, we looked at retirement as a destination. What I realized about two months into it is retirement is a journey. Hence, the tagline for my blog. There is no one place you are going to. It’s, instead, a never ending adventure. Wrap your head around that because your mindset is very important to entering your journey. You need a forward looking attitude. If your employer has an Employee Assistance Program offering a few weeks of free counseling as one of the benefits, take advantage of it. Even if you think you don’t need it, see a counselor and take your spouse or partner with you. You don’t know what you don’t know. Does that make sense? I hope so. A counselor can help you focus on this next part of your life and how to make the transition less bumpy.

With that in mind, sever the emotional ties to your old work place as soon as possible. Sounds harsh. But once you really say goodbye, you are free to focus on your new life. So, move on as quickly as possible. Martin was really good at saying goodbye. I had a more difficult time. Staying in the loop on your old employer’s activities, politics and (brrr..shudder) the gossip is counterproductive to what you really want to accomplish by retiring. I’m not saying discard true friendships developed through work. I have real friends I met at work but we have lots of other things in common, which is why we’re friends. Say goodbye to the relationships based on nothing but the work. You left work because you are looking for a new community and activities. So, don’t cling to the past.

Like many people we chose our date based on birthdays. Sounds logical because, again, it’s all about the finances. Right? Wrong! You can start collecting from your 401K or IRA at 59-1/2. You can start collecting social security at 62. Base your date on these events and you may be making a big mistake. In choosing your date forget the finances and look at your activities. What are you planning to do with your days? Plan for this just like you plan for your finances and be specific. That was our mistake. When people said, “What are you going to do in retirement?”, we gushed about motorcycling, bicycling, gardening, hiking and some travel. Most of our activities are fair weather types. In South Carolina, the weather is such, you can normally do some outside activities even in the winter. However, we had an unusually rainy, cold, long winter. In fact, as I write this, it’s 52 degrees and 3-5 inches of rain pouring down in May! Even our travel destinations were not conducive to a lot of sightseeing during this winter. We went some places anyway but it was not as enjoyable as anticipated. Fortunately, we had plenty of indoor activities and we stayed open to trying new ones. Choose your date carefully.

Speaking of timing, if you have a spouse or partner, who is also retiring, choose the same retirement date. One of the most difficult transitions was my adjustment to Martin being at home. You see, I left work two years earlier. My routine was mostly just up to me. Once he left the house every day, I did things on my schedule. I’m also less structured than Martin so part of my routine was no routine. Suddenly, I had someone else in the house all day wanting to know what I was going to do with my time or wanting me to tag along with them when I had other ideas. It took the first three months for us to mesh our wants, needs and routines. I’d like to say that occurred without a lot of stress, disagreements and negotiation but I’d be lying. This is an area where an EAP counselor could have made a difference for us.

Next up, be sure you have enough activities to occupy your time. If you work an eight hour day with an hour for lunch and a 30 minute commute one way, that’s ten hours of activity per day or 50 hours a week you have to replace. The first couple of weeks you feel like you’re on vacation. Enjoy that feeling of just kicking back and doing nothing. But, after that, you need a boat load of activities to take up 50 or 60 hours each week. Make a list of your hobbies, crafts, volunteer activities and how much time will be dedicated to each one on a weekly basis. Martin and I have also been watching one of our grandkids two days a week. He’s also continued to visit his parents for lunch weekly. We had a few maintenance items, which needed performing on our house and property. Include anything like that as well. If you can’t come up with at least 40 hours of activity to replace your work time, start looking around for clubs to join, new volunteer adventures or classes to take. And, once you retire, keep your mind open to learning new things and taking on new adventures. I’ve read retirees watch way too much TV. Don’t become one of them! This is an opportunity to grow and reenergize your life. Don’t squander it on the boob-tube. We’ve quickly figured out how taking up a new project or learning a new skill adds excitement and purpose to our lives. I want those feelings to continue, don’t you?

We also found the word ‘retirement’ in and of itself was a negative. The definition and societal view of retirement is such a has-been, life is over connotation. I kept reading every article I could find on the terms used to describe someone who is growing older and retired. All of them so dreary. I also read several articles about others trying to find a better definition for the words ‘retiree’ and ‘senior’. So, I’m not alone. I guess my subconscious was just working away to find another term because a couple of months ago, it just popped into my head. I’m a PIM…Person of Independent Means. The definition is since I no longer need to work for money I can do whatever the Hell I want with my time, including working for money, if I want to. Even retirees who have to work part-time can be PIM’s as they also have some independent means. Being a PIM instead of a retiree is liberating. It gives you a whole different mindset about this segment of the journey of your life. We have choices. We are healthy. We are active. We get to write a whole new chapter on our terms. And, the term is PIM!

