SOME THOUGHTS ON RETIREMENT
by Jack Ahern, Retired Professor
Oh, yes, and do smell the flowers.
- If you have an option, you’ll know when you’re ready. That’s
when you go.
- Individuals who look forward to retirement as an escape from the life they are
living are invariably disappointed no matter what they say.
- Workaholics—in my experience—are happy retirees. Busy but happy.
- Retirement is not for everyone. Some folks should work for their own good health
and for the good mental health of others.
- You may think retirement means spending less. Not so. You will have more time to
spend money and do things that cost money like travel and hobbies. On the other
hand to delay retirement until you have enough money doesn’t work, as you
never have enough money.
- Self Concept
- Set goals and then identify enabling objectives for those goals
- Make the goals doable, personal and visible.
- Do not set objectives that you are not likely to achieve (e.g. not a 32 inch waist
but a 36 inch one).
- Health is you major occupation now. Staying alive and fit in this stage is your
major responsibility to your family.
- Exercise has obvious as well as subtle benefits. Every article on staying healthy
recommends it for reasons of your physical as your mental health. You feel good when
you see the results and it is a nice way to meet like-minded retirees. The younger
crowd goes before and after “work.” Go at other times. For your own morale,
you don’t want to see them. Comparisons are inevitable and painful.
- If you are on Medicare doctors are free and they want your business. Do not hesitate
to use them. Besides they usually subscribe to People magazine. As my father and
grandfather both had prostate cancer, I get two check ups a year. Degrading procedure
but not as degrading as a hospital stay.
- DO STUFF
- Now is the time to do what you always wanted to do but didn’t, couldn’t and
wouldn’t. A colleague has become a world traveler. She’s Just back from
Vietnam and China. Not my cup of tea but it does get you an audience at parties. As for me,
I took horseback riding lessons at 63. A great failure and not recommended, but I got it
out of my system. I also took art lessons and took a course on the opera. Got them out.
- Gardening: This is the number one hobby of seniors. Be optimistic: plant perennials. Hell,
plant sapling trees. But remember you are older: do not economize on mulch. Weeding is
therapeutic for workers. For seniors it’s tiresome and can mean a visit to a
chiropractor, I know. Spend money on plants and especially fertilizer and water. It is not
that expensive a hobby. Use a service for mowing and fertilizing the lawn if you don’t
like these chores. Share. “Deadheading,” means to cut off blooms before they
resort to seeds. Same effect if you give bouquets to friends and/or cut flowers and bring
them in. Sophisticates share seeds—I’m working on that. Get a water feature. A
pond with a fountain costs about $100 and two hours of digging. But what a pleasure. They
attract all kinds of birds. Buy “feeders” (young gold fish) and watch these
ten cent fish grow. We have had three morning coffees—our friends call them garden parties.
Very Victorian, very easy.
- Cooking: Learn to cook and better yet learn to appreciate good food. Because Anne had
some health problems we had to stop using salt. I learned at a seminar that I should
really substitute stuff like wine, garlic, and herbs. It really makes for a better taste.
And no real work. We have our chicken breast marinating in red wine that was going
bad—and healthy seniors know you have to find lots of ways of making chicken
breasts. Try throwing a little dry sherry on it before serving or add it to a cream
of mushroom soup sauce. My Irish friends explained that just as the French celebrate
the new red wine, the Irish celebrate the new potato season. Well, in North West Ohio
it’s tomatoes. Is there anything better than a bacon, lettuce and beefeater tomato
sandwich? But also we celebrate the new Vidalia onions, and strawberries and blueberries,
as well as corn and green beans. As for zucchini, well that’s an acquired taste that I
have not acquired. “Oh, neighbor, another loaf of zucchini bread? How interesting.”
We no longer use any canned or frozen vegetables and eat Special K. Vanilla with fresh
berries (I use strawberries, bananas, and blueberries) is a delight—and causes great
regularity. Remember what Oscar Wilde said: “Sex is the most overrated thing in the
world and a good bowel movement is the most underrated.” Anyway, enjoying and
shopping for regional and seasonal fresh vegetables and fruit is now something that
you have time for. Enjoy.
- TIPS FOR THOSE WHO NOW HAVE TIME
- Sit on the porch/deck and open the windows during a rainstorm.
- Go for a walk in a park but at a time when the cross country track team is not there.
- Get a thistle feeder and use it year round. Gold finches prefer ones in which they eat
- Get or make a bluebird feeder.
- Write. An autobiography is your life story. Memoirs are what you want to remember. So
write what you want the kids to read.
- Buy a convertible or motorcycle or a bike and go for a ride in the spring or fall.
On a quieter road.
- Take up bird watching. You have time.
