Retirement Stories – Part 1
Peter Tibbles' Travel Travails and Salmon Recipe

Retirement Stories – Part 2

Like some of the elders discussed in Part 1 of this series, I was forced into retirement before my time but luckier that it was before the 2008 crash. Laid off in 2004, my young colleagues were finding new jobs within six, eight or 10 weeks while my unemployment dragged on.

There were not many interviews and some of the hiring managers who were eager to meet me after speaking on the telephone, suddenly discovered the job they'd listed had been filled overnight when this 64-year-old face showed up the next day for the interview.

Because I had been employed as a independent contractor (probably illegally), I was ineligible for unemployment insurance and after a year, the only solution to my alarming debt that climbed higher with each passing month was to sell my New York City home and find somewhere less expensive to live.

That took another year. Then I scrimped by until I was eligible for full Social Security at age 65 and eight months.

My point in repeating all that (2005 posts about it here and here) is that I did not choose to retire and in fact, oblivious to the passing years, I had never thought about when I might stop working or made any kind of plan. I'd had no idea the day I was laid off with a dozen colleagues that I would not work again.

Other people, looking forward to their retirement, do plan for it. Like this guy, Tony Lopez, whose first day off the job was 16 March:

That video is from “Day One Retirement Story,” a promotional campaign for Prudential who would undoubtedly like to become your and my financial adviser. Ordinarily, I steer away from anything on this blog that would promote commercial services, but I think this is a well-done series with some thought behind it that applies to us at TGB.

One of the most common things I hear from other retired people is their joy in giving up the alarm clock, of no longer living on someone else's schedule. I agree and so does Nadine Peterson whose first day of retirement was 31 July 2011.

At the Day One website is a growing collection of audio, video and still photos with quotations from recent retirees who have been interviewed for the project. As you would guess, health, family and grandchildren are common topics of the retirement stories but the three folks who made these observations put a big smile on my face:

“Happiness is an inside job.”

“I am even considering joining the Peace Corps.”

“I'm going to start building another boat.”

In this video, Mujahid Abdul-Rashid, whose Day 1 was 30 July 2011, says the prospect of retirement made him realize that he had almost skipped the father part of life and now he wants to do the grandfather part a little differently. Here's his story:

I'm a bit jealous that I slid unknowingly into retirement and don't have a Day 1 after the job. Now, eight years later (has it really been that long?), this blog and through it, trying to demystify what getting old is really like, has become my job.

In the past few months, I've taken on a couple of volunteer positions related to aging with the city I live in and the county, but the blog and exploration of age remain foremost. Except that I don't get a paycheck, my days are not much different from when I worked, almost as though I've not retired and that's fine with me.

If I had my druthers, I would still be in my apartment on Bedford Street in New York City. I would like, too, to have been gainfully employed for at least an additional five or six years.

But life doesn't always go as we want and given the circumstances of the economic times we live in now, it would be a churlish of me to complain. Retirement just rolled a different way for me than for many others.

Now, it's your turn. If retired, did you plan how it would go? How's that working out? Or if you're not retired yet, what are your plans? Do you think you will be able to achieve them? And for both circumstances, how has the recession/depression affected your retirement?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: What Makes a “Readers' Write?”


Scared! Thats my first thought, I am 68 1/2 and hoping to retire in one year. I have feverishly worked on budget after budget and will not have a lot to live on, but I think life is passing me by and I feel like I could still contribute to make people's lives better. I am unable to do that while behind a desk 40 hrs a week! Life is what happens, though, while you are making plans!! Go see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - a wonderfully subtle and moving film about retirees.

Like many older adults, I must bring in $ to match what I get in Social Security. One of my old friends joked the other day, "We had our retirement when we were young." It's true that as hippies we worked when we had too, then took off to travel and play for awhile. In this current world, that seems so charming and fairytale like.

I will never retire from my creative aging and related artistic work, which does not yet pay the bills. Moving to another country, shifting income sources to creative aging project, or receiving $ gift from fairy godmother would allow me to stop working a bread and butter job. Right now I am still at work seeking the resolution.