So, how do we feel about being retired…errr…PIMs? We could not even begin to think about returning to the work force. That’s how we feel. We’re having too much fun. We’re enjoying the freedom of so much choice. We’re enjoying the challenge of finding new and interesting things to do. We’re enjoying the exploration and the thrill of discovery. We’re enjoying meeting other PIMs and developing a new community of friends and acquaintances. We’re enjoying not having to make a 30 minute commute to work in the pouring rain and instead, making spaghetti sauce, chocolate chip cookies, snuggling in to read, write, knit, spin on the stationary bike and talk. Then, later, opening a bottle of red and enjoying a delicious dinner. So, I guess the final step is just relax, give yourself time to adjust and keep an open mind. The journey to here from there is just beginning.


Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of having to see a few doctors to unravel the mystery of what was ailing me. Fortunately, I have health insurance and it’s turned out not to be anything serious. Over this same period of time, I also started seeing more than a few articles about how, as Baby Boomers age and the Affordable Care Act kicks into gear, there is going to be a shortage of good medical care as there will also be a shortage of doctors. I also read about doctors cutting their work hours and selling their practices to larger practices so they didn’t have to manage the business side of being a physician. All this, it seems, translates into worsening health care for we aging persons aka seniors, retirees. The bad news just seems to keep coming. I don’t know if the media has a shortage of negative news to report so they are conjuring up this stuff or there is really cause for concern but…enough already!

Baby Boomers have always been like this huge freight train coming down the track. When I think back over my life to when I first became aware of the numbers, I remember stories predicting doomsday scenarios for our lives even then. Stories like there won’t be enough jobs. Apparently, the authors of those stories didn’t figure on us being creative, inventive and entrepreneurial to the point where we created companies, invented products and made jobs for our generation. I guess they also didn’t think about how we’d spend, spend, spend, demanding more goods, houses and cars, which also created jobs. I remember the stories about our generation creating such a population explosion when we had our own kids there wouldn’t be enough food. Yet, with research and technology better methods of farming were developed so we have fed ourselves. One might even say we’ve overfed ourselves.

I don’t want to come across as Goody Two Shoes but I also can’t see, with the crop of doctors on my short list, where I won’t be receiving, not just good care, but, great care. For starters, the doctors I see are not just medical smart, they’re business smart. In the last 6 years I can honestly say my care has improved. And my overall experience with my doctors is better than it’s ever been. The longest I sat in a waiting room was thirty minutes the day after Martin Luther King Day this year. That’s the longest time ever in six years! Normally, I’m taken in by a nurse just about right on schedule. When my doctor opened the door to the examining room where I had sat for about another 5 minutes, the first thing out of her mouth was an apology for my having to wait so long. I’m here to tell you, folks, years ago I sat around in doctors’ waiting rooms for a good hour and then sat around in the exam room for another 30 or 40 minutes, if I was lucky. And, when Doctor “God” entered the room there was no apology for not being on time for my appointment. I was again lucky if I got a ‘Hello’.

That brings me to the new millennium doctor’s bedside manner. One of the doctors I saw recently was a first time visit. When this guy enters the room, he doesn’t say, “I’m Doctor Doe”. No-o-o-o. He says, “Hi, I’m John Doe” and shakes my hand. Then, he proceeds to actually engage in what ails me by attentively listening, asking questions, more listening. This is the same treatment I’ve received from my primary physician. She shows up with her laptop, pulls up all my records and actually has a conversation with me. Last time I saw her, after we put together my game plan, she said, “And, if this isn’t working for you, just call me and say, ‘Suzie, this isn’t working and we’ll go back to the drawing board’.” Really, that’s what she said.

Before this, my experience with doctors was they came in to examine you, told you what you were going to do, looked at you like you had two heads if you questioned anything and might not even answer you if you did have the nerve to question them. This new breed is working with you, the patient, in collaboration. It’s a partnership. Now, do you have to take some accountability for doing your part? You bet you do. I come armed with a list of things I want addressed and any questions.

