We all know that it’s important to care for our health and finances as part of retirement planning. However, we often neglect more obvious, but no less significant, issues, such as where we will live and what we will do with our time. As one Board of Pensions seminar asks, “If you are what you do, who are you when you don’t?”
Entering this new stage of life can be a challenge, especially if you don’t start thinking about it until you’re already retired. Consider this example from Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners’ book Don’t Retire, REWIRE!
[Bill] had come to realize that a traditional retirement like his father’s was not for him. He wanted to do something productive — but he didn’t know what. He just knew that he didn’t want anything as demanding as the 24/7 existence he had been living for the past three years (xi).1
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Retirement represents a significant opportunity to not only have fun, but to return to old pursuits, and to discover new ones. First, you must examine two important issues that can have a great impact on the quality of your life’s “third stage”: deciding where to live and balancing play, learning, and work.
Deciding where to live
No factor affects your retirement more than where you will live. While some retirees choose to stay in the same home or a new location in the same community, others move to an unfamiliar area. When planning for retirement living, keep the following points in mind.
“¢ Recognize the possibility of successive moves. The moves may be cross-country to live closer to friends and family or across town to a nursing facility. There may be several moves, and it helps to acknowledge this possibility when you plan to retire.
“¢ Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in the same home and community. Is your home constructed in an elder-friendly way? Can you afford to stay in the same community on your retirement income? If you are a Presbyterian minister or church worker, does your presbytery have a policy that specifies whether or not you can stay in the same community after you retire?
“¢ Understand the different types of retirement housing communities. There are differences between the six basic types (active adult, independent living, continuing care retirement, assisted living, Alzheimer’s care, and nursing care), with many communities offering more than one housing option. For more information, see the resource section at the end of this article.
Balancing play, learning, and work
One of the exercises in the Board of Pensions’ Growing into Tomorrow … Today seminar on retirement planning asks participants to imagine that they are retired and need to introduce themselves to a group without using the words “formerly,” “retired from,” or “spouse of.” Some of the seminar participants have an easy time writing such introductions; others have difficulty writing anything more than “My name is … “
The key is to understand that retirement gives you the freedom to re-define who you are. Answering questions like those below may help you identify what makes you feel like you are living your life with vitality, purpose, and meaning, in ways that benefit those around you.
“¢ What interests do you enjoy today?
“¢ Are there any interests you do not want to explore in retirement?
“¢ Is there any interest you do not have time for now, but would like to return to during retirement?
“¢ Is there any activity you never tried or a subject you wished you had studied, and is it something you could pursue in retirement?
One of our seminar consultants is a retired minister who was interested in gardening, but never pursued it. After retiring, he took a master gardener course offered by a local educational institution. He now assists with landscaping the retirement community where he and his wife live. Making time for play and learning in retirement can help us to enjoy God’s creations, contribute to our community, and develop new relationships, particularly if you relocate. The same is true for any volunteer, interim, or part-time work that you do in retirement. Whether you work after retirement by choice or necessity, it can be a way to build those new relationships, work at something you enjoy, and pass on your wisdom.
1 Sedlar, Jeri, and Rick Miners. Don’t Retire, Rewire! Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2003.
Nadine Monn is coordinator of education programs for the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Philadelphia, Pa. For further information regarding the Board of Pensions, contact BOP Member Services at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN).