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How to Retire: Interview with Retiree Extraordinaire Jeanette


Why and how did you decide to retire at the time that you did?

I’m fortunate I worked for the Federal Government.  With that said under my retirement system it gave me options, one being, retiring at 55 with 30 years (I did work a little longer).

I told myself I would work until it wasn’t fun anymore.  When I made the decision I had come to a point in my career having had some really great jobs, responsibilities, and some great mentors. I was getting hints from within it was time to move on and let someone else take the reins. So at 12:32 pm on 3 Feb 2010 I retired.  I’ve never looked back.

Before you actually retired did you have a plan in mind of what you would do with your time? 

I didn’t really have a plan per se.  But I did know it would be something different.  I can remember while I was still working, retirees would come back and want to pick up work.  I asked them why and they always would say “ you’ll see that you’ll get bored and not have a lot to do when you retire”.  I said to myself that wasn’t going to be me– regardless of what I might do when I retired.  When I did retire I took some time to soul search the directions I thought I might want to go towards, but honestly it didn’t come overnight; and my life has gone in all kinds of directions since I retired – sometimes I think to myself what in the world are you doing—but it can be fun or not.

I have a philosophy I want to try new things, even if they’re out of my comfort zone.  I don’t want to say one day that I should have done this or that (and I understand there will be some missed opportunities that may slip by me), but I want to experience more things than not and have a grand and fun time doing them.  They are all learning experiences.

How do you currently spend your time?

My friends always say “you never rest – you’re always busy”.  While I am busy, I do take time for myself to reflect on what’s going on in my life and try to always aim towards liking what I’m doing or make a change.

With my attitude of usually willing to try anything (within reason) the door has generously provided me with some interesting and fun things.

Some of my experiences: volunteering at the Natural History Museum of Utah where I do fossil preparation on dinosaur fossils.  I also volunteer in the field; working in quarries digging the fossils out and prospecting for fossils.

I manage a volunteer program during the winter at a local ski resort.

One of the coolest and different jobs I have is holding a parabolic microphone (it picks up the sounds on the field) for a major network at our university football games.

Traveling is a must.  I lived overseas for 5 years and loved every minute of it except when Elvis died.

I create things – using my art background.

Participating in a variety of activities—biking, skiing, hiking etc. allows me more time outside.  I spent 32 years working in an office environment and that’s not in the recipe of my life these days.

I played the violin when I was a kid for about 8 years.  I was recuperating from a surgery and I started thinking I wanted to play the fiddle (its playing a different style from classical).  So I started taking lessons.  And because the mandolin and violin are very similar I also started playing the mandolin – they compliment each other.  Music has become a major part of my life—its brought new friends, ideas, thoughts and pleasures to me. I assist a musician (they play locally, throughout the United States and abroad) with their concerts, photographing and videoing their work.  They used my photos for their most recent CD.  Pretty cool you think?  I’ve even done some songwriting….so watch out you just don’t know what one thing will lead you to.

Try something new — its amazing what’s out there and it may be your new found friend.

I just signed up with a talent agency to be an extra in movies and delivered packages for UPS over the holiday season.

How have you decided what volunteer activities to pursue?

You know I’ve been volunteering since I was 14 years old (long time) so I get it when it comes to volunteering.  I was raised to always give back to the community.  It was instilled in me and my siblings that this was important and it can teach us something. I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer for some great organizations, places and individuals.  Volunteering gives me a way to explore and engage in things that either I’m interested in pursuing or maybe just want to get my feet wet.

Believe in it or don’t take it on.  Know you can always turn down something.

When you consider which activities to devote your time to, do you have a criterion in mind? (hours, expectations, need in the community, etc.)

Not really, I try to go with the flow.  But then on some level, yes I’ll create some expectations for myself otherwise it can become not so much fun.

I’ve had to stop certain activities because they started to become all consuming and that’s a definite no no for me. I’ve found if you’re open to things people will see that and want your help all the time.  Remember its okay to say no.

Is personal social engagement important to you? Do you get most of your social engagement from your volunteer work or friends?

While I believe I’m an introvert and in a room with a lot of people my comfort zone doesn’t always work.  I’m very fortunate as I do have a great network of friends and acquaintances that have provided guidance and support in my life.  They come from all factions of life – its important to me to have an eclectic group of friends. And they all impact my life in someway. My social engagements are important to me, but I’ve also found as I’ve gotten older its okay to do things on my own. It’s a balancing act isn’t it?

The importance of hanging with friends and/or getting to know new people has often given me opportunities I didn’t know existed. I believe I can learn something or have a takeaway from everyone I spend time with.  We’re such individual creatures on a floating ship — I love it.

What advice would you give people who are considering retirement?

Make sure your ready both emotionally and financially… and have a purpose in life (or try to create one). I believe you’re not going to be happy unless these pieces are there.

For myself, I was very ready and saw endless opportunities that were knocking at my door. I’m always excited about what may come across my life’s path.  I believe that one who is ready for retirement, and after, will see that the sky’s the limit even on cloudy days.  Again, we’re on this floating ship for only so long – make it worthwhile if you can and enjoy each day.  Try to see that life opportunities may come from even the smallest thing.  Enjoy!

With your retirement how do you stay physically healthy and active, something that research has shown  to be vitally important as we age.

It’s definitely an individual thing. I’m aware of the importance of activity both mentally and physically as one ages. My daily activities usually incorporate such things as walks, gym, or using my mind in creative or new ways.

Retirement is such a personal thing; our lives have so many uncertainties, but I try to look beyond them and explore and experience different avenues.  In ways its been a continuation of my life journey, but in a wayits even added to my growth.  Try to embrace it and definitely keep an open mind – I think you’ll enjoy it more.

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