Retirement is a key issue for us and our female age-mates. Ellen Goodman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and one of the first women to open up the op-ed pages to women writers, expressed her own ambivalence on the matter. She wrote in her farewell column, "I wish I could find the right language to describe this rite of passage. Retirement, that swoon of a word, just won't do." And "The Spanish translation, jubilación, is a bit over the top for our own mix of feelings."
Due to the upsurge in numbers of working women that began in the 1970s, waves of women are now experiencing their own retirement directly, rather than indirectly through their husbands.
On our 70candles.com blog and in our many 70Candles conversation groups, women mentioned retirement as much as -- or more than -- any other single issue. Lots of discussion about what to do with the ocean of time that seems to open up when paid work ends, and what is the "right time," "if ever" as one woman put it, to retire. Or, what happens if your spouse retires, and you're not ready yet?
When to retire? How to retire? What reason to give yourself and others for this decision? Emotions range from ecstatic to terrified to bored -- which in at least one case came from "having too much time on my hands." Participants revealed the many different ways they anticipated and managed the shift. Pivoting from a previous work life to an uncertain, unstructured future is not always easy and can be fraught with worry. There was no single pattern to follow; each woman had the opportunity to develop, often slowly, her own solution, although some had "forced retirement" thrust upon them and others continued to work full-time or more. Some with angst, some with delight, the majority of our participants had already crossed the threshold from busy, scheduled occupations to unstructured free time.
The keys to a successful transition appear to be:
1. Embrace change imaginatively
2. Have an optimistic outlook
3. Have faith in yourself
4. Find and engage with a supportive social network beyond the work site
Those women who continue jobs and careers into their 70s know they will probably have to cross the threshold eventually, but they continue to find their work meaningful and a critically significant part of their lives.
Retirement is an issue for each of us, whether it's wondering if we retired too soon, never wanting to retire, or wondering when the time will be right. However, we see that nearly all the participants in our 70Candles project who are already retired are making good use of their lives, figuring out how to continue to contribute to society in meaningful ways.
What has been your experience as you end your formal work role?
Excerpted from 70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole. Coming soon.