So, I don’t see the future as being all that bleak on the medical care front. There may be fewer doctors working fewer hours. Or maybe supply and demand will prompt more people to become doctors or maybe some of the Baby Boomer docs will delay retirement. Yeah, that could happen. But, somehow, good old American know-how may find a way to fill the projected gap, maybe with more nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants in the same practice as doctors. I believe the efficiency I’m seeing in today’s medical field will only get better. For example, before going to see the doctor on the first time visit, I was able to download the new patient packet and fill it out prior to my visit. When I called on Good Friday and the office of my primary was closed down, I received a call within 5 minutes from the MD on call. She directed me to a hospital clinic where they were able to access all my records from my doctor’s office so I didn’t have to fill out a boat load of paper work. Everything was already to go meaning I could concentrate on why I was there and they could access everything needed to bring them up to speed in the shortest time possible. Yes, larger practices. Yes, a corporate health system. But, efficiency for the good of the patient!?! OK. You can call me Goody Two Shoes.


The first time I really thought about the benefits of fitting the definition of senior, I was just shy of my sixtieth birthday. Considering there are places where 50 is the magic age of senior, I guess I’m a little slow. But on that winter day, I went grocery shopping like many other days in my life. I swiped my debit card at the check out, followed the bagger outside where he loaded my car and I drove home. As was my habit, after arriving home, unloading the car and taking care of all the cold stuff, I looked at my receipt to be sure I got the all the buy one, get one and other good deals. Then, I noticed it. There at the bottom of my tab. A 5% senior discount. SENIOR DISCOUNT??? At this particular grocery store, a 5% discount was given for anyone shopping on Wednesdays who was 60 or over. Sixty! At first, I felt a slight bit insulted. I wasn’t sixty. I was, well, 59 and 5/6ths. It must be the gray hair! They think I’m old. Maybe I should have kept coloring my hair. Whoa, wait a minute. I am old. Then, I thought, isn’t this great! Perks for old age.

While I wasn’t crazy about being called a senior or a retiree and I certainly don’t like the negative sounding definitions of retirement, the moment I realized there were perks to this old age thing, I was bitten. Heck, I shamelessly sported my gray hair as a ticket to more discounts. I started actively looking at the AARP website for discounts. I Googled “discounts for seniors”. I talked with neighbors, friends and family, even strangers. What did they know about the perks? What about where I lived? Maybe there was a state with more perks than South Carolina. So, I checked South Carolina’s government website. I knew about the $50,000 homestead exemption on property taxes for 65 and over. Despite already low property taxes, I’m looking forward to an even lower bill. What else was South Carolina willing to do for their seniors?

More Googling. Wow! Without even planning for it, I learned I was living in one of the top ten tax friendly states in the nation…for seniors. Thirty six states including South Carolina exempt Social Security benefits from state income taxes. But, another perk in my home state at 65 and over is a $15,000 deduction per person ($30,000 per couple) of retirement income, regardless of the source, from state income taxes. And we younger seniors can deduct up to $3,000 of retirement income, including public and private pensions and IRA distributions, from our taxable income. If you’re looking for ways to stretch your retirement income, look for one of the tax friendly states to call home. Hint: Most of them are in the south.

Looking for other perks for seniors, I found state supported colleges in South Carolina offer tuition-free classes to age 60 and over. If materials are included in the cost of the class, you have to spring for the materials. So, say you want to take a pottery class, plan on buying your own clay. But, the actual tuition for the instruction is free. Lifelong learning at no cost. That should give any retiree plenty to keep them challenged!

There are also the usual perks, like restaurants offering a free dinner, dessert or appetizer on your birthday, free coffee everyday with breakfast by showing your AARP card. Recently, I booked a hotel room for a trip we’re planning later this spring. The first thing I did, of course, was check their website for senior discounts. Their best rate dipped from $159 a night to a very pleasing $125 for 60 and over. I’ve heard some airlines offer senior discounts if you dig deep enough. There are senior discounts for that bastion of retirement bliss, the cruise. RVing? Look for RV parks offering senior discounts. When I’m 62, if the federal deficit doesn’t eat this perk, I’ll be buying my lifetime access pass to national parks for the unbelievable sum of $10!!! That’s lifetime, folks. Perks. Perks. Everywhere. So, even though I look for a better description for retirement than the one in the dictionary. And, even though I still think of a senior as some 17 year old about to graduate high school, from here on out, I will be looking for the words “senior discount” wherever I go. After all, old age has it’s perks.


