When Social Security was enacted in 1935 retirement was thought of as a brief few years between the end of work and the grave. Retirees weren’t expected to do much of anything but sit on the porch and play with their grandchildren.
Seventy-five years later the reality is a little different. We retire younger and healthier than ever. Consequently, while we have more time for the golden years, we need more money and a greater need to plan more effectively.
Most programs that discuss retirement planning focus on finances, but forgo the emotional side of retirement. That’s where #b#Carol King#/b# comes in. “Most of us,” says King, a certified retirement coach who works part-time at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, “are unprepared for the absolute cessation of structured activity in our lives.”
King will give a seminar on planning for retirement at the fourth annual Head to Toe Women’s Expo on Saturday, May 8, at 9 a.m. at Robbinsville High School. The event includes 300 vendor booths, a festival of foods, a health and wellness center, and a book nook for authors. Admission is free. Visit www.mercercountywoman.com for more information.
King knows firsthand that suddenly becoming a carefree retiree is not as easy as it sounds. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in restaurant management and worked in the hospitality industry for many years. She moved to New Jersey with Stouffer’s foods at Meadow Lakes Villages in Hightstown. She obtained an MBA and a Ph.D. from New York University and left Stouffer’s to open her own business before becoming a consultant with another hospitality firm.
King then taught tourism and hospitality management, organizational behavior, management,and leadership at Temple University, plus some online courses through Thomas Edison State College.
When she retired in 2005 King thought she was ready. “I had decided I’d just teach a couple of more online classes and that would be enough,” she says. “But I was unprepared for the loss of structure, the loss of friends.” She also found that even just five years ago there were few people discussing the problems of coping with retirement, and often felt as if planning her retirement was reinventing the wheel.
Her first step was to become a volunteer, which eventually led to a part-time job that she calls her “anchoring activity.” She is the director of the Engaged Retirement and Encore Career program offered by the Princeton Senior Resource Center, where she also acts as the center’s bookkeeper and webmaster.
King recommends thinking about what you will do in retirement a few years before it happens. Find out what resources are available to you and what you would like to do with your time.
#b#Don’t you know who I used to be#/b#? Since the vast majority of our adult lives is spent at work, most of us identify ourselves with our jobs. While some might think this is only true of someone with a prestigious job, such as a lawyer or doctor, it is true for everyone in the workforce, according to King.
“I did a workshop last year at Princeton University, where they were laying off many of the non-academic workers,” she says. “They ranged from administrative people to janitors, but they all felt the same. No matter what their job, they had prestige just from working at Princeton. They felt that their identity was being taken from them.”
She suggests that the best way to regain an identity is to replace your career with volunteer activities if not a new job.
#b#Structure your time#/b#. After 30 or more years of getting up and going to work at the same time every day, most people think that not having any place to go or anything to do will be a luxury.
It’s not, says King. Without having structured activities the days quickly become monotonous. But she doesn’t advise just filling the blank left by one 40-hour-a-week with another full-time job. Instead, she suggests finding a variety of part-time and volunteer activities, particularly until you decide exactly what you want to do.
The real key, she says, is to find an activity that you enjoy and that makes you feel useful. And, she notes, working as a volunteer often will lead to a paying position.
“I started out as a volunteer at the resource center, then they needed a part-time bookkeeper, so I applied for that,” she says. “Then they decided they wanted to hire someone to teach seminars on retirement and I said I could do it.”
King had also taken a course in DreamWeaver, a website design software program, so when the center was looking for a new webmaster, she raised her hand again.
#b#Don’t forget about friendship#/b#. “I have lots of friends.” That’s a statement most working people can easily make. But are most of your friendships work related? If you don’t have something besides work in common with those people the friendships will fall away.
“I really wasn’t prepared for that,” says King, and it is a common problem that most new retirees have. The best way to develop new friendships is to get out into the community. Whether it is your church, a sport, a club, or a volunteer activity, developing a new group of people who share your interests is one of the most important ingredients to enjoying retirement.
Regardless of your feelings about your job, retirement likely will be a shock. “Some people take to it like a duck to water, but there are a lot of us who feel like a fish out of water,” she says.