A Vision, a Map, and A New Life: Anticipating Retirement

Paula Marie Usrey

Dear Friends,

I believe each of us has the power to live our best lives at any age. To do so, we need a clear vision of what we really want our lives to look like and a plan to make the life we want a reality.  I shared how any of us can do this in my July 2017 TEDx Talk.

I currently teach speech communication at a community college. However, in 15 months I will be retiring. I am using a process I call vision mapping to transition from working full-time to an encore career as a self-employed,  speaker,  coach, writer, training material developer, and workshop facilitator. Over the next 15 months, I will be sharing my journey with you. I’d love to hear your experiences too.

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Entry #23: A New Chapter on the Horizon

When I started my first professional career, I was enrolled in a great retirement program. I was young, and couldn’t imagine actually retiring someday. When I decided to go to graduate school, I decided the easiest way to fund it was to pull out what I’d put into my retirement. That wasn’t a very wise plan.

A Failure to Plan

I didn’t even consider other options to fund graduate school. Soon after starting, I discovered I qualified for scholarships and then learned about graduate assistantships which allowed me to cover the tuition for four years of my education. I used the money I withdrew from retirement to pay for living expenses – expenses I could have covered through other means. At the time, withdrawing my retirement was simply the fastest and easiest way to do what I wanted to do.

I kept telling myself I had plenty of time to think about retirement. I didn’t do much planning for several years. To be honest, it wasn’t until my own son, a financial planner, sat down with me when I was in my early fifties and had “the talk” with me about retirement.

Time to Catch Up

Once I started visualizing what I really wanted my life to look like after I retired from teaching, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do before I could even consider ending my career.  I not only needed to figure out what I wanted to be doing after retirement, I needed to figure out how much money I was going to need to make my dreams a reality. For me, that meant teaching a lot longer than I had once imagined. I’m now one of the oldest faculty members on campus. How did that happen?

I am teaching 8 more weeks this term, 5 weeks during the summer, and 12 weeks (including in-service) this fall. Then I”m done.

A New Plan

My dream after retirement is to start a web-based business for Baby Boomers. I’ve been working on the plan for this business over the past two years. I’m going to be ready this time.

I hope you’re all smarter than I was. For too many years, I had planned in the moment rather than for the long haul. I hope you all live long and realize your dreams. To do so, it helps to figure out what you want those dreams to look like and what you need to do for them to become a reality.

Entry #22: A Baby Boomer’s Next Chapter

Scary, exciting, unsettling? These are all common experiences when Baby Boomers start preparing for their next chapter ahead of retirement.  Some literature on transitioning into retirement suggests that we start preparing for our new lives at least two years before we leave our full-time positions.

Fortunately, I did start planning my retirement about 16 months ago. In ten months, I will retire from my fourteen-year encore career as a full-time speech communication educator at a community college.

I started preparing by reading everything I could find on transitions and retirement life. I also worked on my own vision for my ideal life after teaching. I brainstormed, journaled, cut out pictures from magazines, and listed some of my strengths, experiences, personal limitations, and temperament (my temperament leans towards introversion). After a fair amount of work, I was able to develop a vision for my next chapter.

I will be operating a web-based business for Baby Boomers who are preparing for their own next chapters. Working with a gifted colleague and friend, we will share research about Boomers, offer workshops on how each individual can develop their best next chapters, and provide activities and other opportunities to keep engaged with a vibrant community.  Eventually, we will offer our services to businesses that want to help employees transition into retirement.

I have a lot to learn about operating a business. I’m preparing by talking with people who have successfully operated businesses, and I am doing a lot of reading. I’ve also met with our local Small Business Development Center a few times.

I get a bit scared and excited when I think about the future that is starting to unfold. From all that I’ve read, I know this is normal. As the late Bill Bridges, author and consultant known for his work on transitions pointed out, the process is the same for all of us–we all go through endings, neutral periods, and new beginnings. Each transition phase has its own challenges. I’m ending something but have not yet started something new. How about you?

Do you anticipate a major transition in the near future? Or are you currently moving from one phase of your life to another? What have you learned in the process? What are your dreams for your next chapter?

Most Recent Sixty and Me Blog Post

Once a month I write a blog post for Sixty and Me. Here is my most recent post about transitioning into my next gig in retirement as an introvert-leaning individual.

Thinking About Retirement? Here’s How to Find Your Own North Star and Get More from Life

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