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Retired readers’ words to the wise

Mon., Sept. 2, 2013, midnight

Our retired readers share some experiences and advice for those contemplating retirement soon.

Be prepared to respond repeatedly to the inquiry: “What do you do all day?” Several years of toxic work conditions made my reply easy: “Imagine you are recovering from a chronic debilitating illness!”

I am happy to report that after one year there is a renewed spring in my step and a perpetual goofy grin on my face. It is not so much what you do in retirement, but that it feeds mind-body-soul. Retirement is freedom to be me once again. — Mary Wells, 66, North Idaho

I had my first year of retirement planned out. Work until I turned 69, then travel with my wife, perhaps relocate abroad. During the period preceding my retirement date, I did job hunting. I failed to obtain job interviews; retirement was forced on me. So I did creative writing through the Institute for Extended Learning. Unintended consequence: I’m writing my memoir (rather jumbled). It’s also proven to be a crucial tool for catharsis.

Advice? Start early qualifying for a pension. Stay with one employer. Think twice about your final residence having stairs. Pay off your mortgage ASAP. A younger, working spouse can make life easier for both of you. Choose parents from whom you can inherit money.

Mind your health so you don’t have high medical bills later. Be lucky in the stock market. A winning stock became my only nest egg. — Steve Johnston, 71, Spokane

There are four principles to be followed to have a full life in retirement: play, service, quiet and fellowship.

Play: It is what we all think of when we envision the retired life. It can take many forms: sports, travel, artistic pursuits, hobbies. And while it has great importance, pursuit of play to the exclusion of the other principles does not lead to a fulfilled life.

Service: We physicians have spent the majority of our working life in the service of others. Despite what we might think, we do not easily abandon that role. Ask yourself: “How much of my self-worth (ego) is tied to being a doctor?”

If we are honest, it is a big part of who we are. Accordingly, service to others is a necessary part of a successful retirement.

Quiet: What retired life brings is the luxury of time. Time to be quiet. To think, to read, to learn, to pray, to innovate and to appreciate all that God has given us (particularly grandchildren).

Fellowship: Making the effort to cultivate friendships, both new and old, requires some energy. It becomes its own reward, however, since the supportive bond of good friends is something that brings great joy in the retired years. — Dr. Franklin Browne, 73, Spokane

I retired in 2003 at age 55. I took early retirement and relished my new found freedom for about two months. Then boredom set in. So I became what I like to call a professional volunteer. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of different jobs; some worked for me and some didn’t. That’s the joy of being a volunteer. You can quit!

Another plus is there is always someone out there who needs your help. My mother says I work more now than when I had a real job, but I don’t consider it work. Volunteering was also a chance to meet people as I moved back to Spokane after being gone for 36 years. I think trying new and different things keeps you young. — Janet “Pinki” Culbertson, 65, Spokane

I have been retired for 11 months. Typically, I make a list for the coming week whether it’s doable or not. Mow the lawn, go fishing with the neighbor, fix this and that, laundry day, shopping.

Cross off your list when items are completed or move them over for the next week. Have a hobby or some sort of interest.

In the winter months, I stay busy with woodworking – making projects to sell or for the home or for donations. I occupy the summer months with outdoor projects, family activities or reading in the hammock.

A great activity is walking the dog for an hour and going for a bike ride around the neighborhood, and gardening is a great choice. Stay busy, my friends. — Chris Novak, 63, Cocolalla, Idaho

I am coming up on the one year anniversary of my retirement, and I can happily say I have not only survived, but thrived. After 38 years of nursing – and giving so much of myself to others – I have not felt at all guilty about spending time taking care of myself.

One of the key promises I made to myself was no firm ongoing commitments for at least one year. I wanted my schedule to be completely flexible for the first year. I have become a “gym rat” and thrill to Zumba for fun and cardio, TRX training and free weights for core and muscle strength and yoga for flexibility, balance and inner calm.

And never, ever forget the importance of fellowship and companionship with dear friends and loved ones.

Making beaded jewelry satisfies my creative urges, reading feeds my mind, Zumba gives zest to my feet and TRX and yoga provide strength and balance. Volunteering for occasional events keeps me from only thinking of myself.

So keep your first year flexible! Do not get locked into anything so you can do whatever moves you. — Connie Christilaw, 60, Spokane

I started my retirement plan five years before I retired. My first objective was to retire on a Friday and then Saturday morning, with my aged mother in tow, drive from Florida to Spokane. Upon my arrival, as per my plan, I found a house in Spokane Valley that had every feature I needed.

That was nine years ago. Since then I have amended and clarified my original plans as time and circumstances demanded. The best advice I could give is plan. Don’t just think of what you’ll do. Actually plan the activity, thinking of the day, the time required and the expected results. — Jeanne Thompson, 74, Spokane Valley

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