Earlier this week there was mention on the news of a man who won a $30 million lottery. Of course, with his newfound wealth, he left his job at a concrete company. That’s probably the first thing we’d all do. We’d also probably go off on a travel log or buy the dream home or a Ferrari or do all three and more. Well, within a month, this accidental retiree asked for his everyday grind of an old job back. For the millions who play the lottery dreaming of winning, this guy must seem like he’s crazy. He told his former co-workers he’s bored. Bored? Are you nuts? With $30 million to spend on whatever, unless this guy has zero imagination, it’s hard for me to believe he’s bored. More likely, he’s moved outside his comfort zone.

We all have a comfort zone where we feel safe and secure psychologically. Stepping outside your perceived zone is challenging, upsetting or even exhilarating, depending on your personality. That’s what happens when you retire. Like the lottery winner, you leave behind the known, which even if your job is just a daily boring grind, offers a certain security because it’s a given. There’s security in the routine. There’s security in your work community. Even if you work with someone you don’t like, there’s security in knowing they will be their engaging selves every day, day after day. Even if your routine at work is upset, you still have a sense of security in the safety net of your work community and place.

During my 40 years in the workplace, I stepped outside my comfort zone on many, many occasions. I even worked at one company where you were deliberately placed in positions, which took you outside your zone, if only for a while. If you were an accountant, get ready to work sales. If you were in sales, get ready to work in operations. Our CEO thought it was beneficial for people to stretch their limits. He believed if you did something new for a certain amount of time, it would eventually become routine. Old hat. Part of your comfort zone. Exposure to new ideas eventually made you a more resilient person.

So, at that time in my life I was stretched plenty just by doing my job. I went from working in an office 8 hours a day to flying into a new (to me) city just about every week for a year. This was a time when there was no GPS, no cell phones. At most airports you still walked across the tarmac to board your plane! Once you reached your destination, you went to a car rental company, standing in line for your turn to rent a car. When your turn came, a customer service rep ran (and I mean ran as in mouth) through your choice of rental cars, pushing a couple of forms in front of you to sign, a map of the city ripped from a thick pad of maps on the counter (remember, no GPS) finally handing you a set of keys. In the rental lot you joined other souls wandering around looking for their rented vehicle. Once you located your car, if you were lucky, you found your way out of the lot and onto the highway where your ability to read a map and drive at the same time was tested. That was before carrying out my job in each unknown city with people I’d never met before. After the first year of doing this, my CEO was right, it became routine. My comfort zone expanded. I also learned how taking some risk, trying something new, shaking things up was actually an opportunity to grow. And I liked playing that game.

Over the next twenty years 77 million baby boomers will step out of their comfort zones and into retirement just as Martin and I did. Most won’t have the $30 million the lottery winner turned accidental retiree has. Unlike him, I’ve learned I like the game of shaking things up. Finally getting acclimated to neither of us going to a workplace, we’re creating a new comfort zone for our lives. It’s been more stressful than we anticipated. In many ways, it’s also been more rewarding than we anticipated. One of the rewards is we can shake things up when we want by trying something new on our terms. Choices. That’s what the lottery winner has in common with us. Choices. With a $30 million dollar lottery win, he can pretty much choose to do whatever he wants. But, his first choice is to step outside his comfort zone. Don’t go back to your old job, fella. Take a chance. Take some risk. Shake things up. Buy a Ferrari, shop for the dream home and get yourself a great travel agent.


When I started this blog, the post I am about to write was not the kind of post I had in mind. This is not meant to start any kind of political debate. Nor is it meant to place blame. It is simply something which has been on my mind due to what I’m seeing in the news. Just like every post I write, these are simply my thoughts put in writing. That said, if you have constructive thoughts you’d like to share, I would love to hear them.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few stories in the news and read some posts on other blogs and list serves about sexism and ageism in America. The views range from Sheryl Sandberg’s view that women must rid themselves of the internal barriers to gaining power in the workplace to male nurses are paid more than female nurses because, well, because they are male. Reading through the conversations on a senior forum, the answers behind the question of ageism from this group of mainly professionals, seems to be the mindset of both the general public as well as workers in the senior care professions. As someone who is categorized as one of the point women fueling the feminist movement of the 1970’s, I say we’ve come along way, baby, but the consciousness raising ain’t done. Mindset on both counts.