- Start corresponding. That is what email is for. Cheaper than therapy.
- My stockbroker who reviewed my retirement budget said, “Jack, what are you saving
money for?” (I have a very good and secure pension.) For me that was life altering.
Similar to an early adage that has defined my life: “It is better to regret what you
have done than what you have not done.” Do it.
- Television is addictive. We don’t turn it on until the news—which Anne watches.
I get too damn mad. But if we are sick we do it and are amazed and delighted as we watch movies.
But the joy is the novelty. If you watch it everyday, all day, well, as my sainted mother
would say as she served a steak, “Jackie, aren’t we lucky not to be rich?
Rich people have it every day and so they don’t enjoy it as much as we do.”
- Cocktails! Be wary of weekday cocktails and weekday toppers. Because we have no meetings to
chair or presentations to make, we can sleep in so... Well, as mother might have said:
“Thank God for hangovers. If we didn’t have hangovers...“
- Crossword puzzles are addictive. Anne has agreed not to talk to me on Monday and Tuesday
until I finish the Times puzzle. She knows I am “in” when I ask her for the
location of the 1980 winter Olympics.
- BE A SENIOR AND ENJOY IT
- My mother had a fight one day with my Dad that I overheard. She said to Dad, “Your
problem is that you are shanty Irish and made a little money and you don’t appreciate
either.” This is your time. Enjoy it.
- Know and use discounts. A number of stores have special days in which seniors get discounts.
Not only do you save money it gets you out of the house and you meet all your old friends
and fellow retirees.
- Travel! Go on an Elderhostel trip. They are not expensive and attract like-minded types.
For example, if you thought there were no more liberal Republicans go on an Elderhostel
trip. They are older but there. Our favorite trip remains the Chelsea Garden show in
England. We also use Grand Circle River Cruises (started by the founder of the AARP). You
can tour Germany, France and Hungary without changing hotel rooms. The boat is your hotel.
A cruise is something to experience. It is just like the ads. Our last trip was with
relatives so dinners were a lot of fun, but getting a table for two is very difficult
and you may not like your dinner guests. They ain’t all liberal Republicans!
Vegas: A fantasy and something you must see once. Although we love Florida and would
love to have a winter home there, Toledo folks are now going to North Carolina. Must be
golfers who sweat a lot. An aside: A friend who climbed Kilimanjaro as a senior when
asked why did you do that, he responded, “I might not be able to do it next year.”
I think that is profound and something every senior should think about. At this stage you
can no longer procrastinate. If you do it is a gamble and I don’t take chances. Does
that mean Anne and I will be sailing down the Nile next year? Stay tuned.
- Sleep in. Anne is not always in awe or even respectful of my wisdom. When she retired I
took her out to dinner and asked her, “Now, what are your goals in retirement?”
She said, “To sleep in.” But we do—not as late as we did before we had kids.
Oh, those were fun days. For complicated reasons I get up three days a week at 4:45 AM to drive
a son to work. Anne is up three days at 6:30 to go exercising and on our days “off”
we do sleep in and without guilt.
- LIFE STYLE
- The house. You are going to spend much, much more time “at home.” We spent a good part
of our “golden parachute” remodeling the house—for retirement. We added a very
large screened porch and made a guest suite. Both of which reflect our new life style. Our house
is not large but we have ensured that Anne would have a room for reading and watching TV as well
as a place for privacy. I have an area for reading and writing and listening to my music. I think
it is very necessary to have private places. You don’t go to the office anymore. You
can’t. It is interesting to me how many of our friends have moved to if not much larger
housing at least more luxurious.
- Volunteering. Beware of churches and non-profits. I strongly suggest saying “No” for
the first six months (I did for three years). Otherwise they will consume you. Anne is on the
All Saints School Board and when the principal there retired, one board member called the pastor
and suggested Anne do it. “She is so good and it wouldn’t cost us anything.” I
think one needs time to lake care of chores and ancient “to do’s” before doing
things for others. Since agreeing to serve again, I have quit three committees—I didn’t
enjoy them. The two that I am out now have been tried out and well chosen. The luxury of being
retired is saying “No Way.”
- Money. Different folks are at different situations. Because of Anne’s two bouts with cancer,
we really have acquired a different attitude about money. A hard way to learn. My thoughts:
- Buy things for the kids now. I was frustrated about Mark borrowing my shop vacuum, leaf
blower, etc. Solution: buy one for him now. Less hassle and much appreciated. Why wait
till you die? I bought Matt a very small house. If I hadn’t he wouldn’t have one
till I died.
- We are not going on a family cruise. I wanted to and researched it with other cruise goers.
One guy said, “I did it. Dumbest thing I ever did.” My family reactions were
similar. Oh well.