Year Retired: 2006
If you think you'll need a lot of money to enjoy retirement, visit Bette Longden. Living in a HUD-assisted housing unit on just her Social Security check, Longden has used retirement to flex her creative side: she has developed a one-woman dramatic play and performs it at local senior centers on open-mike nights.
Before Longden retired in 2006, after a career that included secretarial work mixed in with some globetrotting nanny assignments, she had dabbled in small-theater groups. "But when I retired," she says, "I finally had plenty of time to dive in."
So Longden—her mother named her for Bette Davis—took acting classes at a local college and wrote a 12-minute play that drew, in part, on her life.
Favorite worry repellent "I've got a little cash reserve, and I spend a lot of time counting my blessings, like my wonderful son and grandchildren. I have a full tummy and a warm bed. Compared to many people, I'm lucky."
What I wish someone had told me "How great it feels to sleep until 9:00 a.m. every day—I had been getting up at 6:00 a.m. for 45 years!"
My secret to happiness "If I feel down, I do something for someone else."
Kathy and Bob Pohly
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Ages: 57, 61
Year Retired: 2010, 2008
For the Pohlys, retirement was supposed to be one seamless schuss off a ski slope. Married for ten years, with six kids between them from previous marriages, the two scrupulously followed advice from financial planners. "We saved the maximum in our IRAs and 401(k)s," says Bob. "I retired from a telecommunications company with a small pension in 2001, then took a job as a VP at a nonprofit. And we built our dream house here in the San Juan Mountains. I fully retired in January 2008—we thought we were all set."
That fall, it all changed. "Overnight our retirement nest egg dropped by 40 percent," he adds.
"The market crashed—and we are fine"
Bob and Kathy spent the next months in shock. But then came some perspective: thanks to their preparations, even with the downturn "we realized we'll be okay," says Bob. "We check with our financial planner regularly. He assures us we'll be fine through our 80s." For Bob, the local opportunities to ski, fish, and golf are limitless. Kathy looks forward to more exercise and volunteer time when she retires from her work-at-home Wells Fargo job in July.
Favorite worry repellent "We try to be grateful," says Bob. "We know families in foreclosure."
What we wish someone had told us "I was afraid it might be dull," says Bob. "But with my skiing group and volunteering, I often feel busier than when I worked!"
Our secret to happiness "We do things we enjoy," says Bob. "Outdoors, or seeing friends."
Year Retired: 2009
Obie Thompson is taking a two-pronged attack to his retirement from 30 years of teaching. Phase I: "I do whatever I want, whenever I want, for a full year." That means getting up early, reading the newspaper online, walking two and a half miles, then heading for Starbucks with a John Grisham novel tucked under his arm. It also includes teaching two Bible classes at his church, which is laying the groundwork for what he hopes will be Phase II: finding work as a chaplain. He was ordained several years ago and is aiming for a hospital or prison assignment. ***As for leaving teaching, he says, "I knew it was time. I wanted to move into the second chapter of my life when I had a lot of energy and good health."
Favorite worry repellent "I meditate every morning. I don't avoid the news—but maybe I should avoid it more. I continue to meet with my financial planner once a quarter to make sure I'm on track."
What I wish someone had told me "That the first few days would be a little weird. One morning I actually got up and started heading out to work—I had to remind myself, 'You're retired!' "
My secret to happiness "Have a backup plan—I'd like to teach a GED course at a community college if I get bored in six months."