I retired May 1, 2011. DH is still working full time. While we had planned for and funded our 403b accounts, my retirement occured suddenly two years before I had planned due to health issues. It has totally surprised me how much I love being retired. I loved my job and had always worked so I thought I'd be bored and lonely. It turns out that I have more than enough to occupy my time with quilting, reading, birdwatching, gardening,& cooking. And I have as much company as I want with family, church, and volunteering. Love, love, love, not having to rush from one thing to the next!!

We relocated when my husband got a new job where he could work from home (when not traveling). I quit my job and started a new career as a freelance writer/blogger. Do not (yet) make anywhere near my previous income, but life is grand. No strict schedules, other activities work around my writing. I plan on writing for years and years, supplementing our income.

I'm 77 and still working but that's hardly surprising. I've been a freelance writer most of my life and that's something you can go on doing well into old age. I live in a retirement community, and my friends are well and truly retired. If asked, they would say (as my father did) that they can't imagine where they ever found the time to go to work. But I have to say, I dread the day when I need to stop working. There goes my identity.

I am on the cusp of retirement, will complete a five-year phased retirement (during which I taught a half-load in my department at the University of Minnesota) at the end of the fall semester this year. Given that, unlike Ronni’s experience at finding initial employment without difficulty, I entered the job market, PhD in hand, in 1971, at a time when humanities fields were hiring virtually not at all. I fought to find a job, gave up finding one where I was living, expanded my search state-wide, then nationally, all the while contemplating commuting from where my then-husband was teaching and trying to figure out how to work out arrangements for our kids and us. After finding nothing, then working as an editor for much of a year, then getting a post-doc on site at the local university, I found a tenure-track job which I liked, but which involved extended commuting, all of which improved when I got the Minnesota job, not quite so far away. In other words, I struggled and fought for a job, which means that, at this end of the game, I am enormously ambivalent about retiring. Children are grown, I am divorced. I also have a couple of books underway that perhaps I can finish now. But whereas I have always assumed that I would continue the work I have done all my life, eliminating only teaching and interminable meetings and doing the research and especially the writing that I love, now that I am 73 and feeling it, now that I see how good the daily contact with a department, colleagues, students is – I am no longer sure about much at all.

But I haven’t been retired yet. And thanks to this blog, I feel another world opening up. And I am hopeful. I guess.

I retired from computer jobs (programmer, etc) about 8 years ago at 64. Hadn't started to save anything until my mid-40s but, tho I never made all that much, I lived on 1/2 my income for many years before retirement, maxed out my 401K, invested in mutual funds, & retired when I reached my goal of a mil. Still live very cheaply. Lost about 20% during the crisis but have regained it. Wish I had retired sooner.

It's hard to believe that I have been retired for 30 years. Like Ronni, I was forced to retire before I was ready due to a hearing loss.

I have trouble remembering what a job was like now, but I do remember being tied to an alarm clock always irked me. When you are still productive and want to work and can't find a job being retired is not joyful.
I love it now, but at the time it very stressful.

I was fired at age 55 by a new boss, with no reason given (right-to-work state). Two pretty new young secretaries hired immediately thereafter were a clue, however. It was a good 10 years before the graceful exit I'd imagined and it devastated me financially and, especially, emotionally. (Later I learned the word was that I'd had a nervous breakdown!) Like you, Ronni, I went to countless interviews that became dead ends as soon as I walked through the door. I was good at my job, but I never worked again. With help from family, I'm getting by reasonably well. Filed for SS a few years early on advice of family. But I harbor a lot of cynicism from the firing and its aftermath.

The Peace Corp will take fit, college educated retired people. A friend of mine recently finished a two year stint in Thailand and loved the experience, even the hardship parts of it. One thing she said it did for her was to take the focus off herself and her problems (which were very serious). Peace Corps provided her with useful work, adventure, new friends...She'll be home in a couple of days and I'm eager to see her! She kept in touch the whole time via Facebook. My favorite pic she sent was of an elephant ambling along beside a highway, as natural as you please!

Oops. Sorry, Ronni. My comment above might be better filed under Retirement Stories, Part 1. And you might add that I bought a small house in 2007, supposedly when the market was at bottom and about to rise. We all know how that went ...

