Retirement Advice From Kay Kramer, Birchwood Retired Founder

Kay Kramer
Oct 13, 2022 7:45:00 AM

Kay Kramer, Retired Birchwood Founder

It is hard to believe that I retired fifteen months ago. After all the years of helping clients to make that transition and giving advice that I had gleaned from others’ experiences, reading, seminars, etc. I have found myself reminding myself of all that I had told people. 

  • Be patient; it takes time to find a new rhythm. True.
  • Be open to new experiences. True.
  • Maintain and tend to relationships. Very important.
  • Know that it is uncharted territory. SO TRUE.
  • Continue to do things that give meaning. Yes.

What I Love About Retirement:

  • Not setting the alarm. It’s such a gift to wake up and mostly get going when I want to, and I discovered that it is usually a reasonable time, though sometimes too early!
  • I enjoy leisurely reading the news in the morning with my tea and taking the time to read interesting articles. Before, I would have skipped over because “there wasn’t time.” And getting to go down rabbit holes!
  • I can exercise more consistently, although I admit this is still a work in progress.
  • Giving myself permission to read a novel during the day!!! This is still hard.
  • Being able to say yes to a new demanding volunteer position.
  • Tending to some things that have been on a list for a very long time, but discovering that some of them just don’t ever need to be done!

The Challenges and Adventures of the First Year of Retirement

The last year has been full of transitions: my mother died at age 95 in August 2021, and my father has grieved that loss while he has also continued to embrace life as a lifelong learner and student of the world. My dearest, oldest friend, who I traveled with extensively, died last November at age 89. I continue to feel both of their losses every day. 

I said yes to being the chair of the board of trustees of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union, having been on the board for four years. It is an exciting and challenging time and has provided me with a significant way to use my skills after I retired from Birchwood.  

And we’ve followed our passion for travel, despite COVID. We started last fall with a houseboat adventure in Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, thinking that it would be “easier” than a BWCA canoe trip, and a possible replacement when sleeping on the ground gets to be too much. Verdict, we did it and don’t need to do it again, and not particularly relaxing! 

November was Churchill Canada on the Hudson Bay to spend a week seeing amazing polar bears. Then five weeks in our happy place of Hawaii in winter. In addition, we’ve been lucky to spend time “up north.” Mostly at our place in Wisconsin, where we have all the comforts of home and the peace and solitude of the north. I fulfilled a lifelong wish to be at the lake while the ice went out. We watched it move around and finally disappear over a week.  

Looking Forward to Year Two of Retirement

Retirement Advice from Kay KramerI start this second year of retirement with more transitions—Sally has fully retired from her national church work that has spanned the past thirty years. So, we will get to discover what it is like when we are both retired and what new rhythms we’ll find. We’ve started this new chapter with a long-awaited big adventure cruise–two weeks cruising from West Greenland through the Northwest Passage of Canada. We kayaked, saw whales, seals, and polar bears, and learned a great deal of history with some of the most incredible scenery we’ve seen.

I am so very aware of my privilege in this world and feel richly blessed. And I know I have yet to find my place in being part of the change this country so desperately needs as climate change becomes even worse and our rights as women are stripped away.

I’m often asked if I miss work. The answer is that I don’t miss the work, but I greatly miss working with clients and the wonderful Birchwood team. So I show up at the office periodically to have lunch with people and sometimes am lucky enough to run into clients to say hi! And, of course, we have the Birchwood team advise us on our financial plans.

Thanks again for the privilege to be part of so many of your lives.

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