for retirement Mental
Stacee Sledge, for The Bellingham Herald
financially prepared for retirement is obviously key — making
sure you have enough income for food, housing, and medical
costs. But it’s equally important to be emotionally ready,
which can be more difficult for some — and it’s not
something your financial advisor can counsel you through.
Rich is a fitting example of retirement done right.
nearly 30 years in various positions at WesternWashingtonUniversity, her last and
longest stint as Director of University Residences lasted for
nearly 18 years, Rich enjoyed her final day on the job last
December. She’s made the move from hectic workdays to relaxing
decided three years before retiring that age 65 would be her
working watermark, and then took steps to make the mental
migration as smooth as possible. “Two years ago I sold my
house, so I wouldn’t get into making all these transitions in
one fell swoop,” Rich said. She’s now comfortably settled
into a condo.
additional job responsibilities in her last 18 months at Western
found her working a majority of the time in a new space and with
new people. It was a mixed blessing that helped ease her out of
the department she’d led for nearly two decades.
situation wasn’t as dramatic as working for [the same
department] for 17 or 18 years, and one day walking out the door
and saying goodbye to everybody. It was a slower transition away
from that group that had really been my family.”
unanticipated benefit of the job shuffle was that her last 18
months were exhausting. “By the time it was my last day on
campus I was so ready to be done: emotionally, physically,
everything. So that was where it was a real blessing to have
that additional responsibility put on me for that length of
defined her first day of retirement as terrific. “I had to
catch a flight to Seattle and then on to
San Diego and right into
all the holiday stuff — a fairly normal pattern, because I
often go to California for the
followed that trip up with a whirlwind of mini-getaways.
“Friends have invited me for years to join them at their time
shares, but I never had the time. Now I was able to say ‘Oh,
yes, I’ll join you in Mexico.’ ‘Oh yes,
I’ll join you in Hawaii,’” Rich
said with a laugh. “So I went every other week for much of
January and February and part of March, and then I was home for
three weeks, and then I went to my daughter’s in San Diego for the month
wasn’t for several months, until I quit all the hopping
around, that I’d have these moments where I’d think, ‘Oh,
I’m supposed to be somewhere. Where am I supposed to be?’”
giving herself three years to get used to the idea, Rich made
the emotional leap into retirement somewhat easily. But how
prepared was she fiscally?
have a good pension plan, I have social security,” she said.
“After my girls finished school and both got married, the
money that had being going into their college and weddings went
into supplemental retirement.”
other thing I did during most of the last year that I worked is,
I calculated what I thought my income was going to be from
social security and my state retirement and I lived on that,”
she said. The remainder went into the supplemental retirement
account, which Rich likely won’t touch for several more years.
keeps busy with a handful of volunteer activities, once of which
will take her to Australia next spring to
lead a study tour. But for now she makes it a point to say no to
friend asked her at yoga one morning how she was adjusting to
the life of a retiree. “I said, ‘Well, sometimes I feel a
little guilty that I’m not going to work each day.’” Rich
recalled. “And she said, ‘Kay, take advantage of having a
year where you’re a human being
rather than a human doing.’
I think I’d read that somewhere before, but of course it had
new special meaning to me,” said Rich.
an opportunity to just be — to get up and do whatever you want
on a given day — you really learn some new things about
yourself. There’s a whole discovery phase that I’m going
recently found herself back on campus, running an errand. “I
realized I was walking at a normal, human walking pace,” she
said with a laugh. “When I was working I was always rushing.
And it just struck me that I was walking leisurely looking at
how pretty the trees looked, noticing the squirrels.”