So, how is mindset changed? And why is it important to change it? Well, the first answer is the old-fashioned (yes, the tools of the 1970’s are now old-fashioned) consciousness raising is what changes mindset. I’m not talking about what is politically correct here. I’m talking about our internal beliefs brought to life each and every day through our words and action. I’m also talking about changing those internal beliefs because it’s practical to change. That brings me to my answer on the second question. I see sexism and ageism as being linked. And, it’s important to change the attitudes because our society has evolved but our mindset hasn’t kept pace with the evolution.

It’s no secret. In general, women still outlive men. Yet, women, and their partners, don’t take their working and saving and, yes, contributing to Social Security, as seriously as they should. The majority of women work today. We are also still the parent who puts aside career in favor of raising our children to a certain age before we head back to work. As a working mother, I know first hand how hard that is and how important that is. From a practical standpoint, I also know, currently, the Social Security Administration will take your 35 highest income years to compute your Social Security benefit. I have also met many women who forego maxing out their retirement contribution in favor of their spouse’s plan. Why? Mindset. The reason many women live their old age in poverty is because they tend to take care of others before taking care of themselves.

So, in many ways, I have to agree with Sheryl Sandberg. The change in mindset starts with women just as it did in the 1960’s and ’70’s. It’s up to women to demand equal pay for equal work. The fact that John Doe has been on the job longer is a red herring if Mary Doe is up to the same speed. You might even say, if Mary can rev her engine at the same rpm’s as John, without the years, then Mary may be the better qualified employee. It’s also up to Mary to start taking care of Mary by saying to her partner, “I’m putting as much in my retirement fund as you are, Honey”. And, by the way, I need 35 years in the workforce making as much as I can so if you die first and leave me alone, or, if we’re among the 60% who divorce, I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from in my old age.

Reading the comments on ageism, I found it interesting how several people thought our society needed a Gloria Steinem or a Rosa Parks to make a stand and raise our consciousness about ageism. As someone who watched Gloria Steinem on the evening news way back in the late 1960’s, I must say she was an influence on the direction my mindset took. However, the real work was done by everyday people with the courage to stand up in the face of societal norms and say, “That’s not acceptable anymore.” Well, people don’t age the way they used to. The reason Social Security and Medicare are in trouble isn’t because of any federal deficit or economic downturn. While the reason is a lot more complicated than this, the short and the long of it is we are living longer. We have better medical care. We have more options available to us. Seniors are more active, more involved than ever. When seniors leave the workforce, if they do at all, they aren’t going home to die. They are going on to a new, exciting leg of their life journey. Our society has changed. Retirement has evolved. Yet, we hang onto the old stereotypes of aging and the aged. Ageism. Changing the general mindset about aging starts with every day people having the courage to stand up and say, “That’s not acceptable anymore.”

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So, if we want to get rid of sexism and ageism, it’s up to each of us to first get rid of the internal barriers preventing each of us from changing our mindset. We don’t need a Rosa Parks or a Gloria Steinem or a Mahatma Gandhi. After all, at one moment, each of them were just ordinary people willing to take action, to speak up. So, all we really need is the courage of our convictions. Catching up with our societal evolution depends on it.


There has come a time in my life when I have looked around my house and asked myself, “What am I doing with all this stuff?” That moment was about two years ago. And, like any good epiphany, I handled it by getting into my closets, taking inventory, giving away what I thought I didn’t use anymore and organizing the rest. Outside the closets I took down, picked up and boxed up and gave a few things away to my daughters or charity. But, everything else got squirreled away in, where else, but, the closets. That made me feel good for a while. I’d gotten a lifetime of clutter under control or at least it looked like it was under control. I had less stuff sitting around on tables to dust, wash or place in an attractive way. I liked my new clean look.

Much of our knickknack stuff has come in the form of gifts from family and friends or hand-me-downs, including some heirlooms, from my or Martin’s parents. Even some of our furniture has come to us in the same way. It’s been accumulated over many years. We occasionally do the clean out, give away routine and Martin has even sold some of his used motorcycle, bicycle paraphernalia on eBay. Then, there are the shelves of art we’ve produced, mostly in the form of gourd art, where we’ve carved, dyed, braided, papered and otherwise decorated gourds. There are also a couple of paintings I’ve produced recently. So, even though we haven’t purchased a lot of knickknacks, paintings and prints, we still have a house full of stuff.

