Transitioning to Retirement

What makes a smooth transition to retirement? I personally didn’t have anything in mind. In the first week or two that I stopped going in to work every day, I had more naps than I’d care to admit. I’ve also read a lot, but too much of it has been internet news (or entertainment). Something that’s important to me is to spend my time doing things that are worthwhile.  That’s why I’ve decided to spend more time volunteering at my children’s school and at the YMCA.

It seems that volunteering is a common theme among retired people. At the YMCA, I met a woman who explained that she’s currently transitioning into retirement. Without being rude, she is quite a bit older than me, probably nearing the normal retirement age. She worked for years as a psychologist, helping children (eg. with ADHD) adjust to their usual environments, such as school. She has decided that she wants a smooth transition to retirement. Her first step was to stop taking on new clients. Each client is a relatively short term project, measured in months, not years. This reduces her commitment (and income, I assume), without ending it all at once. It also gives her a modest amount of extra free time.

Most people, after working full time for the majority of their lives, crave a routine and a feeling that they are contributing to a cause larger than themselves. The woman I met has chosen to volunteer at the YMCA in order to be part of a group effort and to have a time commitment that builds into her routine. I’ve talked with other people who either worry what they would do with the spare time afforded by retirement. They seem to take literally the proverb “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”.

That may hold true for some people, but having the luxury of being able to choose where and how to spend my time gives me options that wouldn’t be available otherwise. My favourite things to spend my time on relate to my interest in public education. I regularly spend time in our school, volunteering in one or the other of my sons’ classes, or joining them on field trips. I also talk with other parents about their experiences with and expectations for our school. I have the luxury of being able to read news, scholarly articles and books related to the education issues that our school and our system are facing.

None of these activities were planned as a transition to help smooth me into retirement. But I think that a smooth transition is certainly worth the effort. I continue to try and sort my activities into a regular schedule that produces a routine. Fortunately, whenever I feel that I’m wasting my time, I can take my daughter (who’s not in school yet) and play with her. Nurturing my kids is time well spent.

Do you have plans to ease the transition from one stage of life to the next?

7 thoughts on “Transitioning to Retirement”

  1. This article speaks for my mind, cheers! I have built into my weekly routine volunteering for 2 organizations and am enjoying it. However, those all only started after I retired, I did not have the time (excuse) to do that when I was working!

  2. Am I having deja vu or is this a recycled post? I love the idea of volunteering and was hoping I’d be able to do some on my current mat leave. I didn’t realize just how clingy my kid would be though… 🙂 I still would like to do something while I’m off. I think the biggest step to volunteering is just biting the bullet and making the first move.

  3. Retiredat44, I have to admit that I only dabbled in volunteerism before I stopped going into the office every day. Now that I no longer work, I have found something I really enjoy and I plan to stick with it.

    Marianne, my apologies if it this post has already appeared in the past. It was sitting “unpublished” in the queue, so I just pressed the button. I personally found that it took a few tries before I found a cause that I wanted to volunteer regularly at.

  4. After I retire at 35, I’m planning on volunteering at the Children’s Hospital near my house. I’m not sure what I’ll do there yet, but I do know they’re always looking for help.

    Honestly, I’m not too worried about the transition. I’ve taken some extended time off and my experience has been that the first few days I lay around and unwind. But after that I’m as busy as ever. The only difference is I’m busy doing cool things like training for athletic events, starting cool websites that will probably fail, reading massive amounts of books, etc.

  5. Volunteer work was a key part of my transition into ER.

    Back in 2001, when I first switched from working FT to PT, I signed up for colunteer work with the National Scrabble Association’s School Scrabble program. I had grown weary of playing in adult tourneys although I had done well in several local ones in the late 1990s. I wanted to do something different, so when I received a flyer from the NSA in early 2001 asking for volunteers, I saved it because I knew at some time later in 2001 “something” was going to happen which would enable me to begin with the school program. And by the time the 2001-2002 school year began in September, it had, and I was accepted into the program and had my first contact with an area school.

    In the next few years, my involvement grew a lot, expanding to other area schools to the point that I now run tourneys for them (including one tomorrow). A few of them have had some local TV exposure, too.

    Fully retiring in late 2008 has made it easier to schedule my volunteer work, as all of my visits take place during of after the school day so I couldn’t do them on days I had to work.

    Another volunteer activity I do is to help out at a college square dance class two days a week. I began this in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2007 (just before I ERed) when I was able to attend the class both days it met instead of only one day. I also had a local TV station do a puff piece on this.

    It has always been a juggling act to try to fit these two volunteer activities into my schedule even while ERed, as I will have to forgo the dance class to do the tourney. When I was still working (even PT), I had even more conflicts but it is not so bad now. Both activities I find very satisfying and do not require a lot of travel or waking up early.

  6. Phased retirement of some sort is a great idea to avoid the cold turkey “What am I going to do now?'” question. Folks often plan their honeymoon period of retirement which is 6-24 months rather than the ‘whole rest of your life” retirement.

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