Still Time to Change

Marjorie Kondrack

AH, RETIREMENT. You’re blissfully free of the daily grind. If you’ve made plans for this long-awaited milestone, great. What if you haven’t? You may feel out of sync and out of sorts.

I’ve heard it said that, “The capacity to take a fresh look at all things makes a young person out of an old person.” It’s never too late to look anew at the challenges of retirement, while you still have time to resolve them.

Finances. Today, it isn’t unusual to spend 25 or 30 years in retirement. Many retirees make the mistake of only planning a few years down the road. It’s difficult to predict what our financial needs will be in the decades to come. When we consider inflation, surging health care costs, rising taxes, Social Security policy changes, stock market downturns, house repairs and other unexpected disruptions, there’s no spreadsheet that covers it all. Still, plan we must, or we may reach our later retirement years in grim financial shape.

Purpose. Once retired, beware of being lulled into the couch potato syndrome. The less we do, the less we feel like doing. Lassitude becomes a lifestyle.

Retirement can be a time to delve into our creative side. Take up those guitar lessons you always wanted to try, or join a book discussion group. It may take a while to find your niche, but there’s no shortage of new hobbies to explore. You just have to get out there and “beat the bushes” to find them. Some retirees even convert their hobbies into a new career.

Socializing. It’s said that the happiest retirees are those with close ties to family and friends. But as we advance in age, we lose those closest to us. It takes time to meet new people and forge new friendships. We aren’t all outgoing and we can’t change into someone we’re not. While introverted tendencies may be innate, we should strive for flexibility. Conversely, extroverts may want to take it down a notch. Developing the art of engaging with others in a thoughtful way will likely prove to be a lifelong asset.

The 24/7 spouse. Even in the most compatible of marriages, you may find that irksome peccadilloes surface and forget the special qualities that originally attracted you to each other. Having a sense of humor helps to deflect small grievances. Being courteous and kind goes a long way toward understanding each other’s viewpoint, and can be a precursor to amenable compromise.

Family. This is a tricky one. Many people depend on their children or grandchildren to meet their emotional and social needs. These expectations may be disappointed. Your children likely have busy lives. They may not want to engage with you as often as you wish. Too much interaction can be viewed as interference. An open discussion about how to find a balance can lead to greater harmony. And it helps to have friends to share activities with, instead of relying too much on your children.

The “what if” and “if only” conundrums. Retirement is a time for reflection. But too much musing about the past and worrying about the future only lead to a morose mindset and regretful thinking. It prevents us from being all we can be in the present. The past is over. As the old saying goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

A sound mind in a sound body. Our overall health overshadows everything we do. Fortunately, this is an area where we have some control. Exercise, eat lightly, cultivate cheerfulness, live moderately and maintain an interest in this fascinating world. Be continually grateful for all you’re still able to do and for everything you have.

Marjorie Kondrack loves music, dancing and the arts, and is a former amateur ice dancer accredited by the United States Figure Skating Association. In retirement, she worked for eight years as a tax preparer for the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs. Check out Marjorie’s earlier articles.

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