- Location: Snowbird. 7 months in Siesta Key, Florida, 5 months in Westfield, New York
- Age: 71
- Retired At: 56
- Marital Status: Married for 39 years
- Profession: Physical Education Teacher
For 15 years, Suzanne has been playing. After 34 years of teaching at the same school, she was ready for her well-deserved retirement. She had, after all, started working at 22 years old. We talked with her about her retirement.
Retirement Awaits: What does a day in retirement look like for you?
Suzanne: I’m not your normal person. I’m usually up at 6 o’clock, when in Florida, in the pool by 7:15, swim laps for about 30 minutes, and do strengthening exercises because I’m o-l-d.
I do that until 10:15, 6 days a week. In Florida, I’ll golf once or twice a week and enjoy activities at the condo, mostly outside. Hopefully, I can get back to walking the beach. It’s a very social place, so there are always things to do. With couples, groups, parties, it’s very active.
Retirement Awaits: Is this what you pictured retirement to be?
Suzanne: Yes! You get up early because you choose to get up early. I never would have turned on an alarm at 6 o’clock. The best part of the day is the morning. You’re doing the things you want to do, and you get a whole host of things done by noon.
I’m busier now than I ever was working because you’re working at something you had to do. That whole block, plus coaching after school, I didn’t have much life to call my own. Now I do all my stuff during the week when everyone else is working.
I always knew what I was going to do in retirement, it would be based around the two houses (in Florida and New York) and being outside.
Your Retirement Plan
Retirement Awaits: Did you have a solid plan going into retirement?
Suzanne: No. I was the first one of my friends and family. I just said, I can’t teach anymore, and had to hope that I’d done it right leading up to that point. My son got through college. My mom passed away within 3 months of retirement. I took care of my dad.
Retirement Awaits: Where did you think you’d spend your retirement years?
Suzanne: Believe it or not, I have had my life planned out in my head all along. It’s just how I’m wired. As soon as our parents bought the condo (in Florida) in 1990 and my brother moved down there, I knew that was the plan for me: Look after the Lake House (in New York) all summer then spend the winter in Florida. It all began in the winter of 2007 and has been going strong! Everyone says I have the best of both worlds and I totally agree.
Best Part About Retirement
Retirement Awaits: What’s the best part about retirement?
Suzanne: Doing what you want to do when you want to do it. It’s your schedule you have to juggle to make it all happen. The freedom to come and go if you want. There are no set timelines unless you put them on yourself.
Challenges In Retirement
Retirement Awaits: What’s the biggest challenge in retirement?
Suzanne: I don’t have any huge challenges because I’m doing what I want in my time with the people I want to be with and I choose the scenario. It’s not forced on me. You control your own destiny. And I wouldn’t go back to work!
Cost Of Retirement
Retirement Awaits: We want people to understand how much retirement really costs. How do you manage your money now?
Suzanne: A fixed income is a fixed income. I do have stressors because of finances. The fluctuation of the economy is the biggest stressor.
I cut the yards in New York. That’s my “mad money.” If you have a budget and you exceed it, you stay in the house and watch TV. So I spend a few days a week mowing lawns for people around the neighborhood.
In Florida, they’re all high rollers. I’m not. But I have to think about it, the tickets we buy, when we go out to eat. Sometimes we shut down and don’t go out for a week. We buy in bulk, spend $100 and get good meat. You plan accordingly. You shop for deals. And if it’s getting too much, you don’t eat out, you window shop. I’m ok with that. That’s just not me.
My parents were very frugal. It was a stretch and we still made it happen, and I like to say those life lessons were instilled in me. You work within your means, and if you can’t play with the big boys, you better stay on the porch.
Retirement Awaits: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give someone about to retire?
Suzanne: You have to have a goal. You have to stay busy with a hobby, keep active, keep working your brain, keep the brain synapsis clicking. You have to keep the whole body in sync. Walk, swim if that’s your thing. Some might volunteer their time. I just try to stay active.
I’ve always been athletic. You have to be physically active because everything is slowing down and you have to maintain it. And you have to reign in your appetite and eat healthy and smart. Maintain your 6-month checkups with your doctors and dentist.
You have to have hobbies, that’s imperative. You see too many people lose their zest for life. When they were working, they were needed and no one needs them anymore, so they get depressed.
Things I Wish I Would Have Known
Retirement Awaits: What are a few things you wish someone would have told you about retirement/this season of life/transition?
Suzanne: You must have a hobby or volunteer or something to maintain your idea of your self-worth! Several of my friends are scared about retiring because their jobs define them. They live, think, and breathe work and don’t have any outlets.
I remember my great uncle retiring in the ’70s, and he was lost! He had emigrated from Scotland, worked hard, married, was widowed, and had to raise a daughter from her teens (my grandmother was a big influence and help there). Then it was time to retire, and he had nothing to fall back on — except golf! That’s where I got the bug.
He felt that he was worthless because he was “taking hand-outs” and not earning his place in the world by working. I do believe that’s what started his mental and physical decline: He wasn’t needed anymore, and the world was going on without him. It’s sad.
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