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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
woods and bridge

Retirement Phase 2

I tried retiring 6 years ago. Some long-time readers of this blog might even remember my farewell post.

But my full-time retirement didn't last long. In addition to developing my own financial education workshops, I returned to work part time with Extension. I focused on two projects: revising the All My Money train-the-trainer program and writing for this blog.

It dawned on me one day last month that my job here is done! The new version of All My Money was released almost two years ago, and we have held a number of successful train-the-trainer classes around Illinois. The blog has three other very able people posting on Plan Well, Retire Well. So it's time for me to give Phase 2 of retirement a shot, and write my 2nd farewell post here on Plan Well, Retire Well.

Retirement is challenging

I still don't intend to be completely retired, but more retired than I have been these past six years. Phase 1 has given me an idea of some of the issues I will face, and I'm trying to put a plan in place that will help me enjoy Phase 2. In hopes that my experience might benefit someone else, I'm going to share the challenges I have faced and how I have (or hope to) deal with them.

My schedule

Working part time from my home, I have struggled with this. It's so easy to stay up to finish something because, after all, who cares what time you get up tomorrow morning? Even if you didn't stay up late, it's still easy to wake up, look at the clock, and roll back over for another hour or two. Initially, I thought I was just catching up on a lot of lost sleep from the last decade or two, and that I'd eventually start waking up at a "normal" time. But it didn't happen.

To those of you who work full time and have to get up and at 'em every morning, sleeping in may sound like bliss. And it probably is for a while. But I grew increasingly frustrated, living on a schedule at odds with the rest of the world in general and my husband in particular. He still works and lives a very rigid schedule. Maybe I didn't eat lunch until 2 or 3 pm, but he had lunch at noon and wants to eat dinner pretty soon after he walks in the door. I'd just be hitting my stride at some task, and dinner felt like an interruption. I felt like I woke up late and spent the entire day playing catch up.

Getting motivated

Working part time, I should have had a lot more time for things that I wanted to do. And I did a lot of gardening. But other things still fell by the wayside.

When you have a whole block of time in front of you, it's hard to manage it. There's not the urgency that you feel if you only have an hour in which to do something. So you might be a little slow to get started. And you let yourself get sidetracked. After all, no one's going to be doing a performance evaluation on your work to decide whether you get a raise.

I guess it's no different from managing your money, or an empty room. Until you add some structure to divide it into manageable chunks, you're just not going to maximize it. For money, you use a budget. For your home, you install shelves or storage cabinets. For time, it seems that it takes commitments.

I know some retirees whose time is extremely structured and contains lots of social activities. That doesn't feel like me, partly because I'm an introvert. But I obviously need SOME structure, and I didn't really have it.


Over my adult life, I have exercised sporadically. I might go a year or two with no regular exercise program, and then I'd get on a roll where I was walking, or using the treadmill, or even using weights on a regular basis. During Retirement Phase 1, I couldn't seem to get it going. As a result, in the spring when I started working in my garden, I could tell that it took me a few weeks to regain the strength or stamina that I'd had before.

Setting goals

A few months ago, I wrote out a list of goals. Many of them are the same goals I suppose everyone has: exercise more, lose weight, eat well. But there were also things like: expand my circle of friends, spend more of my time on the things I say I want to do, etc. I ran across that list last week, and I was astonished to see that I had accomplished most of the things on the list! Now, I've had help in the form of the therapist who asked me to make the list in the first place. As a result, I've taken some steps that I hadn't been able to take on my own. And I'm really happy with the result.

I met another woman in my yoga class who was also wrestling with getting enough exercise. I already knew that our park district has a "walking club" that meets two days a week at 9 am (but I hadn't done anything with that knowledge.) We decided that we would meet and walk with the Club. Well, it turned out that WE are the club – no one else comes! But that's fine with us.

That single step – making a commitment to meet her two days a week a 9 am – has made a huge difference. I'm getting to know my new friend because we have lots of time to talk. I have a reason to get up in the morning. It puts me on a daily schedule that feels good. I'm getting some great exercise. There are fringe benefits, too. We take a different route almost every time. Sometimes we walk through the park, sometimes we walk through downtown, other times we explore residential streets. You'd be surprised at how much territory you can explore when you're walking three miles. I've actually learned a lot about my town from this experience, both from things that we've seen while walking and from my new friend's extensive local knowledge.

I decided to walk a third day by myself, at an arboretum that's close by. (I've been a member for years, but didn't use it much after they stopped offering the classes I was interested in.) On those walks, I simultaneously get my exercise, do some birdwatching, and work on my photography skills. Plus, I have learned that spending some time in the woods has a great impact on my mental health.

The next challenge

Fall will be here soon, and then winter. That's going to be a challenge. The walking club shuts down at the end of October. We could still walk when the weather is good. But what about when it's freezing cold or icy? She and I have both been scouting out other places we can meet to walk. Our park district doesn't have an indoor track, but we've found other places that do. Plus, I'm trying to convince myself that I can keep walking on the arboretum's wood chip paths even if there is a coating of snow or ice. I also hear they rent snow shoes. That would REALLY push me out of my comfort zone. But who know what I might do in Phase 2 of retirement?

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing for this blog for the past ten years. I hope some of my posts have been helpful to you, our readers. I wish you well on your journey as you strive to Plan Well and eventually Retire Well.

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