When Will I Do It?

My friend Maery did it after fracturing her shoulder at a company outing.

My cousin Eugene did it when he ran out of staples for his office stapler.

My sister Karen did it when COVID-19 closed the dental office where she worked.

What did they do?

They retired.

But unlike me, they all had employers to retire from. They also all had a key moment when they knew it was time to do just that.

But as a freelance writer who works for dozens of clients, there’s no one employer to retire from and since I haven’t yet had a “now’s the right time” moment, I’m still saying yes to most client work that comes my way. Thankfully, I enjoy the work…and the people I work for.

That said, I am beginning to think more seriously about retirement and what it might look like for me.

Despite the fact that I’ve been dreaming about (and saving for it) since I was 22, I don’t have a very clear picture. That’s one reason why, when I turned 60 three years ago, rather than celebrating with a big party, a piece of jewelry or an exotic trip, I took a one-year sabbatical.

Though I missed having work as a way of structuring my days, I really enjoyed the downtime and the chance to unplug both personally and professionally. I also enjoyed the chance to travel for months at a time.

Although I’ve since returned to freelancing, I now say yes only to projects I can do from anywhere at any time. That way, I still have plenty of flexibility and free time, a lot of which I just putter away. Most days that feels like exactly the right thing to do.

Other days, I’m more engaged. I’ve also started journaling again and gotten reacquainted with art supplies I haven’t touched in years. I’m cooking some and reading more. I’m writing letters and calling friends. I’m even enjoying routine household chores, plus getting estimates for several home improvement projects.

Increasingly, it’s these things—not my client work—that’s giving structure to my days…and no doubt moving me closer to retirement. What sign will tell me that it’s finally time? I don’t yet know, but I do look forward to finding out.

Slouching Toward Retirement

I’m not ready to retire yet.  But if I squint I can see it from here. And I don’t like how it looks.

womanondock Baby Boomer To Do List

1. Figure out a retirement that I want to be a part of.

2. Invent a new approach to assisted living/aging in place.

3. Think up better ways to volunteer/give back.

4. Consider my legacy—what it is and how I can help others understand and value it.

5. Resist irrelevancy, crankiness, and being set in my ways.

1. Figure out a retirement that I want to be a part of. 

Trend specialists are always predicting that Baby Boomers will change the face of retirement, just as we have changed so many other institutions (the workplace, motherhood, marriage, etc.)  I sure hope so. Living in a retirement community where golf and bingo are the main attractions does not appeal to me.

Boomers tend to think we’re pretty interesting, and we assume we’ll remain so in retirement. In fact, being cool is probably our birthright! Of course, we’ll invent a better version of retirement.

But I wonder how excited we’ll be about riding our Harleys across the country, when our backs ache and our knees are going . . . . And that assumes we’ll even be retiring. Financial necessity will motivate a lot of Boomers to keep working past age 65. And who will be taking care of our elderly parents and the kids that might not be fully launched?

OK, OK. That’s WAY too much reality. Retirement is years away. Let me get back to creatively daydreaming about how I want retirement to look.

I want it to look like less work, more fun. I want a smaller place (less cleaning, less stuff), but I still want to have a postage stamp-sized yard so I can garden on a smaller scale. I hope to resume some hobbies I set aside for lack of time – pottery, for example. I’d like to learn how to do raku. Making stuff from paper—cards, collages and so forth. Jewelry and stained glass. Quilting and sewing. Maybe I’ll take up canning. Indulge my foodie self a bit more. Start a gourmet dinner group.

Travel. Maybe I can learn enough Italian so I could teach English in Italy while my husband learns the secrets of Italian cooking. Or perhaps I can study abroad (can grown-ups do that, too?), Sounds expensive. Wait, wait. No reality.  I’m daydreaming here.

Be more random and spontaneous. Take back roads and visit antique stores and cafes in little towns instead of always taking the interstate. Go to movies, concerts, plays, art galleries that I’ve never heard of. Decide on a Thursday to visit an airline fare sale city on Saturday—just to see what’s there.

I’ll definitely keep on writing whether or not I get paid. I’ve got a lot more stories to tell and perspectives to share. Besides, I’m a writer to the bone—I can’t stop even if I want to.

Keep thinking and learning. I’ve never understood how you retire your mind.  I’m way too curious and I love learning new things. I hope to audit college classes, take workshops, and read voraciously.

I intend to continue volunteering, but perhaps in different ways (more to come about #3).

I plan to keep active and healthy, but I don’t want to be obsessed with it. I’m unlikely to spend more than an hour per day on keeping fit.

I want to help my kids fix up their homes when they buy them and play with their kids if they have some.

Oh yeah, I’m still hoping to have some lasting impact on the world. I figure I’ve got at least 20 more good years. I ought to be able to change the world in that amount of time, right? I know, I know. Tick tock.

Well, except for the last one, these are pretty modest retirement goals. Sounds like a life I could live.

What do you hope to be doing?