Random-Lee: Opening a new chapter

Recently I retired.  Or “rewired.” Left.  Moved on. Changed. Or something like that.  In reality, I don’t know what to call it, because it doesn’t feel like the retirement of my parents that seemed so simple.  You reached 62.  You quit your job.  You signed up for Social Security and moved into the sunset years.  You owned your home, you stayed put and spent more time with the grandkids, and maybe planned the dream of a lifetime trip to Hawaii.

Not anymore.  At least not with my spouse, my friends.  Since we decided to sell our business of 30-plus years and move on, there have been more questions than answers.  Like where to live, since we had spent the last 30 years in a house on the grounds of our business that was suddenly not ours anymore.  So where to go?  There was no hometown to consider as we both left those behind at 18.  No place where we could be close to the kids as three out of four now live a long airplane ride away.

Or how to live?  Is it renting an apartment and keeping it simple?  Moving to a condo with no maintenance or yard work?  An over 55 retirement village?  In the country where peace and quiet reign?  In the city close to culture and the arts?  Or somewhere in-between?  When our actual leaving time arrived, we realized, duh, that some people actually plan for this, but our time had been spent working out how to leave/sell a long time business, not figuring out where to go.

Or what to do now?  No matter who I talk to, the first questions seem to be, “So what will you do now?  Start another business?  Start a new career?”

Since I didn’t have a ready answer when the time came, I decided to attend a weekend “women’s journey” type seminar that promised to help women explore such inner questions. While I enjoyed the time away and the female companionship, I ended up with a bigger question than I started with, namely why did I have to do anything?  Isn’t retirement about retiring?

This has been going on for a year now, and I still don’t have any answers, except that I’ve figured out that I don’t have to have it all figured out.  That it’s OK to take some time off, and that it takes some time off to figure it all out.  But I’m very curious about what other people do, and how they face the whole retirement issue.  Here’s what we eventually decided, but I’d love to have your feedback on these questions – or other ones you’ve had to deal with.

Where to live?  We ultimately decided that after 30 years in the bucolic Chadds Ford countryside, we wanted to live in a small town where we could have neighbors, walk out for coffee in the morning or dinner in the evening.  So we moved up the road to West Chester, just five blocks out of town, within walking distance of the library, post office, YMCA, many restaurants.

How to live?  We started off thinking condo, but didn’t find anything we liked, so ended up buying a small duplex that we totally gutted and rebuilt to suit our newfound desire to simplify and down-size.  Spent far too much money and ended up, at 62, with a mortgage.  Have heard from many people how stupid it is to take on a mortgage at this age.  But we love our new “retirement villa” and feel very fortunate to be able to have everything new and exactly the way we want it.   So was it a mistake to take on debt at this age, rather than rent?

What to do with ourselves now?   We can’t collect Social Security yet and worry about relying solely on retirement income, so agreed to do some consulting for our ex-business.  But should we take on other jobs to “stay active” and “involved”?  Do volunteer work? Our initial decision was to take six months off to think about it; took a fabulous winter trip to South America and Barbados, then a wonderful spring sojourn to Europe.   Talked a lot, spent too much money, came home with a lot of ideas, but no real answers to “what’s next.”

So what are your experiences?  Have you found “the answer”?  Is there an “answer”?

Let’s keep this dialog going.

P.S.  In my last column, I discussed the ins and outs of travel and solicited readers’ comments.  I thoroughly enjoyed the feedback and hearing about your personal experiences.  I plan to come back to these comments in another travel article.  Meanwhile, consider posting replies on-line in the space below the article if you would like to share with other readers – the benefit of doing so is that they will get re-printed in the next news blast for others to see.

* Lee Miller welcomes responses. Please email them to leemiller229@gmail.com



About Lee Miller

Lee Miller began her writing career with four books about Pennsylvania/east coast wines and the creation of Wine East magazine. She then went on to found the Chaddsford Winery with her husband Eric, where she turned her pen to promotion, advertising, public relations and marketing of their successful business venture for 30 years. Last year Lee co-wrote the new wine book, “The Vintner’s Apprentice” with Eric, and retired from the Chaddsford Winery to pursue other interests. She is currently working on a book about her life in the wine industry and exploring the retirement life. Her goal in writing a column for Chadds Ford Live is to generate dialogue and elicit reader response.



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One Response to “Random-Lee: Opening a new chapter”

  1. Harry Roosevelt says:

    I believe that it was John Lennon who said “ Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans”. The same could be said for retirement. While financial planning is essential for a happy retirement, life planning is a little more elusive. Having just retired last year, one of the greatest joys is being able to finally complete some of those house projects which have laid dormant for far too long. But clearly one must look beyond that overstuffed garage or the unpainted basement to find a retirement which will leave you satisfied for the second part of your life.

    So what happens when those nagging house projects are finally completed? Many retirees discover the joys of starting a new business. Such was my case. Part of my retirement plan included forming an internet education business. While this endeavor does not occupy all of my waking day, it certainly keeps me up to speed on the happenings in the business world, which is a far better alternative for me than mastering the daily crosswood puzzle.

    In addition, I continue to serve on two non-profit boards and have taken classes to become a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member. Opportunities to serve as a volunteer are everywhere. Just pick an area of interest or expertise and you’ll likely find a good match. In these times of shrinking revenues, many non profit organizations are actively interested in recruiting free experienced people to fill part time positions.

    Finally the retirement years afford you the chance to spend more time with your family, which may have been neglected during your working years.

    Retirement is a wonderful way to reward yourself for all of the deadlines, early mornings, and late business meetings. So look beyond reading the morning paper and taking naps in the afternoon. An active retirement can pay dividends and giving back to your community and your family will give you a greater sense of satisfaction than you could ever imagine.

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