You are not your job
One of the hardest things to decide was when to leave my job as a kindergarten teacher. Most of the time I loved my job. Once I was in the classroom, it was a wonderful little universe that I had created just the way I wanted. The children were happy and learning. I was having fun and being creative. I had an important purpose teaching young people to love reading and school.
What would I be if not a teacher? Isn’t that my identity and fulfillment in life? Due to COVID and changes in my life, I made the decision to exit the work force earlier than originally planned. Once vaccinated, I came back to my school as a substitute and kindergarten screener which gave me some closure from my 21 years in that school district, but I still wondered, what do I do next.
After hours and hours of scanning want ads for teachers, both in New York and Florida, I discovered, I don’t need to be a school teacher right now. I was curious as to what was out there, but it didn’t take too long for me to engage in new activities and pastimes which are rewarding and have nothing to do with my former job! It takes a bit of adjustment for some of us, but I’m happy to declare, I am not my job. When to Retire?
It’s OK to rest
We have pride in this society in being busy. As a working mom, I spent the past 25 years very busy. My job could be demanding at times and there was no “down time” in the kindergarten classroom. Home life was busy with after school sports, lessons and scouts to attend, not to mention cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, shoveling snow etc. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.
Suddenly with retirement comes some space in your daily schedule. What to do? Maybe nothing. Discovering that just being is enough. This can be a huge adjustment. What a luxury to have time to rest. You will eventually fill that time and find balance, but it is certainly OK to take some time to take a break.
Relocation is an adventure
This is a scary thought for people who do not like change. We have comfort in the known even if it is not perfect, we at least know what it is. Originally I thought I would hold onto my home in New York and do the snowbird thing where we live in Florida for 6 months, and then NY for the other six. But one day it occurred to me, I was ready for a change. I was starting a new chapter and it was OK to close the page on the last chapter. It sure was a good one in many ways, but there is more to this story.
A new home is fun to decorate when you are no longer only shopping at garage sales and thrift shops. Years of hard work and money saved yield a place that is perfect for the next stage in life. Discovering new places and people, engaging in new activities is part of the adventure. I do not find myself striving to “run away” to places all over the world right now. Living in a different state with my wonderful new husband is a grand adventure all by itself.
Pay attention to your money
As someone who lived most of her life paycheck to paycheck, this concept is new to me. For years I tried to make up budgets and track my spending. I read the books, but we never seemed to know where the money went. In order for me to feel safe and secure in not working, I need to know where my money is.
By deciding to sell my home, I was able to pay for half of our new home in Florida thus having no mortgage for the first time in my life. Additionally, I have paid off my car and other loans so those no longer linger over my head. Pete tracks our joint spending and I no longer have the extra expenses that go with working, so I save money in that sense. We eat at home more since we have time to shop and plan meals and when we do go out to eat, we take advantage of Happy Hour specials (formerly known in Florida as early bird specials)
While I did not maximize my retirement pension by working until I was 62, I still get a decent amount deposited to my bank account monthly. Some money is doing well in a 403b account I have not accessed yet, some is invested in a stock market index fund and the rest is available should I need it. I have played the game of starting new bank accounts in for the $400 to $700 incentives this past year. It’s been rewarding to watch my money grow.
Guard your Health
With COVID skyrocketing this month, staying healthy has been important. To protect myself and others I have been vaccinated and just got my booster shot. Staying away from schools, I have been relatively healthy since I retired. Those germs in schools always spread quickly, regardless of pandemics.
Since the pandemic started I did gain weight and drank more than my fair share of alcoholic beverages. I have made an effort this past year to take a break from drinking with challenges like 31 days for Sober October. I noticed a difference in my face and body after that month and plan to challenge myself a few more times this year.
Also, I started a yoga teacher training program and have learned more about my physical body and steps needed to maintain flexibility and strength as we age. Balance is important as many older people suffer from broken bones when they fall which can be debilitating. Having more time to engage in physical activities like swimming, horse-back riding, golf and walking as well as classes at the local gym has been an added benefit in retirement.
In that first year of retirement, the biggest change was moving to Florida. I also wrote a 61,000 word memoir, took on a part-time job as a guide with Florida Beach Horses, furnished and decorated our home, and took a few weekend trips with friends and family. Working with the Florida Beach Horses.
This year my mantra is to make a consistent commitment to live a healthy life. Hoping to have some visitors here this winter as we continue to enjoy our new Florida lifestyle. If you are contemplating retirement, don’t be afraid. It’s different, but that can be a good thing. What is holding you back?
If you have retired, what take aways do you have after taking the plunge? Were you surprised to find you didn’t want to work part-time, or did you find another job to fill the time? Everyone is different. What would you tell your hesitant pre-retired self?