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Starting now: A Woman’s Retirement Monologues

About: As we retire, how do we still grow and achieve? How do we stay engaged? What happens to our story?

MY MOTHER, WHO IS a dynamic and professional 94-year-old retiree (she recently wrote a book for the city of Albany, Oregon and now is working a second writing project, as well as researching an arts and economic development grant), spent many years planning for retirement.

For sure, my father (a WWII veteran) did most of the financial planning – and he did a good job at this. My mother, in her wisdom, knew it would be very difficult for him to stop work suddenly, and so she planned carefully for how to spend their new-found time. (And was frugal enough to save money, too.)

On Day One, they would leave their Oregon Coast home and fly from Portland to Europe for an exhilarating trip abroad. This was a good plan, because they both loved to travel and mom knew that not going to work on the first day of Retirement would be a tremendous problem for my father. He was a school superintendent who loved the children he served, and had worked every day of his working life trying to make schools the best they could be.

And so this plan, traveling to new destinations around the world, worked for quite a few years.
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There were more trips to Europe, the Soviet Union, a cruise through the Panama Canal and another to Alaska, flights to Guatemala, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Puerto Rico, Ireland and so many other trips and cruises. (I probably do not even know every location they traveled to.)

My mom continued finding more things to do with her time, as she always had done before. She is a writer and she continued selling her articles to publications and just writing for fun. She did some volunteer work, and she tried very hard to get my father out of his chair, after the global travel and local fishing trips ended.

But her efforts were only moderately successful, and my dad for the most part sat in his stuffed chair, reading and watching television, after the trips ended. He became isolated, depressed, physically ill, and eventually psychotic. From the age of 65 to 92, he slowly drifted into a thick fog, and by the time he died, he was not the person I knew.

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It is important to stop here and realize that my parents lived so much longer than they ever expected. My grandparents died at 57, 62, 65 and 73. My own parents never considered they would live much longer than their own parents did. But today’s retirees are living so much longer and like my own parents, most never expected the need for planning into such late years.

So why am I writing this?

At 63, I am seeking something new and different to do with our pending retirement. My husband is working, for now, but I am concerned with my lack of mental and physical activity, as well as not having any health insurance, and so I have decided to get started on my own retirement journey.

Unlike my husband, I have not had a full, professional career. I often stayed home to raise our son, finding it hard to enter and re-enter the workforce. We frequently moved around the country to support Fred’s career, making it even harder for me to develop much of a career. Yet, in several moves (Missouri and Mississippi), I was able to expand my writing career, but not in a formal way that would have earned me a retirement pension or added social security.

Nevertheless, I have been making things work out since we were married, mostly with my writing, and now this is my opportunity to find newer challenges, including finding a way to make use my Spanish and…

Here is the question for now – what will follow “and…”?

This blog, for one, is under development as I begin preparing for change. I will be blogging about my journey and about the retirement ideas that I come upon as I construct A Woman’s Retirement Monologues.

Do you have ideas to share? I want to hear them and pass them on. Your contributions are extremely important. I do not plan on writing about me, but about YOU and others who are weaving their ways through retirement. Perhaps you will want to write an entire blog post, or be a regular contributor. This would be wonderful! However, your comments will be welcome, too.

Here is what I am thinking:

I have been doing a lot of online research, finding that many retirement blogs, in fact most retirement blogs, simply focus on money management and financial planning.

There is already plenty of information like this in the blogosphere for those who need it. Not to say that most of us are financially secure for retirement – probably, we are not. My husband and I will be depending upon social security, with some added small pension income and some savings. We lost a lot, like many of you, in the economic disaster a number of years ago. Lack of money, however, is not going to stop us from having a wonderfully exciting retirement. I hope the same for you!

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While the term monologues generally refers to a long speech by one actor, here is where this blog differs – I really want to hear from you and others on making retirement work better.
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It is not money that makes retirement vibrant. It is what you do with your time.

I know this from watching my parents and other retirees. My parents achieved better financial plans than we have accomplished, and they had enough money to do the things they dreamed of doing, and to take care of their physical needs. And yet, my father’s retirement was not all that it could have been. There were no plans for how to stay engaged with the world around him; no plans for hobbies or second careerss.

We will NOT be traveling around the world as they have done; this has never been our dream. I know of many retirees living outside of the U.S. on far less income, and this is what we are planning to do, live somewhere less expensive than in the U.S. and find intriguing things to do and accomplish these final years. Some travel within their new locations. Some volunteer, for instance teaching English or helping families to survive. Others set up new businesses, on and off line. Others stay in their new homes, watching television alone as they fear for what’s to come.

One thing is certain, while I admire my parents’ efforts at retiring, my retirement years are not going to be spent traveling the globe until I can no longer do so. I cannot afford this lifestyle and the planet earth does not need more jet trails and ocean liners destroying the sea and coral reefs. However, I will not be sitting in front of a television set, either.

So what will you exactly be doing with your time? How will we all stay mentally and physically active? What if you or a spouse becomes extremely ill, requiring much more medical care? What if one of us becomes too depressed to reach out and enjoy retirement years? What if…?

Won’t you come along with me? Share our adventures, add in your ideas? Use this blog to sharpen your plans? To help provide answers to the “what ifs” we will inevitably face?

While the term monologues generally refers to a long speech by one actor, here is where this blog differs – t is not about me — I really want to hear from you and others on ways of making retirement work better for all of us.

I plan to interview many successful retirees, with an emphasis on women. Quite honestly, we make less money than men do, and our retirement “packages” and social security checks are smaller. In addition, we live much longer. Even if you are an exceptional woman who made it above the glass ceiling, we all grow old, and some sort of retirement is certain, and so we must find something wonderful to grow and nourish our bodies and minds.

If you would like to write a post on such topics, please do. Your contribution is vital. You might want to post on a regular basis, have a link to this blog, or even write a regular column. Or you just might want to comment on a post. All forms of participation are most welcome.

Most of us are in the same retirement boat, so how do we make the money stretch, but more importantly, how do we handle the new challenges that face us in the years ahead? How do we still grow and achieve? How do we not become isolated in our retirement years? Unhappy or depressed?

Many new ideas, I pledge to you, and my strong interest in your comments and suggestions as well.

So let us get started on the latest version of our stories…

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Susan Klopfer

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