Along with many others, I too have chosen retirement this year.
Feb. 2 will be my last day employed by Colorado State University as family and consumer science extension agent in La Plata County. I have thoroughly enjoyed this job and look forward to what a new agent will bring.
Recently, I started the task of cleaning out files. I was nostalgic as I remembered programs and happenings over the past 18 years. I realized how much I have been involved in.
I moved to this community in 1973 and have enjoyed many experiences. Some of those experiences (personal and professional) were certainly difficult, but the support I received is what I have tried to give to others.
My new chapter will include more time with my grandson and teaching classes to fulfill certification requirements for restaurants as well as cottage-food producers. I will also pursue volunteer and learning opportunities and time for crafts.
I decided to interview people who have completed their first 12 months of retirement, and here is the summary of their experiences. The list avoids the variations of financial security. One interesting statement I particularly appreciated was: “What got me here won’t get me there.”
It takes at least a year to start absorbing the facts of retirement. It didn’t happen that first day, first month or even the first year. Yes, this was actually a surprise for many.Those who are married were suddenly together – very together. Having an appreciation for personal space and personal time was found to have great value.Each person interviewed voiced an unexpected difficulty: changing from working and saving mode to a total spending mode. For some, this was a substantial stressor (regardless of financial security and assets). Choices and priorities changed and comfort became simplifying and decluttering.Change was harder than expected. There was not only the loss of structure by leaving a job but also the need to create an expanded new social structure. Tracking money coming in and money going out gave stress to some and comfort or stability to others. Several started with the guideline of taking 3.7 percent to 4 percent annually from retirement accounts. I was surprised at the difficulty for some to spend that much. For those with limited retirement funds, developing ways to minimize expenses became significant. “What day is it?” Some found it to be a benefit to have something planned at least five days a week and to continue to live by a calendar for at least that first six months. As of Feb. 3, I will suddenly have hours to fill and no one to be responsible to. Hmmm.Many tended to overfill available time and not allow time to enjoy the freedom of decision-making and change. Some found that their focus and interests changed after retirement.They voiced suddenly becoming invisible and didn’t appreciate how much we identify with a job title and what our “purpose” is. Retirees found the need to fill an entirely different role in life.Unexpected health care changes became frustrating to maneuver and understand. Health issues not anticipated until later snuck in earlier than planned. This created an increased need for and awareness of services as to in-network versus out-of-network health care providers. Universally, the thrill at the option to wear comfy clothes any time and all day was fantastic!I am hoping my research helps all of us to take control of our retirement and be in charge of our life and our goals. Details of my retirement party are being planned, and I hope to see you there as well as around town. Thank you for the memories.
Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.