Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Recently I had conversations with several friends, each of whom is approaching retirement. While retirement is an event most of us will eventually face, how we address the situation varies greatly.

Everyone has their own anticipation of what awaits in retirement. But today's women are a little more uncertain than men. Only a few decades ago most women did not work outside of the home. It was during the post-war years that large waves of women began to enter the work force.

One disadvantage that hits the newly-retired (both men and women) is not having a hobby or sport that they enjoy. Most men of my father's generation did not have hobbies. They worked long hours at their jobs and spent time with their family. Few had the time or money to indulge in hobbies. So when they retired, often they were at a loss to find something that interested them.

During one of the recent conversation, I said that I was busier now than when I worked full-time. The other participant in the chat laughed and said she can't imagine how she will fill her time.

"Do you have something you enjoy doing?" I asked.

"I like to read and take it easy," she replied.

"Well, you might want to think about how to fill your time when you stop working."

"Oh, I plan to help out my married kids. I really want to clean their houses."

This is not exactly what I had in mind. I pursued suggestions about hobbies like needlework, crafts, baking, etc. But she said such issues were of little interest. Subject changed.

If you are facing retirement, think about something that you might enjoy doing. The things that come quickly to mind include learning how to fix some new foods, cooking with more exotic items that may be unfamiliar (curry, peppers) or another cuisine entirely (Asian, Italian, German).

I have a friend whose husband discovered mid-life that he loves to bake. He truly has a gift for some fantastic creations and can't wait until retirement to open a small bakery. He has several years in which to perfect his technique and decide whether that is something he wants to do. Is there enough of a market for a bakery? Is running a bakery too confining in retirement? At least he is mulling over such a decision. That is the kind of foresight I would encourage.

I recently told another friend that she should allow herself significant time to figure out what she wants to do. After 46 years in the work place, I was glad to face retirement. But after all that structure, time constraints and personal sacrifice for the sake of the paycheck, at first I felt a little lost to make my own decisions.

It helped to continue keeping a written weekly calendar just as I had while working. It gave me structure and I still keep such a log. At the beginning of the week, I note upcoming events and then make a short "to do" list of things to accomplish. It may sound simplistic, but checking off the matters completed helps me use my time wisely.

Yes, it did take me a while to figure out what I wanted to do to fill my time. I think the key is that the chosen activity/hobby/interest should be something that you enjoy. After doing a job which you may not have enjoyed for decades, finding pleasure in every day is no small thing.

Chinese philosopher Confucius said: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." He was right, of course, though other factors often come into play when choosing a job/career, including the current job market and economic conditions.

But when it comes time to fill your own free time, keep Confucius in mind and find something you like to do. Oh, he also said, "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

Wise indeed.

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