In our FreeWheeler Community , as we sit around at outings talking, I find that we have women at many life stages surrounding retirement. Some are years away or long time “veterans”of retiring.  Others have only recently taken the plunge either voluntarily or because life situations have made it “necessary” and still others have finally set a “date certain”and parties have been planned!   We women are often younger and healthier at time of retirement than ever before so we need to plan on how to use all those potentially active  years ahead and understand how to handle this NEXT phase of life that AARP now likes to call “extended middle age” otherwise known as retirement.  This series of posts is going to be about how one FreeWheeler, ME,  approached retirement, walked through that door and how, about 9 months later, how it’s going and what I have discovered.  They say in blogs that you write about what you know so this is just my experience but it probably will hit some common chords in the lives of my dear FreeWheeler sisters. Hopefully this multi-part  blog will generate some feedback that will help and even entertain us all.

Part I – How Did I Get Here?

So, my retirement came last October 2015 when I was the ripe age of 65 and 4 months. It was one of those “unplanned” transitions.  I had worked for my company for 35 years and had planned to work happily in a job I loved until “whenever” , probably waiting until closer to 70 so I could get full Social Security and rack up more dollars in my 401K.  I was healthy and reasonably fit, had a wonderful family, friends, a great team and excellent leaders and very satisfying work. That was a nice plan until about May 2013  when in an instant ( literally) my job changed dramatically and painfully and I began the slow descent from “I’m happy to get up in morning and enjoy my work!” into ” How am I ever going to survive this?”  As my partner will attest to,  I am stubborn and slow to change the big things in my life. Additionally I come from a background of finishing what you started so after investing 33 years in my company, I figured I could/should keep going and figure out how to turn the new job ( aka: “lemons”) into something good ( aka: “lemonade”)  as I had always been able to in the past.

Well, perhaps it was my age causing a lack of flexibility or perhaps the job really did suck but I could not adapt nor rid myself of the infantile anger at what “they did to me“.
I became more and more depressed and defeated trying to do an impossible job for impossible people in spite of what I NOW see as gdepressedood advice from friends and family to quit or change jobs  (see “stubborn and slow to change..” above) !



I was also caught in the web of ” I can’t afford to retire…we’ll be living under a bridge in no time or at least can’t buy “stuff” anymore!” I was becoming a “not- very-nice” person, losing all energy and motivation and was now so miserable that I was not functioning well and finally sought out some good therapy!   This is the somewhat terrifying bottom point where I was last October when I finally made the decision to stop being miserable and take the leap.  My partner and I were camping at Santa Cruz at Costanoa KOA in the Itsy Bitsy Casita( Good things always seem to happen in our RV’s!!!)trailer


During that beautiful weekend,  we talked a LOT and she did the bookkeeping “math” to show me how we could manage it and talked about options to fill in any financial gaps ( take a part-time job, promote your DJ business,  sell all that stuff on eBay you’ve been threatening to sell, etc.) . We got home that Saturday and went through it all again on a spreadsheet ( once again, see “…stubborn and slow to change… ” above) and I literally started to cry as I realized that there was a “path forward”!   Sunday, I signed up for Social Security and Monday ,  I gave my 2 week notice after 35 years at my company and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Two weeks later I walked away from my company and into the next stage of my life and I was SMILING!

What did I learn? 

  • Don’t wait until you are nearly immobile with unhappiness to make a change.waiting 1

If you hate what you are doing, do something else, anything else to get moving again. Once you get to the truly “stuck-in-quicksand” spot, you’re likely to make dubious decisions out of panic or pain. Make choices while you are objective and powerful! I chose to retire as opposed to change jobs for a number of reasons. I was lucky that I could make a fast course correction and had both financial and emotional resources to allow me to make that “sudden” change.

  • It’s good to listen to your people.

people talking

Your friends and family are like gold. They have ideas that may help you and even if the ideas don’t all work for you, you find out who gives a darn about you which brings your power back!  Even better, they will listen to you ramble on until you cannot babble any longer which is very important. You cannot and should not try to do this alone…big and brave does not always get you what you need. Let your “peeps” take the journey with you!

  • You can live on a lot less than you think you canbudget

I was overly fixated on having enough money to live on and that OMG I could not retire because we’d starve. We aren’t wealthy so this change would mean some things would need to change to be able to afford this move. What I soon realized ( see above… “It’s good to listen to your people”)  is that a lot of what we think we need to survive is nothing but stuff you can easily do without. We consulted some dear friends in our FW family who learned how to minimize almost everything and they are not suffering for it. They shared their tips and tricks that I’m still using today.

