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Retire to Do What You Love

In my forties I started to feel that life was passing me by. I had a very busy job in Corporate Human Resources in a large multinational and the days, weeks and months seemed to fly by faster every year! I thought it was normal to experience this as we get older – but it still worried me. I realized that I didn’t have forever to do the things I really wanted to do.

I was writing stories in my spare time but finding the energy to do creative work after putting in a full day at the office became increasingly difficult. I even tried getting up at 3:30 a.m. to write for a couple of hours before leaving for work! That only lasted a few weeks because I became too exhausted.

My uncle died at age 59, before he had a chance to retire and live out his dreams. That gave me a big message that there are NO GUARANTEES in life. I retired early (age 49) to pursue my interests in writing and life coaching.

Ask yourself this question: If you died tomorrow,
what would you regret not having done?

Chances are that you will live a lot longer than my uncle did, probably into your eighties.

Don’t buy into the notion that it’s all downhill after age 40 or 50! The reality is actually the reverse. As we mature, we have more life experience, skills and wisdom. We also have a better understanding of ourselves and what we want to do. Hopefully by the time we hit our mid-fifties, we have more financial resources as well. All this makes us MORE able to pursue something we are passionate about or even accomplish incredible things!

Also our children are grown and have hopefully left the nest by the time we retire. For once in our lives, we actually have free time.

In It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now, Barbara Sher writes, “People in their fifties and sixties report the feeling that all kinds of new things are beginning for them. More people over 45 travel to unknown places, start new studies and begin new enterprises and relationships than those under 45.”

Her inspiring book helped me to see the advantages of getting older and how this is really the BEST time of our lives when it comes to satisfying our personal dreams.

Sher also explains how our sense of time actually SLOWS DOWN when we are doing what we love, because we are absorbed in the activity and completely in the moment. Now that I have been “retired” for 18 months, I know this is true. The hours seem to stretch to accommodate my interests – and my life feels so much richer and more meaningful because I am following my own agenda.

Think of retirement as a NEW LIFE – because that’s what it is. You are not “retiring” from the world, only from a way of life that controlled you for so many years. It’s really a passport to freedom, but only if you know where you’re going!

It’s important to develop at least one strong interest
while you are still working.

A worst-case scenario is to retire with nothing in mind except taking more vacations, maybe playing golf, and catching up on your reading. You will get bored within a few months, guaranteed. You will also become depressed if you don’t have a sense of purpose and excitement about what you’re doing.

Using your skills, talent and experience in retirement will help you maintain a strong sense of identity and self-worth and, as an added bonus, you will find yourself with a whole new network of friends. Too many people retire to DO NOTHING. If you still have your health and vitality, make the best of the productive years you still have left. Now is your chance to make a larger contribution to society or simply lead a more SATISFYING and meaningful life.

Wondering if you should write a novel, go back to school to study languages, or embark on a new career as a landscape gardener? What do you have to lose? GO FOR IT!

You don’t need great wealth to enjoy a happy retirement. You need a sense of purpose, a feeling of connection to others and to know that what you are doing is meaningful.

Retirement is not the end of life as you know it …. it is the START of a bigger future, one filled with enormous possibility.

Mark Twain gave us some great advice:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

To read about people who met new challenges to create an exciting second career in the latter half of their lives, go to and click on True Stories. Some examples:

  • Ann Mariah Stewart, who at 58 ended thirty years as an educator to author a health column for San Diego Magazine On-Line and pursue her dream of sailing. She later fulfilled another long-time interest by becoming a park ranger.
  • Kathleen Cano, 60, who after years in administration as well as customer service for the Friendly Restaurant chain, returned to the Tompkins Square Playhouse in New York’s East Village to indulge in her love for community theatre – dancing, singing and costume designing.
  • Peg Heglund, 68, a veteran nurse who started a thriving employment agency called Back to Work for people 55+
  • Shia Saltzman, a 69-year-old grandfather of three who retired from his career as a paint salesman to become a drama coach at Bayonne High School, NJ.

It’s normal to feel apprehensive or afraid when starting a whole new chapter in your life. You need to research your area of interest, talk to others in the field, and find people to encourage you.

For personal guidance and support in exploring or pursuing something you love for your retirement years, go to Life Coaching.

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Should You Retire Early?

Are you one of the 80 million baby boomers heading towards retirement? If so, you may be asking yourself this question: can I retire early?

What is usually meant by this question is whether you can AFFORD to leave the workforce at an earlier age.

Of course you need to determine what leaving early means from a financial point of view (more about this later). However there has been so much emphasis on the financial side that I would like you to first look at other parts of the equation.

  1. What will you do with your TIME?

    The working world has ruled your life for many years on a day-to-day basis, from deciding what time to get up in the morning, to the people you regularly see, to the kind of work that occupies your time. Along with all of this comes the stress of commuting or traveling on business, the need to dress in a certain way, and the pressures that leave you drained at the end of the day.