I retired from junior high teaching at 62, about 3-4 years earlier than I had planned in order to move to another state to marry my new husband. I had been divorced less than a year when we met so this was a huge leap of faith for me!

I stepped in and took a part-time teaching job here in Phoenix for a few months when a charter school desperately needed a qualified science teacher to finish out the year, then realized that I was done with teaching.I came home SO exhausted every day!

I fell into a flexible paid position where I am sort of a "substitute local grandma" for two children, ages 9 and 11, picking them up and driving them after school to swim team and meets, baseball and home, where I help them with Math when needed. The parents are grateful and able to replace me when my husband and I are traveling or ill. DH was out of jobs for two years, but now has one big one left (he's a contractor)then he will retire, sort of. He will continue to do small in-home electrical jobs as long as he can and keeping up our rentals so we can survive financially.

Miniscule retirement for me - taught in private schools too long- and very little savings after two years of under-employment. Without Social Security and Medicare we would have lost everything these past two years!

I retired twenty two years ago at age 58. The politics of my department (in a university) was part of the reason; the other part was a deep dislike of working for a living rather than living for its own sake and working for the sake of the work. The key to my happy retirement was a willingness to embrace decreased status and a degree of poverty. St. Francis, in my opinion, knew how to live. I am very grateful for all the traditions that guide some of us away from the rat race.

I, too, was forced out early -- in my 50s -- and found it difficult to find a new job. Age discrimination? It's all over the place!

However, I knew it was coming -- my company had been faltering for years -- so I was able to make plans ahead of time. My biggest worry was medical insurance. I didn't think I'd be able to get it at any price, but I found a reasonable plan thru an organization I belong to, altho' I'm looking forward to getting on Medicare ... which will be pretty soon. Hope it saves me some money and maintains my quality of care.

If we had all the money we needed/wanted, I'm not sure I'd still be working at 75--but I probably would be since I have pretty close to an ideal arrangement. I've been with the same nonprofit agency for 37 years. After starting at entry level and working my way into a top management position, I semi-retired several years ago and now do administrative support work part time. I'm able to work from home except for one day a week, when I commute to our main office. My husband, now 82, retired fully in 2006 and doesn't miss working at all.

In hearing the stories of other retirees and near-retirees, especially those who have been forced to retire inadvertently, I realize once again how very fortunate I've been. Although I no longer have the responsibilities and decision-making authority (or commensurate pay) that I did for many years, I'm still in the workforce, and that's always been a part of my identity.

I started volunteering with a cat rescue agency in January 2011, and it's become a very active gig. There are days when I feel as pressed for time as I did 25 years ago. Still, I know that I can stop working at any point, so I have some control. Our income will take a hit when I do retire, but we've been able to leave (what remains of) our retirement assets intact, except for RMD--and the longer I work, the fewer years they'll need to last.

My recommendation to younger people who have jobs: save and invest as much as you can NOW when you have time on your side. We live below our means but didn't start planning for retirement until well into middle age--far too late to eliminate financial concerns later in life.

What an interesting series. Please do keep us up on any new good "Day One" stories. Though, reading through your reader's comments also provides many diverse stories.

Last year, I was more or less forced to become self-employed at the age of 54. Offically, I have another 12 years to work.

In Germany, the retirement age for women rose from 60 to 67 a few years ago. Some friends of mine had the pleasure of retiring at 60. Others, like my mother-in-law, who worked her whole life on a production line, retired officially at 60 and then went on to work "voluntarily" for another 10 years.

I some times wonder whether went I get to offically retire at 67 whether I will have to "voluntarily" continue to work for the rest of my life.

Observing immediate family members experiences as I was growing up -- unexpected events occurring to upend plans -- could be health issues, others acts, work opportunities, etc. -- I concluded early in life I would always remember to "keep my options open."

What that meant to me was to pursue my goals but be prepared for the possibility they might go off track. In fact, there were occasions when that proved to be true, altering my trajectory, so I sought employment outside my preferred area of focus.

I learned a lot along the way that I was able to apply elsewhere to my benefit. So, when I was wanting and needing to seek midlife career goals, I weighed my options, determined I would pursue employment in an adjunct area to my primary preference after weighing pros and cons associated with my preferred career.

Ironically, I had considered entering the banking industry (among other possibilities) since I had prior experience and by then the glass ceiling for women I had encountered years ago had been raised higher. I was glad I didn't go that route after financial industry events in the '80s and then, again, in recent years upended that world. I decided against urgings of a real estate agency owner friend to forgo that profession, though if I had been careful through the subsequent years I might have been able to navigate those up down years. A friend in another State has done so.

Fortunately, the choice I made has proven to be in a profession for which there is a continuing demand. Even then, I planned, took extra training and additional work experience requirements, to be able to work with most all age levels in a wide variety of that profession's settings.

My primary focus had been on severely disordered language, initially with children, but life had other plans. Instead, my work has been with adults in health care settings and I thoroughly enjoy it.

Family circumstances to which I chose to give precedence limited my ability to fully pursue greater expansion of my career that I desired, but I contented myself with the situation -- not without complications and internal struggles.

I'm glad I continue to have opportunities to work -- both before my husband died, for a number of reasons, and, especially, since he died. I like the mix of having days, weeks, occasionally a month, with no work, though I am on call daily M-F. With a minimum of arranging I can easily obtain backup coverage through a group I've worked with and sometimes help now should I wish to make short or lengthy trips away.

I could work more but have welcomed decreasing my personal and professional commitments after all these years. That's sort of a double-edged sword for me.

When I don't have patients I can be productive at home, but since my husband's death that has strangely been a challenge. I can indulge my lazying around, but can fall into withdrawal from direct contact with humankind, which is partially how I learned the hard way, too much time spent at the computer is not always in my best interest.

I welcome the days I work (only 3 miles from my home, now that I've ceased the short 8 mile trip to a second facility.) That has been another work criteria in my life, wherever we lived, that I/we would never work/live where excessive daily commuting was necessary if in a traditional work week job.

The mental challenges in my work, interactions with other medical staff, patients and family members keeps me involved with life outside of whatever personal activities in which I engage. Certainly with family miles away and limited visits dependent now on my traveling, such work involvements enhance my life and pocketbook.

I haven't been able to achieve the financial growth I had expected, but I was grateful I was earning the resources to meet some of those unexpected life needs. Building those resources for myself had to occur late in my life due to other responsibilities.

Others entering midlife now into my profession, and other select work, would be able to begin to accumulate meaningful retirement resources had they not been able to do so earlier in life. However, I am acutely aware that anyone not in those health care professions, who is beyond midlife, have few, if any, options to find such opportunities elsewhere.

I assume any supposed assured regular retirement benefits I receive are subject to dissolution on a minutes notice given the economic world today.

Basically, I am comfortable, expect that situation to prevail, but have learned we cannot be certain of anything or anyone in life.

I'm far from ready to fully retire as I think I'm wise to continue to "keep my options open."

Like you, Ronnie, I was laid off from a non-profit in 2008 at age 64. I decided to take some classes to brush up on my marketing skills. However, while I took classes I sent out resumes, went on some interviews but to no avail. I suddenly realized that I was retired from the life I knew of working in the "business world."
During this time I was doing part-time work as a dog walker (my dog walker, from I worked, asked me to help you out). Well, this has turned into my retirement job to supplement my SS. It has worked out great because my passion has always been dogs, volunteering with rescue groups, being out in nature and exercise. I now have the flexibility I want, with a little additional income. Though I live modestly, it has been a wonderful experience. Oh, I forgot to mention that I do not spend all day taking out dogs, it is about 2-3 hours during the midday. I have the time in the morning and late afternoons to do what I want.
I never pictured myself retired, so this solves the problem, gives me some income, gets me out and I meet great people on my outings. 69 isn't so bad afterall.

I’ll be retiring in a few months and I must admit that the thought of not receiving a paycheck, however minuscule, makes me nervous.

My husband lost his job many years ago and I’ve been carrying him on my insurance at my workplace. He has health issues that require many prescriptions some of which are not yet generic. We will be looking into Part D plans and also check into what he’s entitled to as a veteran.

I like my job but there have been many personnel changes and I no longer at 70 feel comfortable.

I’m certified by the State of NJ as an advocate for the institutionalized elderly and will look into returning as a volunteer. Also, I desperately need to step up my computer skills and will look into adult classes.

I have slowly read Parts 1 and 2 and comments. This is real life for aging Americans, the reality we need to address more in the media, in our political life.

Thanks to all of you--and Ronni. Mostly by luck my life is privileged at the moment. It was my own decision to retire at 62. Though I did the travel described by some--and glad of it--it was challenging to invent a new, active life. I'd make a different choice now.

But I will never forget the years I had little money/looked for work. Was it different in my 20s & 30s because I was part of a young group, less desperate than I'd be now? It seems very difficult for young people now; they have less of a shiny future ahead.

As we are reminded often here: vote--and sign petitions. It matters!

Well like you I was fired unexpectedly in late 2008. I was 58+ at the time with one child in college. After looking for a new job for 110 weeks, 6 days with almost no job interviews, I realized that the idea of getting a new job wasn't likely to happen. At that point I changed my status to retired.

I was lucky in that I benefited from the extended unemployment and cobra benefits. Otherwise I am not sure that I would have been able to make it financially.

Now that I've accepted that I am retired, I find that I don't miss much about the work world. I do miss the relationships I had with coworkers and work did offer structure to my week. I have had to rebuild those parts of my life but I am less stressed and healthy. So life goes on!

For those of you who had misfortune at the end of a long career, let me tell you that is par for the course. Those who are not downsized, laid-off or fired are marginalized, made to feel superfluous--excess baggage! That is the fate of the older worker.

I worked 30 years for the same large employer. I watched it happen to the older workers when I was young, and 25 years later I saw it happen to me and others my age. I loved my job until the last 5 years, when it gradually became unbearable. Older, experienced workers are not wanted.

Claire Jean: NJ has many orgnizations that will try to assist veterans, starting with the VA. If he has any problems, try locating a VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, etc.

Also, each NJ county has an Office on Aging.

[Sorry, Ronni. Didn't see any other way to reach her.]

I retired in 2005 when my department decided to lay off all the administrative help for a department of 150 doctors. They told me - with a big shark grin - that they weren't going to lay ME off. I asked for a raise because my work load and responsibilities were going to double. I was told that they only promoted people whom they valued and they wanted fresh blood. I told them that I had always thought they were vampires and now they had proved it. Before they were able to pick their jaws up from the floor, I had my letter requesting retirement on their desks. NOW, I had been planning for 10 years to retire at 62. My employer, although a huge state and federal financed medical center had been behaving more and more like the most unethical corporation around. I knew that I would get a pension, had saved 28% of my salary for years, and had a couple of part time jobs (medical bookkeeping) lined up to fill in the gap between my pension and my anticipated social security. I knew that there was no point in looking for any decent full time work because nobody wanted to hire a worker over 60. I went back to college, do volunteer work and eventually landed a job writing art reviews for a local internet paper. I LOVE IT! I am my own boss, don't have to answer to irrational/ egotistical bosses and intend to keep on going until I can't any more. But I planned and scraped and saved for retirement and put up with a lot on my job just for that pension. So, I know that I had options that a lot of people didn't and I'm extremely grateful for that.

AFter my first post in this comment section, I just had to add that 'right to work' state or not, it is a FEDERAL Title VII violation to discriminate. This is what I do for a living, and it certainly appears that some of you had good age discrimination cases. A good labor attorney will not charge you up front. Some of the factors, and there are many, include: if you were replaced by someone much younger, if you were a good employee with commendations, if you were one of few older employees, if specific comments like "when are you going to retire" were made. Don't lie down and take it, there are remedies!!

Thank you Susan for reaching out...My husband has started the process of checking into every avenue...
Luckily, my benefits will last longer than my retire date giving us any additional time needed.

I am 68 and have been retired from the grocery industry for 6 years. I was a union member for 30 years and have a defined pension benfit with a cola plus Social Security. I was a produce person for all those years and more.

What I do not hear in these comments about retiring is anyone doing political work to try and get better outcomes finacially and societily for all of us.

