BY, BS, RN, LHCA, CCM
Istarted to think about retirement around age 62. Like most folks though, I started to plan for retirement years before. One of the first things I did was to save as much as I could by contributing to my employer-match 401K. I worked hard to cut debt from my finances such as paying off credit cards and the outstanding balance on my car payment. My plan was to continue to work parttime with my current employer for another five years. In addition, part of my plan also included selling my spacious townhouse and moving to an over-55 community.
As my full retirement date crept closer, I found myself dreaming about how wonderful it would be to sleep late. The thought of project plans and deadlines disappearing from my life brought a smile to my face. I planned to replace the daily endless meetings with trips to the gym, lunching at restaurants with friends, shopping and traveling. I promised to take more leisurely walks during the day with my dog. And I looked forward to addressing the garage and closets begging for organization.
THE REALITY OF MY RETIREMENT
The realty for me as retirement drew closer became a different story. My well thought out plan started to change. My employer offered me early retirement with severance. Although this was earlier than I expected to stop working, the offer was too good to refuse. I accepted the offer and started a new chapter of my life as a retiree.
I did sleep past that 6 a.m. hour and delayed opening my computer until noon. I took more walks, trips to the gym, did shopping, lunched with friends and expanded my social circle and learned to play mahjongg. I moved as planned and downsized to an over-55 community. It was a busy time catching up on things and deciding what I was going to do with my day.
And then reality hit me. There was a nagging gap that suggested something was missing. No matter how busy my schedule was, retirement for me started to lose its luster. Life became boring, and I felt a loss of work identity. I missed the structure of my daily agenda, the stimulation of new projects and mentoring and coaching others. This became apparent to me when I developed a process to teach my friends how to play mah-jongg, although I did stop at developing a training PowerPoint.
A sense of contributing to life’s mainstream, adding value, feeling relevant and an overall sense of fulfillment were missing for me. Being busy did not equate to finding my purpose or adding to my life. I realized that although it was my time, it was important for me to be of service to something more.
I started to think about my skill sets, experiences and what would give my life purpose and meaning. New avenues opened for me by networking with colleagues at the CMSA annual convention.
Collaborating with Anne Llewellyn and Deanna Cooper Gillingham was key to presenting me with a new opportunity conducting a case management prep class as well as coaching nurses who take a Foundations course. This experience has enriched my life by paying it forward to the younger generations of nurses and case managers. Continuing to develop professional relationships and learn from colleagues in the field of case management has been one of the best parts of this chapter of my life.
Becoming financially fit, paying down debt and downsizing your lifestyle may all be important pre-retirement steps. Knowing yourself and what gives your life purpose is unique and significantly more important during retirement.
I think that retirement becomes a chapter of our life in which we are reinventing and redefining who we are. We become an improved version of ourselves—an accumulation of our past experiences presented and shared for the purpose of adding value to future generations.