    You have likely grown tired of most of this and dream of the leisure time you will have when you retire. Time to do what YOU want. Travel more, play more golf, see all your friends and find some new interests.

    But will that be ENOUGH to feel satisfied? Or will you, like so many others, get bored within a few months of this more relaxed lifestyle?

    The fact is,
    purpose and motivation
    are what keep us going.

    Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
    • Do I still find enjoyment and satisfaction from my work?
    • Is there a more meaningful activity that I would rather be doing? Do I know what this is and have I put some time and energy into developing it?
    • Do I have a DREAM which I want to go after? If so, can I start preparing for it or take any needed training, while I am still in the workforce?

  2. What about your HEALTH?

    If you are presently working 60- or 70-hour weeks in order to save enough money for your retirement, you may not have the health or vitality to enjoy any of it. Many people die within a few short months of a long-awaited retirement!

    As we get older, we need to pay more attention to our physical needs.

    Getting the right amount of exercise and sleep and following a good diet become increasingly important. The frantic pace of many workplaces makes it difficult for us to remain there for too long.

    Ask yourself:
    • As I continue to work in my fifties or beyond, am I able to lead a BALANCED life? Can I take the time I need for exercise? Am I sleeping enough? Eating well? Able to see my friends on a regular basis?
    • How is my general health? Am I getting a lot more tired than I used to?

      Health is a big factor in choosing early retirement. It may take a stroke or a serious illness for some people to realize that they need more time to look after themselves. Or they may have to look after a spouse, aging parent, or other relative and require more time in their lives to do this properly.

  3. You need to make a difference

    The working world usually provides a network of colleagues and other people whom we see regularly. We also feel we are providing an important service by whatever we are doing. Getting paid automatically gives it value.

    When you retire, suddenly you are on your own. Will you have a reason to get up in the morning? We all want to feel needed in some way. If you have grandchildren near-by, this will fill some of your need.

    If you do not have a spouse or other family that you can spend your retirement years with, you should ask yourself:

    What can I contribute
    to my community or to the world at large?
    This is a very personal question that you alone can answer!

    You are at a wonderful point in your life — with the life experience, skills and maturity to make a difference for others. In later years we normally experience a stronger desire to “give back” to the world.

    For some people this means volunteering in an area that appeals to them: for instance, with sick children, anti-poverty or environmental groups, or by visiting shut-ins or providing meals for the needy. For others it means developing their creativity and sharing their work with the world, such as through writing, painting, sculpture or crafts.

Now for the Financial Picture.

It seems everyone these days is giving us advice on whether we can afford to retire. According to most financial advisers and planners, the answer is a resounding NO.

I remember sitting with my colleagues at a retirement planning seminar while I was still in the workforce.

Through a number of dramatic graphs and hand-out documents, our dreams of retiring at 55 were dashed to smithereens. With dwindling government funds, inflation and greater life expectancy, how could we expect to support ourselves into our eighties and nineties? Forget about retiring early, we were told. Our company pension would only take us so far.

How discouraged I felt,
thinking that I had to work another ten years
before retiring!

Fortunately a few things changed my mind. A busier period at the office forced me to put my current novel, written in bits and pieces, on permanent hold — and my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I knew that I couldn’t keep up with my challenging job, look after my mother AND continue my writing.

That was when I looked into early retirement. By cutting down on expenses and making some money through my writing, I figured I could retire early. I made plans to leave in two years, when I turned 49.

Once I made the decision to leave, a new door opened for me!

I received coach training as part of a corporate mentoring program. At the same time I heard that a number of older employees would be given the option to early retire and realized that most of them would not be prepared psychologically. Wanting to leave something positive behind, I gave a workshop to co-workers on Find Your Mid-life Passion. I had never done public speaking before and was surprised by the standing ovation at the end.

This led to another corporate workshop and, after I left the workforce, to a public lecture which drew a large crowd. Next I was asked to lead a smaller, more interactive group which turned into my Dream Achievers Program.

My writing now focused on personal growth. I wrote a series of articles, some of which appear on this site, and developed a column, called Take a Moment, to help people deal with larger life issues. Life coaching, as well as writing, provided me with extra income when I retired.

If I hadn’t committed to my interests and made the decision to leave the workforce, none of this would have happened!

It is when we commit to our dreams, and take steps towards them, that things begin to change.

Scale down, simplify and
take back your life!

Many people, as they near the end of their employment years, become fed up with all the compromises they must make on a daily basis for the job.

There is a movement afoot – to simplify our lives and quit the workforce early to lead a more relaxed life. Thousands have found a way to cut back their expenses, sometimes moving to a smaller house, so that they can afford to lead jobless lives. Countless numbers pack up the house to follow their dream of traveling around the country in an RV, especially during winter months.

Financial advisers tell us that to “maintain our lifestyle” in future we must work “X” more years full-time. The truth is, we can successfully and often quite painlessly scale back – and put more life into our years by leaving the job earlier rather than later.