So, this is some of what I learned as I  fell into retirement. It was neither a graceful nor an elegant beginning …more like a Hippo diving into a tea cup but I think I’m going to be OK and I have no regrets.

How did you do it and what did you learn?  Were you one of those who planned every “NANO-DETAIL” before you said goodbye or like me did you wait until it got so bad, you felt you had no choice?  Did you crash into retirement like a wrecking ball or sail calmly into that next big stage?  Those of you who are thinking about retirement, how do you think it’s going to happen…what ‘s the plan, Stan?  Do you have a plan?  Do you even need/want a plan? ( excluding finances of course…lol) Do you even want to retire because these days many folks don’t for many good reasons and some not so good ones.  Maybe you just need to get paid for doing something ELSE that will feel like retirement and remind you of who that astounding woman IS in there….! . Let’s share some thoughts, some wisdom and even perhaps some chuckles.

Next Time:   Part 2 – I’m Freeeeeeeee….  OMG, Now What?”

11 thoughts on “Retirement…Whaaaaat??????

  1. Hi…age 62 and bought 19′ rv….trying to learn the basics…live in northern Nevada. hope to retire February….looking to find friends interested in camping in the area. Cheryl

    • Hi I just retired too, and I am wanting to find friends to do the same. I just bought a truck camper and I live in southern calif.

  2. I will retire on June 30, 2016, yes, in 10 days. Yikes!! After sitting in a chair for 25 years I started to feel like I could not sit on my fanny for one more day in a cubicle. I would get a walking job as a mail carrier, but I’m 62 and work is getting in the way of my social life – “Camping is calling…I must go!”

    I have never made a lot of $$ working for the State, but I have been saving a bit every month in my 401K and I have a Roth IRA specifically for travel so I will be OK. The financial pipeline to my two children has slowed to a drip drip drip now that they are over 30 so that should help. I hope to do some pet sitting or maybe drive the shuttle at Mel Rapton Honda or whatever just for golf money. So that’s the big plan for now.

    • I am excited for you and you sound like you have a basic plan to get you started but you haven’t locked yourself into and hard and fast things. You’re going to need time to breathe this new fresh air. Now the fun begins as you figure out what to do with all that glorious freedom…. I will be thinking of you in 10 days! Cheers!

  3. Thank YOU for sharing, Merrily! Your plan sounds very exciting and you have a plan that looks like it can hold you together until you get “there”! Congratulations on the decision and don’t look back! And Peggy, you sound like that perfect example of what satisfying work can replace “something else”. Cheers to you both!

      • Hi I retired in Aug 2015, I just bought a truck camper, so I may join you in Aug for my first gathering.


        • That would be wonderful…Cassini is a great outing… well worth the effort… I think there are only partial hookups left but reach out to the outing host and she can assist!

  4. LOVE IT!!!!! I, too, am starting to FEEL back to “my good ol’ self’!! Once the decision was made – WOW!! Many of you know the troubles I was having with my school district and thankfully the climate changed this last year & no longer living in survival could almost feel again. Student’s apathy was pulling me down, parents blaming me and not allowing their “innocent” child to have to take any responsibility for their actions (or lack of their actions)! Chris and I talked! Decision made. I felt free-er! I am deciding to wait until my birthday in Oct ( to get that extra $100/month more for life!! 🙂 BUT I have my summer off as usual!!! So I will go back to work for 5 weeks in fall and test kids and be done!! NO MORE CLASSROOM!!!
    We had booked a cruise to begin 5 days after my retirement! We (kids, too) are heading out from San Francisco, going south through the Panama Canal and end in Ft Lauderdale, FL. We are renting a car and driving to Key West and back up through the Everglades and then to visit our friends (who recently moved to Tampa Bay area. Fly home. Pick up our pets and RV and begin our 10 month RV schooling adventure of the western states (west of the Mississippi).
    Getting the house ready to lease is this summer’s job!!
    Thank you Arleen for sharing your story and allowing me space to share our adventure to the next phase of our lives!
    In Sisterhood,

  5. What a terrific post, Arleen!!! I had a similar experience and have never for one nano second regretted taking the leap! As many folks know, I retired way back in 2003, but have continued to teach for several universities, edit a journal, and pursue organizational activities are much more worthwhile than I ever thought possible. I also play a lot more! I often tell people that I had to retire because my job was interfering with my work! Everyone’s sitaution is different, but to me, happiness is worth any type of risk!!

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