Follow Birchwood’s co-founder Kay Kramer as she journals her experience transitioning into retirement.
My retirement date is at the end of June. While that date has been set for quite some time, it certainly has snuck up on me! Planning for retirement has been a long-term process and one I’ve been able to move towards over several years.
A Slow Transition into Retirement
I started working at 80 percent in 2017, and in the last year, I’ve moved to working 50 percent time. This transition has enabled me to slowly transfer my client work to my fabulous business partners and sell my ownership in Birchwood over the years. It has been a gift to do this slowly. For many people, it can feel like jumping off a cliff. One day you’re working full time, and the next day you are retired.
I’ve had some wonderful tastes of not working at all for an extended period – including taking a month off to be in Hawaii and taking two months off last summer, incredible luxuries. Paired with working more in other months was a great balance. But retirement is different than taking time off; it marks the end of 36 years working directly with clients and building and maintaining amazing relationships. There may be some continued project work, but that will be different from the direct client work.
Retirement Role Models
Having worked with clients for over three decades, I’ve seen many variations on how people retire—some more successful than others. In some cases, it is a question of whether the emphasis was on retiring “from” versus retiring “to.” Many wonder how they found the time to work because they are so busy now. Others want and need more structure in their retirement days.
Having a role model for someone you feel retired well can be helpful to identify so you can be aware of the images you have for your retirement. My parents, who retired from full-time professional work in their early fifties have been my role models for retiring successfully. My brother and I couldn’t imagine that retirement would stick and thought they’d both be working again within a year. We were very wrong. During retirement, they built a house, which they did primarily by themselves without any building experience. (This was before YouTube!) They worked with others to start a church in northern Wisconsin, served on boards, participated in and organized political protests, built houses with Habitat for Humanity, worked on political campaigns, maintained a vast garden, took up painting, learned pottery, and the list goes on.
I am fortunate to see how they are still involved at 94 and 95 and navigating aging. So, I’ve always had an idea how my retirement would unfold, and that I’d do well in retirement. Having a purpose is vital, and I know that everything will follow from that.
Retirement Beyond Work
I’m looking forward to less of a schedule, the ability to stay up north more, and to be able to come and go not at crazy traffic times. I’m looking forward to seeing if I will ever feel there is enough time to do everything I want to do, when I want to do it. Not having as much of a schedule is still a dream, but I’m working towards it. I’m learning how to think about my innate desire to have a “plan” – for the day, the week, the month, and learning to let things unfold without a plan for everything. Having been a planner all my life, whether it be for school, work, family, travel, volunteer work, play, I know it will be an ongoing project to find a balance for my planning desires and my desires to be free.
My biggest concern is the change in so many relationships. I’ve known many of Birchwood’s clients for several decades. I’ve watched their kids grow up, the arrival of grandchildren, their retirement, watched some couples navigate divorce, experience widowhood, watched death come too soon, and so much more. I’ll miss being part of our clients' lives enormously. And I’ll miss my treasured Birchwood team. It has been a tough year with the pandemic, and we’ve found new ways of interacting that I know will continue. But I so miss the day-to-day personal interaction with everyone in the office and hope that we have a few days together in June.
Transitions and Meaningful Retirement
Last fall, Birchwood hosted an event and a series of workshops with Ruth Tongen, a certified retirement coach, on transitions and meaningful retirement. I participated as someone in the retirement transition, and I found it hugely helpful and am now going back to look at those materials with a new eye. For those of you who may have missed it, you can find Ruth’s presentation here: Surfing the Waves of Change: Transitions and Meaningful Retirement.
While I know it will be a transition, I’m looking forward to this next phase of life!
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