Retirement is one major decision that is truly difficult to make. The losses are easy to identify. And they are not the same for different people. However, as I look at my life now, I realize that all those losses were compensated for by considerably substantial gains.
5 Things I Lost When I Retired
In 2004, I retired and migrated from the Philippines to the U.S. At the time I decided to retire, I was CEO of the country’s e-procurement hub. I stood to lose many things that I had been accustomed to which provided me with a comfortable life in the Philippines. Looking back, here are the five things I lost.
1. Money, Money, Money
First of all, I lost my income as a CEO. And that was a huge sum, even in pesos. Given the low cost of living in the Philippines, it was so much more than what I needed. But my children were already working and did not need so much support except that we lived in the same house (before they left for the U.S. and Canada).
I had so much discretionary income that I was able to build a modest retirement fund. The most difficult question was, “How could I do without all that manna from heaven?” I was only 54, and I probably could expect 10 more years of high-income compensation by just continuing to work. That last decade of employment would have ensured a golden retirement.
But finally, I did say goodbye to the black Volvo sedan, a handsome executive car to use for all my meetings around town, together with allowances for fuel and a full-time driver. I also lost all the paid-for trips — domestic and international — that came with the job. And what about all those free lunches and dinners at business meetings?
Money-wise, I surely gave up a lot!
2. Status And More Status
Secondly, I lost the status associated with my position. Having been lucky enough to break the glass ceiling, I had earned the right to sit in organizations like the Management Association of the Philippines, the country’s prestigious club of CEOs.
I was also called upon to influence significant national goings-on. For example, I was invited to sit as a pro bono en banc consultant to the Commission on Elections while they were automating the country’s electoral processes. I loved those times when I was doing important work for the country and the Filipino people.
3. A Vocation And A Way of Being Useful
Giving up the post and getting off the career train (a risk even if for just a short break) would make me lose my vocation and my credentials as a professional that I had built up through all the years. The information technology industry is a fast-paced one, and I would soon surely lose my brand as a tech-savvy executive who could launch and manage major innovative start-ups in the country, like the ATM network and the country’s internal revenue automation.
4. My Community And My Country
Because I moved to the United States, I lost the comforts of living in familiar surroundings: my own home, neighborhood, and country. I can’t tell you how big a loss I felt this one to be, bigger than the previous three. I was born in the Philippines, was raised there, and flourished there. I am a Filipino and that will not change. I was so glad that the U.S. has a dual citizenship agreement with my home country that I was able to retain mine. Otherwise, the certain sense of betrayal I felt for a time could have been a deal breaker.
5. The Company Of Loved Ones
And my best friends are still there: most of my elementary school classmates, high school and college mates, and colleagues in the industry. And, though I had lost my parents earlier, I still have two sisters there, all my aunts and uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews. It is so good that technology somehow bridges the communication gap. I was able to visit every 2 years in the beginning, but now that I do not enjoy long-haul flights anymore, I haven’t been able to visit for the past 5 years. The ache and the longing are there.
5 Things I Gained When I Retired
When I retired, the gains were not as easy to identify as the losses. In fact, those that I wanted to have were not guaranteed to happen. One must imagine all the possibilities that are opened and move to make them happen. I did, and here are the five that have materialized.
1. More Time With Family And At Home
This was the main reason why I migrated to North America. My daughters married American and Canadian citizens and moved to Seattle, Washington, and Calgary in Alberta, Canada. My move allowed me to live with one of them and visit the other often.
Some of the happiest times of my life were when I took care of my newest grandsons, one born in Calgary and another born in Seattle 7 months later, for 3 months each. It allowed me to shower them with the love and care I could not offer my own daughters when I was too busy with my career.
And I have even become a homebody when not traveling. I have been able to prettify our small Arizona home and even tend to a small garden, keeping both the flowering shrubs and fruit-bearing dwarfs alive and well. And I have learned to cook in 13 cuisines from my travels: a far cry from the Philippines, where I left the household to cooks, nannies, and drivers.
2. A Travel And Life Partner
There was a second motivation for me to retire in the U.S. There is no divorce in the Philippines, just a long and costly annulment process. It took the intervention of my boss, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. But even after the annulment ab initio of my failed marriage to the father of my children, a consequence of my busyness, there were no available partners. At my age, they were either just confirmed bachelors or plain adulterers. The good ones, as they say, were all taken.
So it was the best of luck when I met and married my travel buddy and life partner. We fashionably met on the net. I would not have had the chance to get to know him had I been in the Philippines. One of his requirements was that the lady was to be no more than 25 miles from him for convenient dating. He was going through a divorce and was living alone in Puyallup, Washington, while I was with my daughter in Renton (a Seattle suburb), just 24 miles away. Whew, I barely qualified!
3. A New Way To Be Useful
While I was taking care of my new grandson in Seattle, I volunteered for the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Word got around and I was invited to teach at three institutions of higher learning. I thought that could be my new career; but after just one year of teaching, my groom took me away on a “never-ending honeymoon” in an RV across North America.
That got me blogging about our travels which led me to write two travel books: Cruising to an American Dream and Cruising Past Seventy, both available on Amazon. And then it also led me to the popular online magazine TravelAwaits, for whom I now write regularly as an expert/contributor. This is my new avocation: travel writing, complemented by my other hobby, photography. I found a great new way of being useful.
4. Extensive Travel
What is so gratifying is that I always have fresh material for my writing. And it’s a much better kind of travel than I ever had with my job in the Philippines. My husband and I traveled full-time for 8 years when we were RVing. Now that we have a home in Phoenix, Arizona, we travel only 6 months a year, still a lot for two septuagenarians. Together we have visited all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and seven Mexican states, plus 28 countries around the world. And may I say that travel is one thing we do very well together!
5. A New Ministry
My hunger to mingle with fellow Filipinos led me to meet another alumna of the University of the Philippines in Phoenix. Together we co-founded the UP Alumni Association in Arizona, and we applied to be the first chapter of the UP Alumni Association in America, a nationwide organization. Both have given me the fire to help the disadvantaged in the Philippines through scholarships we award.
It is a full retirement life I have found. It may not give me the money I used to earn, the status I enjoyed, the career I depended on, the familiar surroundings that gave me comfort, or the many people who were my emotional support. But it has certainly given me the spiritual growth I was yearning for. I have more time for family and a second chance to nurture young ones, even a second chance at becoming a wife, a satisfying way to be useful, extensive travel, and a new ministry to help others in need. I could not have asked for more.
The calling card I used in the Philippines used to read: “Carol E. Carreon, President & CEO.” But now I proudly flash my prized new one: “Carol E. Colborn, Wanderer, Writer, Wife.”