Since easing out of my position as Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, I have been extremely reluctant to apply the term 'retirement' to my new life status. I am one of those people who found the end of my full-time work life rushing toward me, rather than me rushing to embrace it. If you are one of those very lucky people who has the financial wherewithal to ease into a well-planned and well-funded retirement, you might want to stop reading here. But if you are one of the majority of us who thought we would work until we dropped, perhaps my experience over the last five months will resonate with you.
First, I have been terribly reluctant to use the term 'retirement' to describe my new life phase. I thought retirement was for old people. I am not old. In fact, the newly nominated head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellin, is older than I am. (Well done Janet!) I pondered this dilemma with a friend, External Affairs Director for the San Francisco Symphony, Nan Keeton. After our chat, Nan sent me a friendly email suggesting a new name for this life experience is 'inspirement'. I thank and credit Nan for the idea, and henceforth, I now refer to myself as living my inspirement. As such, I am taking all the energy I historically committed to helping others and now directing it to improve circumstances for my family and myself.
It was apparent early on my husband and I were becoming out of sync with one another. He works in civil service and is slightly younger than I. He would charge out the door each morning to tackle civic challenges, while I lounged around looking for something to do (more about that later). It was apparent we needed to set a mutually agreeable retirement goal for him so he didn't resent my newfound leisure and I didn't resent his ongoing ability to earn a six-figure salary.
In August, we celebrated our 17th anniversary by taking a day trip to the beach overlook where we were married and spent that day planning, figuring, budgeting and projecting when he can step aside from his current position. The goal we set is twelve to fifteen months away, and making that decision together has really helped us enthusiastically embrace a future to which we can mutually commit. We now both know there is an end game and can focus our energy on the short-term projects to get us there. Skills I previously applied to the benefit of a nonprofit agency, are now part of my new J.O.B. -- planning budgets and activities for our future. This includes learning how to live with a budget where my income is reduced by 60%.
Importantly, the plans for the future include downsizing and relocating in order to manage on a fixed income. Preparing for a move and emotionally saying good-bye to a community we love (San Francisco), is now part of inspirement. A close friend is experiencing something similar. She will soon move out of a beautiful condominium with an expansive view of the San Francisco Bay. When I asked how she's managing (emotionally), she said: 'I've had this view for seventeen years; now it will be someone else's turn to enjoy it.' I am impressed by her healthy attitude.
While sitting in front of a computer five days per week for the last twenty years, it will come as no surprise I didn't make time for an active exercise regime. I had all the excuses -- too busy, too tired, low energy, too distracted, too much stress and so on. That has now changed. Thanks to an inspirement mentor, I have joined the local YMCA and am attending water aerobics at least three times each week. No one is more surprised than I at this commitment of time and energy, but the effort is long overdue. And it is interesting I have returned to a setting (a swimming pool) that was a significant part of the first twenty years of my life. Redirecting energy which was expended for others to improve my own well-being is an important part of this transition process.
As important as the physical well-being is the brain activity. Previously, the application of my intellect was singularly focused to address a huge societal problem affecting children in our country. I am now stimulating my intellect by seeking out Lifelong Learning environments where there are affordable classes for people to study, discuss, question, express and challenge ideas outside of former professional settings. I love being a student again especially where there is NO PRESSURE! All I have to do is show up and participate as much or as little as I want.
And finally, getting used to a flexible schedule with limited commitments has been challenging. After leaving a job which was beyond full-time (including middle-of-the-night wakefulness and obsessive attention to email and texts during off hours), creating new habits has been challenging. I do hope to eventually find part-time work because I know my skills can still contribute to my community. In the meantime, un-obligated time does occasionally weigh heavily. As a dear friend -- also in inspirement -- told me: 'I just sit with the empty space and experience it. I let it pass through me. I know something will come along eventually to help me fill it.' My friend is a wise woman.
So there you have it -- affordable, accessible ways to transition to a new phase of life. Most of us boomers will face realities of time on our hands, reduced incomes and a vacuum for where to apply our fully developed skills. I hope others will comment on this blog and share how you are handling your inspirement.
This blog was first published at www.myfavoriteteachersf.com.
Several larger corporations such as Starbucks, Target and Land's End are able to offer even their part-time employees benefits such as health coverage and paid vacation time (head over to ABC for a full list).
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and computer know-how, the Internet offers opportunities to bring in some cash from home -- at any hour of the day or night. Take Jose and Jill Ferrer, a retired couple profiled by AARP for supplementing a freewheeling retirement with their website, Your RV Lifestyle. By highlighting certain products related to RV living, the pair earns $700 a month, AARP reports. "And we know the potential is there to grow our website business further," Jill Ferrer says. Other ideas: Etsy.com allows the crafty to turn a profit from their hobbies.
Personal care and home health aid topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest growing occupations in America. The time commitment may vary (between 10 and 30 hours per week, according to SmartMoney), but the median annual wage is around $20,000 for both occupations, according to the BLS.
Bartending is not just for twentysomethings -- and for social butterflies, this part-time gig offers opportunity to rake in extra cash, not to mention tips, with a minimal initial financial investment (a 40-hour certification course at the New York City Bartending School costs a little less than $600, for example).
Age discrimination is less of a problem in government agencies, reports The Fiscal Times. In fact, agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration actively seek older workers. Visit USAJobs.gov to search for available positions.
If you've got an artistic flair or an interest in theater, makeup artists can make up to $40 an hour, and only work 20 hours a week on average, AOL Jobs reports. Disclaimer: qualifications may include formal training in cosmetology or theater, and a license is required to practice in several states.
What better way to scratch that globetrotting itch? If you're up for an on-the-go lifestyle, flight attendants also earn up to $40 an hour, making it a very well-paid part-time job.
The nonprofit sector can offer more than volunteer opportunities for retirees, and may be particularly appealing to those who "thought they wanted to change the world ... [but] put that on the back burner for 20 or 30 years while they climbed the corporate ladder," as Tamara Erickson, author of "Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation," told The Wall Street Journal. To get started, Idealist.org offers listings for available paid positions in addition to volunteer opportunities: applicants with years of experience under their belts are sure to be met with open arms. Even cooler, Encore.org offers paid Encore Fellowships to "match skilled, experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations" -- while earning a small stipend for part- or full-time work, midlifers can get their foot in the door to a fulfilling retirement job.
The pay may not be great, but if you're an arts lover, a history buff or a sports enthusiast, the perks certainly are!
"I studied hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy 3 years ago and now I have my own business, couldn't be happier" -- Huff/Post50 reader Lee Adley It's certainly a challenge, but as our amazing readers -- and the many men and women featured on our page -- can attest, going back to school and pursuing something totally different can be well worth the investment of time, money and energy.