The Ups and Downs of Retirement: My Story

I am a planner and a professional event planner par excellence. I plan birthdays. I plan dinners like a maître’ D. I plan vacations, trips and tours like a travel agent. I plan my meals. I plan my day. I plan, plan and plan more.

So why didn’t I plan for my retirement? Honestly, I never thought a about it. I  imagined it just happened. Afterall, whenever we saw anything in print, about retirement, it was a happy couple dancing on the sandy beaches of

Florida.

You always know that it is coming, this phase called retirement; it’s what you work for your whole life, but it somehow caught me by surprise. All of a sudden, my husband was retiring.

It was a turning point, a pinnacle moment when, for the first time in many years, he could do whatever he wanted—and what he wanted

You always know that it is coming, this phase called retirement; it’s what you work for your whole life, but it somehow caught me by surprise. All of a sudden, my husband was retiring.

It was a turning point, a pinnacle moment when, for the first time in many years, he could do whatever he wanted—and what he wanted (in two days!), came home, sold our current home, and moved!

We moved to an area where we had long-time friends, an area in which we used to vacation, and an area in which I swore I would never live. It just wasn’t my plan.

But my husband wanted that house, that area, those golf courses, and he deserved it. After all the years he took care of our family, working for the same company for 33 years to provide a comfortable living for us, it was his turn to make the plan. Or was it?

But where was my plan? Our plan? Wait! This was not what I envisioned. This was not the plan. What just happened here? Did WE even have a plan? I thought we did.

We  had already downsized. From our larger family home to a patio home, which I had poured my heart into designing and decorating it to exactly what we wanted. We moved to another county, still in Pittsburgh, but did lower our taxes enough to join the country club. We were livin’ the dream. This empty nest thing seemed to agree with us. Of  course, we missed our two adult children, but now it was our time. We quickly made new friends and played golf (even I took lessons) and enjoyed life to the fullest.

Then in a blink of an eye it seemed like it all ended. My husband had to have his second open heart surgery. It was successful, but it did him with a pacemaker and already enlarged heart. While he was resting in his room, after 2 days in ICU, I went for a much needed walk and fresh air. And then the craziest thing . . .  I got hit by a car! As I lay on the pavement, after sliding off the hood of that car that hit me, I actually thought I was dreaming – this couldn’t be happening. The ambulance soon came, taking me to the nearest hospital where, of course, my husband was. There we both were on floors 9 and 7. I was so blessed in that I only broke the small bone, the tibia, in my left leg and tore the meniscus, which later had to be surgically repaired.

Fast forward a couple months, and we were well on our way to recovery and my husband had just returned to work, when I had severe abdominal pain and ended up back in the hospital with emergency surgery. I had a cyst on my large intestine that the doctor had to remove along with about 15 inches of my small intestine. I was in the hospital for 27 days. After recovering and getting back to a normal life, my husband comes home one day and says, I can’t do this anymore. Between the heart surgery, pacemaker and never-ending stress in his workplace, we decided he needed to retire two years earlier than we had planned. He also announced he wanted to play golf year around and he wanted to play with his best golfin’ buddy who had already retired to the Myrtle Beach area. In my mind, I had pictured us going to Hilton Head or even The Villages in Florida.

We went to visit that friend and his wife, our friends for over 30 years, and believe it of not, he even came with us when we looked at model homes in a nearby community. In three days, we looked at models, picked out a lot and bought a house (the model my husband likesd)– and yes, we were up-sizing – yes, we did. I then realized, or at least it felt that way, from that day on, there were three in this marriage.

I had my life, great friends, volunteer projects, and Bible study. I loved my church, loved my neighbors and my neighborhood, loved my football team and loved my city. The life I had known for 17 years had disappeared in the blink of an eye. Don’t get me wrong; this was our 11th move, 11th house. It’s not like we had never moved, but it was always planned; every detail worked out. And usually, everything went according to plan.

This feeling of loss and uncertainty is what has prompted me to write the book, Faith Full Retirement, now in it’s 2nd edition. I wanted to help as many baby boomer women as I can to have a plan, to live life to the fullest in their 2nd act of sheer freedom. I want you to think about what you would like to be…do…and have…to create a magnificent life, not by chance, but by choice.

I  wasted a lot of time, energy and money trying to find myself in this wonderful stage of life; looking for purpose and meaning, wishing I could have had a couple do-overs. What just happened here? Soon anger and resentment set in and later depression. This is just not the picture I had had in my mind all those years.

Nor was this my Mother’s retirement. She was happy just to be in her home, making quilts for Lutheran World Relief, and gardening in her flower garden spring and summer. This was not MY retirement. To me, it was  not even retirement. Rather, was shifting gears and creating a life reimagined, discovering the new me, finding my true purpose, making a difference and all the while learning more about me and what I wanted in these next 20-30 years. In this vital time, life began to happen…real life…focusing on what matters most, but not without turning back to my God, my faith and the reassurance that God had a plan for me. A plan I just need to believe in and follow-through.

Research shows, 50% of professional women will leave their careers with a financial plan. But only 5% will leave with a life plan. That was me. My life plan was not his life plan. Since women are most concerned about relationships and life purpose and there is no real roadmap for them, I am now, so committed to changing that. There is really no roadmap or blueprint for the time of our lives when we are free to do more of what we want.

I then found a website online, that I will be forever grateful for finding. A financial adviser from Michigan realized that people needed more in their 2nd act than just financial planning. What they needed was a life plan which included finding a meaningful purpose, improving relationships and health and wellness of the body, mind and spirit. He purchased a coaching program about the challenges of retirement and perfected it making it better, by adding practice coaching sessions and plenty of research. I am happy to say, I have completed the program, and am now a certified retirement lifestyle coach. While finances are important, wouldn’t you rather run out of money than run out of family and friends?

 

My blog will be about  how to make the most of every single day, set yourself on fire with passion, give back, look and feel your best, turn your hobby into cash, get organized and de-cluttered, build and keep lasting relationships, glow in the dark, and why you must forgive and let go of baggage to be able to create your best life yet.

I have dedicated the past 7 years to learn all I can about helping couples and women to plan for this long awaited time period. Research also shows, many people waste 3-8 years transitionig into this part of life’s journey and that is exactly what it is – an exciting journey of a lifetime – not a destination. So, let’s pack our best attitude and all of our imagination, and get ready to take this journey together. You see, I do not want you to experience the struggles I faced and also that of the many clients I have coached. I want to help you prepare with a blueprint and action steps so that you do not waste 3-8 years of prescious time.

Ready. Set. Let’s do this.