9 Lives for Women Blog

“Retired”: You Mean Sleeping? | February 27th, 2012

Personally I’ve never understood the concept of retirement.  Four days into a beach vacation I am itching for a meeting, and the idea of chasing a little white ball around acres of green grass just isn’t my cup of tea.  I once worked for a vibrant, inspiring man who died in his business suit at age 90+, and at 50+ I think I have decades of cool work ahead of me.

I think there are lots of women out there who shun the word “retirement” and consider the years past 60 as opportunities to go down paths you might not have been able to consider before.

But that insidious “confidence” word can creep into a woman’s psyche at any age.  Once you leave the corporate umbrella—especially one that sheltered you for many years—carving out an entirely new niche for yourself can be a daunting prospect.  Your age should not be what keeps you from moving ahead, though.  At any age you can make a valuable contribution and keep yourself interested and interesting—whether or not there is money involved.

There’s no better example than my 85-year-old friend and mentor who still finds that there are not enough hours in the day for all that she wants to accomplish.  She was a respected college administrator and she has a very wide circle of friends and colleagues, but there have been plenty of obstacles that could have stalled her well cultivated personal growth.  When others may have given up, she has just kept going.

Here’s a note I received from this friend that shows that anyone, in any circumstances, at any age, can lead a purposeful and engaged life:

“I’m celebrating 43 years of recovery in AA.  My life is full—socializing with friends, sponsoring several women in recovery, playing bridge twice a week.  I am number two in the AA General Service hierarchy in the local district, which means sitting on two Boards of Directors, attending 10 monthly Standing Committee meetings, four area assemblies a year and conducting 10 how to workshops each year.  All contribute to a most productive life.  Getting my M.Ed. after retiring has paid off in many ways.

Currently I am preparing my second “To Thine Own Self Be True” spiritual workshop.  At the first I hoped for 35 to 50 attendees and 100 appeared, many clamoring for a follow-up.

At my age health is an ongoing issue—however my doctors refer to me as their poster child.  I’ve survived open heart surgery, two heart attacks, six stents, two cancer surgeries—and so it goes.  I am blessed with a healthy attitude and a zest for living.”

After the often stressful working years of early mornings and late nights, I get that resting—or playing—during retirement can sound pretty appealing.  But my message is this:  be confident that if you want more, you still have years of productivity ahead.  Use the gift of time wisely—whether that time will paid in dollars or words of gratitude.

  • Be confident that you can be productive, engaged and active well into your retirement years.
  • Don’t let life obstacles stunt your personal growth.
  • Check out organizations that seek out the talents of retirees for high-level assignments—such as NESC, the National Executive Service Corps (www.nesc.org).
  • Consider ways that you can be a “leader” not just an occasional “volunteer” at the non-profit organizations that interest you most.
  • Put on an “independent contractor” hat and seek out consulting assignments that can provide paid work on your own terms.

4 thoughts on ““Retired”: You Mean Sleeping?”

  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    LOVE this site! I’ll add another two cents. I am taking writing classes, making my way inch by inch into the freelance market; and in the afternoons, when I have put the pen down, I pick up a pencil and tutor local elementary school kids. Less a tutor and more an organizational homework cheerleader, really, but I feel connected, engaged and I always have funny stories to write about the dog who ate their homework…Advertizing in your local library is a great way to get “clients” and the schools are desparate for help. I charge on a sliding scale, and often for free or barter(weeding while we review the 50 states and their capitals).

  2. Dodo Roberts says:

    I’m at that stage where I don’t know what I want to do “when I grow up”, and so many ask “when are you going to retire” (so I’m over 65). This article is very thoughtful and I’d love to listen to more points of view.

    1. JB says:

      I love the idea of being a “leader” vs just an occasional volunteer for a non-profit since leading in the corporate world is what I’ve been doing for 20 years, but don’t think we business types can just enter NFP and think we’ll be welcomed as leaders- just like in the corporate world, we’ll be expected to work our way up and, honestly, that’s not that appealing at this stage in life.

  3. 9Lives says:

    You raise a very good point about volunteer “leadership”. It’s very important not to be an unwelcome “bull in a china shop”. I’ve heard from many non-profit professionals that ex-corporate women charge in and try to take the organization by storm. My point is that you can make a greater forward-thinking contribution to an organization than just the occasional task-oriented hour here or there. With kid gloves and the right attitude any non-profit organization LOVES suggestions, people who take initiative or propose alternative solutions–and generally find a way for corporate ingenuity to help the non-profit world. When you offer this help without suggesting that you need to be running the show, you are instantly elevated to more of a volunteer “leader” than “worker bee”.

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