Books that will help are: Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. A useful link is:

Other Factors to Consider

You may have reasons to stay in the workforce for awhile. Maybe you still have to get your children through college, or have a huge debt to pay off before you can save for retirement. Maybe you are still paying off your mortgage.

Think of the expenses you need to clear off beforehand as well as the benefits you may lose through retirement such as dental, medical or insurance coverage.

The question that looms in your mind is: will I have ENOUGH?

It is difficult to answer this correctly when so much of your future remains to be seen!

Other things to think about:

  • Do you plan to work part-time or in a second career?
  • Are you able to cut down your living expenses?
  • Can your spouse shoulder some of the expenses?
  • Are you expecting an inheritance?

To see your own financial picture in detail, you need to sit down with a financial adviser. Be sure to tell him or her about ways you are planning to improve your income in retirement and whether you are willing to scale back.

There are also helpful retirement planning tools on the Net, such as (go to SmartMoney Retirement Worksheets or “How Long Will My Money Last?”)

In today‘s workforce reality it is possible that the choice will be taken out of your hands. You, like so many others, may be forced into an early retirement. In this case, you will likely be given a compensation package to ease the transition.

What if there are NO early retirement incentives but you are tired of working full-time? Examine other options – such as reducing your work hours or switching to part-time work. Your health and your time are not replaceable. Once they are gone, all the wealth in the world will not bring them back.

You cannot begin saving for your retirement too soon (in your thirties would be optimal, to let your investments grow tax-free).

Start thinking of a new focus for your retirement years long before they are upon you. Develop your interests! YOU‘LL BE GLAD THAT YOU DID.

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Great Achievers Over 55

“For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I admit that I, too, bought into a common misconception. And that is that our creative potential inevitably diminishes with advancing years.

How wonderful to find out that this is not TRUE!

As part of my research, I picked up a copy of The Creative Age (Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life) by Dr. Gene D. Cohen. The author is a scientist, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University and geriatrician who has worked with the elderly for over 30 years.

Through his book he shows how we can become MORE creative as we head into our sixties, seventies and beyond.

Recent research in neuroscience proves that we can actually IMPROVE our brain’s capacity as we age. Dr. Cohen explains how it “responds to mental exercise in much the same way that muscle responds to physical exercise.” While he does not deny the biological process of our bodies’ aging, he points out that many individuals live emotionally rich and creative lives despite their physical limitations.

I was inspired by the many examples in his book as well as those I found elsewhere – of people who made great achievements late in life. It’s reassuring to know that, if health permits, we can accomplish a lot as we get older, enriching our lives and the lives of others.

  • At 57, Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty.
  • At 65, Maggie Kuhn helped to found a well-known seniors group named the Grey Panthers.
  • The Russian lyric poet and novelist Boris Pasternak wrote his first novel – Dr. Zhivago – at age 66.
  • Hanya Holm, the dancer and choreographer, choreographed more than a dozen Broadway musicals including Kiss Me, Kate at age 55, My Fair Lady at 63 and Camelot at 67.
  • Jack Benny, the comedian, retired from his successful TV show when he was 71.
  • Betty Friedan, the American feminist author, published The Feminine Mystique at age 42 and at 72 published The Fountain of Age, where she debunks misconceptions about aging.
  • Margaret Mead, the first anthropologist to study child-rearing practices among primitive cultures, remained active in her field until one year before her death at age 77.
  • Grandma Moses, noted for her rural American landscapes, only started painting at age 78. At 80 her one-woman art show at the Galerie St. Etienne in New York City brought international acclaim. By the time she died in 1961, she had created over 1500 works of art
  • Henri Matisse, the great French painter, created six major illustrated books containing hundreds of paintings between the ages of 75 and 80. Before turning 82, he designed the stained glass for the Dominican Chapel at Vence, near Nice.
  • Mae West, an American stage and film sex symbol, starred in the film Myra Breckenridge at age 78 and in the film Sextette at 85.
  • Berthold Goldschmidt, the German composer, helped to complete Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony and conducted its first performance in 1988, when he was 85.
  • Mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie wrote until she died at age 86. Her books have sold more than 100 million copies.
  • At 87, Mary Baker Eddy created a newspaper with a religious influence, called the Christian Science Monitor.
  • Helen Hooven Santmyer spent her career as an English professor and librarian. She was 88 when she wrote And Ladies of the Club, which quickly became a bestseller.
  • At 90, Artur Rubinstein, an American pianist known for his interpretation of Chopin’s works, gave a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall.
  • At 92, Luella Tyra participated in 5 categories at the U.S. Swimming Nationals in California.
  • Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote Back to Methuselah when he was 66 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925 at the age of 69. He continued to write for more than two decades and was at work on a comedy when he died at 94.

Of course these Great Achievers are all known to the public at large. There are plenty of seniors worldwide who accomplish wonderful things in their lives — but don’t make it into the news.