Long before retirement I reached the point where I didn’t want to spend my time dusting and cleaning stuff that served no other purpose than to sit around on shelves and tables looking pretty. We also had pieces of furniture, which just didn’t fit with the overall theme and scheme of the other pieces. Our willy-nilly eclectic style sometimes annoyed me. I knew someone a few years ago who, as she and her husband prepared to downsize and retire, had held an auction to sell off their stuff, all of it. They wanted a fresh start for their new life so, like New Year’s, out with the old, in with the new. They made out really well on the money end and went on a shopping spree for the new stuff. So, as I looked around my house, I thought about what I would dump. Certainly, not all of it but I was so tired of the stuff, I thought, surely a lot of it. And, I wouldn’t be replacing any of it.

But, as I started going from room to room and thinking about what I would discard, I thought, “Well, certainly not those two old office chairs in the great room.” They are 1950’s or ’60’s and don’t go with the Italian style of the house or other furniture we have. But they are solid maple and after I picked them out of the trash (yes, that’s right, scavenger that I am, I raided somebody’s dumpster), we had them recovered and voilà!, they look fabulous. Not my grandmother’s chocolate pot or Martin’s grandmother’s carnival glass wine pitcher. Those would go to our daughters someday. Not the dish on the table given to me by a former assistant my last day on the job. Wait. What was I doing? As I looked around at all the stuff, I had another epiphany. It is the stuff with all the crazy stories or old memories evoked or the item touched by a loved one long past or the gift given from the heart, which creates the warmth of our home, the richness of our lives. The stuff isn’t just stuff after all, but symbols, artifacts of who we have been as well as who we are. Suddenly, eclectic seemed less annoying.

So, what am I doing today? Opening some boxes, unwrapping some stuff and putting it back on shelves and tables. I guess I’ll be dusting a while longer.


Growing up on the New Jersey shore, I learned to swim early on. Since the ocean is often too rough for a little kid, as a pre-schooler my mom took me to calmer inlets and, on occasion, to one of the community pools housed along the board walk. I loved the community pool. Other little kids would be there splashing around, doing the doggie paddle, laughing and just having fun. Going to the community pool expanded my little world, which was limited at the time to my family and neighborhood friends. As I grew and entered school and then work, my community grew along with me. As a teen I even worked one summer at O’Brien’s ice cream parlor at the north end community pool, making friends with some of my co-workers. Being retired is a bit like going back to that time as a little kid before my world expanded to include the community pool.

One of the dilemmas for many retirees is how to replace the community of work. After all, for decades work has provided a sense of identification. One of the first questions asked by any new acquaintance is, “What do you do?” I did my share of asking the same question. Work provides a sense of place and belonging as in the often asked next question, “Where do you work?” Work provides a place to come together with other people where we share connections wrought from common purpose, beliefs and values. Work also provides a place for us to be appreciated and recognized for our contributions to the group effort. Work may even provide us with friends. Some of my most enduring friendships are from earlier work relationships. So, while we work to earn an income, work provides us with much more than a paycheck. Replacing the work community and redefining your sense of self in retirement is actually a quest for connection.

In retirement we can seek community out of a sense of commitment as we are now able to exercise greater choice over what we commit to. Without a paycheck coming into play, our commitment is based on our interests, talents, beliefs and social connections. Volunteer work, civic involvement, part-time or full-time work in a new field, membership in clubs, living in over age 55 communities, being an activist for one cause or another. The choices seem endless and probably are. If you were active in your community before retirement, you may want to increase your commitment to those activities. Or, perhaps, you’ll want to try something new as you discover latent talents or interests. This is the opportunity to jump in feet first to try that something you always wanted to try but never had the time. No excuses now! I know retirees who teach computer classes, belong to knitting, quilting and garden clubs, do woodworking, volunteer for charitable organizations such as hospice, a domestic abuse shelter or, yes, the senior center, are artists or work part-time. The list goes on and on. The common theme with these people is they have remained engaged in life. They have a sense of community, a purpose, which has them looking forward to each day.

If you have identified a purpose for your life, which will give connection and community, embrace it full-throttle ahead. If not, find one. The choices are indeed endless. And finding THE ONE can be half the fun. Think of all the new people you’ll meet and all the new things you’ll learn. But, whatever you do, take a deep breath, hold your nose, jump in feet first and find your community pool!