“When you are retired, you never get a day off.”
by Dr. Nyle Kardatzke PhD
If you haven’t retired already, it’s something you may have thought about even if you are younger than the usual retirement age. If you are retired, your retirement years present new questions since your wife’s death.
Retirement involves our emotional and spiritual needs as well as financial issues. I’m retired, but I am not a big fan of retirement as the be-all, end-all of life for everyone. I don’t deny that retirement can be a blessed “gift of time,” even after the loss of your wife, but retirement is not the purpose of your life.
The most significant benefit I have found in retirement is having fewer fixed duties on my calendar and more flexibility in most of my days. Emotional downsides of retirement include loneliness away from colleagues and anxiety over decreased income. Another emotional aspect of retirement is that you must find something else to define yourself and your life when you have no job and no title. While you were employed, your job probably provided a lot of your identity. Without your job, identity questions loom large.
If you are already retired, there may be emotional and spiritual aspects of retirement you find challenging. For those challenges, you may want to speak with other widow-men or a trusted spiritual leader where you worship. I attend a weekly meeting of widowed men at a large church in my city. Those meetings are a godsend to the dozen or so men who attend.
I retired at age seventy, exactly one year and ten days before my wife died. I am thankful we had that year, and I’m thankful I am able now to devote time to my children, grandchildren, other family members, friends, church, and other personal interests. Although I loved my work, my retirement time is another kind of “job” in which I monitor my time and use it in the most valuable ways I can manage. I have told a few friends that being retired is another kind of management job for me. One of my retirement activities is writing books about the main episodes of my life and selling a few of my books on Amazon.
Finding the right time to retire can be a complex question. There are emotional and social aspects as well as financial issues. There are advantages to being retired, but there are potential downsides. If you retire, you need to accept your new identity and build on it to find your new sources of self-worth.
There are times when I think wistfully of the joys of having a job, surrounded by fellow workers, and energized by goals, deadlines, and the financial rewards of working. If I had a job, it might take my mind off my wife’s death. I have thought about “un-retiring” and taking a job for all the reasons I just named, but I’m still retired so far. It has now been eleven years since my wife died, and I’m in my early 80’s, so I now question my strength for a regular, paying job now.
People are living much longer than fifty years ago. Retirees also tend to be in better health than their grandparents were at their age. Longer life implies a need for more money during retirement, and better health implies an opportunity to work and earn longer.
I’m over eighty. I’m in good health, but the basic upkeep of my body takes more time than when I was a lot younger. Since health problems are important in older age, some men keep their jobs to have health insurance coverage. This may be an issue for you to check on.
You probably have seen your parents or others retire and become busier than ever. Retirees nearly always say they are busy, and most say they don’t know how they ever had time to hold a job. I sometimes joke that I must not have been doing anything productive when “working” since I’m so busy now. I hope I’m kidding about that.
Time management can be a challenge for retirees. Since you are in charge of managing your own time, you may confront the problem of “time without borders.” This means you are free to sculpt each day, but it also means there are fewer limits on the time you spend on each activity. If I find a helpful book or article about time management for retirees, I’ll write about it here. It must be out there, probably on Amazon.