Was this not appropriate in this particular situation? I am not judging people. I know how life can be down right fearsome and the need for hope.

I am just curious as to why people are disengaged from political activity at time when it is so necessary to be engaged. Take care

The elders on this blog have been politically engaged doing exactly what you are asking for years and years and years.

You may not, as you say, be judging anyone, but you apparently are unaware of the activism by readers of this blog.

This post was about retirement stories, something we have hardly ever done. We'll get back to activism and agitating soon enough - and repeatedly.

yes, I was unaware and now thankful for peoples work. I actaully enjoyed the stories that people told and think more story telling would be

I apologize if I offended anyone.

I retired this year, at 63, self-emploued. Younger spouse still works. I immigrated to Canada from the US in my 20s. DH had a serious heart problem in April: 2 weeks inpatient care, specialists, tests. We will never see a bill. Even simply not having to file the paperwork was a huge help when you're so stressed.

We are solidly middle class, not counting pennies but watching dollars. We moved to a cheaper city a year ago and that's been both a delight and a cost savings. Many elders resist relocation but it can be a really wise move, and stimulating as well.

I am 64.6 years old.
I took voluntary retirement from primary 29 year career job at 61 years old. I knew people in my industry and landed a job at 60% of previous pay. I worked there for two years and now have a job at 85% of career job pay. I'm lucky but getting tired. I may hang on for a few more months to up to maybe 24 months more.

My worries are:
Is it healthy to work 55 - 60 hours per week at my age?
Am I addicted to work and might not retire until I collapse or they fire me?
Do I want to rush into the last roundup / retirement prematurely and regret it if I don't like it?
Would I miss the paycheck and would I be able to control spending and live within a budget?
Does it really matter what I decide since time and life moves along anyway, regardless?

We'll see how it goes.
In the meantime, I'm the oldest saleman still carrying a bag in my major electronics market place. People ask me all the time: When are you going to retire? I sure would like to know myself!!

I'm 85 and have been retired for 9 years - I practiced pediatrics for 44 years and would like to have practiced another 9 or 10 years, but always said I'd retire when I couldn't pay the overhead, and that came to pass - I lost $5000 the last year I practiced - it seems most parents want a younger pediatrician so their kids can grow up with the same one for 20 years or so. My time since I retired has been filled with household chores, grocery shopping, gardening, reading, playing with a computer, tv and napping and (which I really don't care for) time spent in going to doctors or taking my wife to them. But I'm certainly not complaining that I've lived this long, for life is still good (in spite of money worries) - became a grandfather for the first time 2 years ago. And every day I pray to something or someone, thanking him, her or it for my life and my love - I also ask that I may live long enough to take care of my love (my wife of 56 years) - Ideally I would die about a minute or two after she does.

Henry, that was really a nice post.

I'm seven years into retirement from more than thirty years in education, most of it at the local community college. Many of us bailed at the first possibility of retirement (w/pension, health care) because of a viciously evil administration which has grown worse over the intervening years--layoffs & program deaths abounding. Hubby was sidelined a few years earlier by back and sinus surgeries. The lawyer firm took their big cut for finally getting him disability, which he'd paid into since 14.

We worked hard for our small benefits and own our home & ancient car/trucks. It's GAS and FOOD and various insurances which are keeping us poor. People say, "Oh--you're retired--you must enjoy traveling!" BIG HA HA!!

I certainly never expected my middleclass life to dissolve into this survival-mode existence, and I blame the 1% one hundred percent!

Still, we can camp in our old bus, grow a small garden, and enjoy new friends from hubby's fiddle groups and my volunteering at the animal shelter.

But all the world travel I'd dreamed of is impossible now & just getting the six hours to Portland, OR is only every six months or so. While we are blessed overall, I'm bitter about what life would have been without the recession/depression we're all enduring.

I am Tony Lopez's wife and I suffered without designer clothes , shoes, handbags etc.. To be able to save monthly. Was it worth it? Of course, because all fashion trends come and go but money saved snowballs with time; it's a team effort and I personally thank you sire for acknowledging my hubby who is truly awesome.

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