By: Dave Edwards
A few months after retirement, I ventured back to my place of employment for many years, the Department of Natural Resources Horicon Office. Colleagues greeted me with hugs and handshakes and then followed up with the standard, “Are you glad you retired?” My widening smile said more than words could have. I quickly dodged a question about an enforcement case I may or may not have worked on. Amnesia is a good friend to a retired DNR employee. Then came the big question. “Are you keeping busy? I have no idea what I will do if I retire,” they claimed. I began to consider this dilemma for many: We prepare for retirement with financial planning, but sometimes we forget to make plans for ourselves.
Several years ago my wife Diane and I got serious about retirement and our investment strategies with Edward Jones. Although I have never actually met Mr. Jones, I will leave the subject of finances to him.
I have had several conversations with friends and former colleagues about how to prepare for retirement. I start out by simply telling them what I have been up to in retirement, including golf, cycling, reading, travel, photography, acrylic painting (on canvas, not on house) and playing with the grandchildren. I entertain our grandchildren on a regular basis and personally find rocking chairs to be old school, but grandpa naps are strongly encouraged. When asked about my golf game I respond, “It depends on the day and if there is water involved.” I then share a story about a particularly bad performance on the links. Full disclosure: I did turn myself in to the DNR for illegally filling wetlands with too many Titleists (got off with a warning and was advised to take lessons).
Cycling is a great form of exercise, and a seasonal highlight is cycling the trails with the Madison Bike and Bowl Team (we bowl in the winter months). Surely you have heard of us! No? I am really disappointed, and no, we are NOT the guys on the Flomax commercials, but I digress. You can visit our website, www.madisonbikeandbowl.com, for useless albeit interesting information about old guys on bicycles (training wheels optional).
I enjoy reading books and have created an Excel spreadsheet where I dutifully log all the books read since I retired in 2008 (a benefit of retirement is you have time to do things that some might find excessive). I record the title and author of each book and the year I read it. I considered adding a rating system for each book, but thought that would be too excessive. Since retiring, I have read over 50 books. Diane thinks I read way too many political books. So you mean to tell me “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” are political books? I have to admit I kind of thought rabbit was a raging liberal.
Diane and I enjoy travelling, and I am sure we will travel more when we are both retired. Currently, she must remain employed to pay for my Titleist golf balls. I like national parks and she likes big cities, so we compromise on trip locations. After we decide together on a general location, I go to work planning our next great adventure. Diane trusts my judgment (mostly), but I cannot seem to convince her to spend a vacation in places called Death Valley or Devil’s Cork Screw.
So far I have only discussed the “me, me, me” activities, but retirement can be so much more rewarding. By far the most important component of retirement is to volunteer. To quote writer Sherry Anderson, “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they‘re priceless.” I spend a fair amount of volunteer time with the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association and with the Friends of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge where I am the self-proclaimed Webmaster. I will pause here and wait for people who know my computer skills to pick themselves up from the floor and stop laughing. Done? Okay, I know my limitations and inform Diane of problems with our PC. She simply responds by saying, “It is a highly technical problem that techies refer to as PICNIC.” (PICNIC is the acronym for “Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.”) Back to volunteerism, remember your church is always looking for good volunteers. By far, my most rewarding experience is leading groups to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission to help serve meals to those in need. Since becoming involved with the Mission, I have helped serve over 3,000 meals (just an estimate, no spreadsheet to validate the numbers here, yet).
Many local organizations need help. Find an organization that interests you. Try something different. If you have zigged your entire life, try zagging. Retirement can be a grand adventure and you do not need a treasure chest of gold; however, you do need to plan ahead both financially and for yourself.
Perhaps in the future, I will see you on the links or cycling around the county. And if you happen to see him, be sure to say “Hi” to Mr. Jones for me.