Retirement reinvented - keys to making it work for you

Most of us of a certain age have a vision of what our retirement will be like. We look forward to spending more time doing what we love, be it golf, or needlepoint, or horseback riding; more time to spend with family and friends, time to travel, and so on. But while we may have a clear idea of how we will spend our days, the reality is sometimes far removed from those expectations. The financial plans we thought were carefully made are easily derailed by that leaky roof or unanticipated medical expense; and before we know it we are looking for ways to supplement a modest retirement income.

I know. I'm there. But here's the real news. What I thought to be a setback just may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise. Maybe. I'm not quite far enough into it yet to be certain. The jury is still out. But I've made a few preliminary conclusions:

You do have some marketable skills, and they could be the very things you love to do best. I've enjoyed sewing for many years, both for myself and for others, and it still surprises me that not everybody can hem trousers, fit a dress, restyle a suit, or mend a backpack; and furthermore, many are willing to pay you to do it for them. So I have hung out my sewing shingle. Word of mouth has been my best form of advertising so far and I'm beginning to collect a modestly sized group of local customers in need of clothing alterations. Some are even grateful to have found me. Not nearly as grateful as I am!

Acknowledge your weaknesses, and learn to use them to advantage. I'm a pretty extreme introvert in case that wasn't already evident, and the idea of promoting my skills and my work is almost an anathema to me. I hear whispers of "It's not nice to brag." I'm working really hard to get over this. I am skilled and proud of my work. Need is forcing me to say so! Blessing in disguise.

You are never too old to learn something new. This is huge! I've been guilty of looking at life as all downhill from here. But in the past few weeks I, who had never even used a computer until I was past 50, have just published a website to sell my handcrafted knitting bags. I've been perfecting my sewing skills and creating lovely handbags for a long time, but if I am ever going to market them beyond the front door, I need to be online.

I feel like the Grandma Moses of cyberspace! I began knowing nothing. Now I can say I have created such things as alt text and meta tag headers and key words, and I actually know what they are! It's an enormous boost to discover that you are not yet completely over the hill! My mother always said we were a family of late bloomers. She ought to know. She just celebrated her 97th birthday and she's still blooming!

Ask for help when you need it. And you will need it. I'm not sure where I first came across the statement, "Don't be embarrassed to ask your children for help with modern technology. After all, you taught them to use the toilet." My younger advisors are invaluable. They grew up with all this technology. I, on the other hand, was already old when I had to be shown how to use a mouse. They have my unending thanks for their patience. I still haven't graduated to texting. Perhaps I'll master the smart phone next. Oh wait. I don't yet have one of those.

Accept that you don't have as much energy as you did 30 years ago. Work around it. If you need a noon time nap, take it. Face the fact that you can't do everything. This one is hard for me. It was with a great deal of reluctance that I finally made the difficult decision to give up my place in a very fine auditioned choir. It was a wrenching decision, but I have had to realize that I can't bring my best efforts to everything at once. My creative desires and my actual physical stamina are badly out of step. My tiredness infuriates me. There is so much I want to do that I simply don't have stamina for, but I am slowly learning that being angry about it depletes my energy even more. The best answer is moderation. Sleep enough, eat well, take your vitamins, drink plenty of water, and get some exercise. (Did I just say 'exercise'? If you know me your jaw just dropped.) Do you mean that knitting is not exercise? I have a lot of work to do here. But it becomes increasingly clear that to function at my best, I have to take care of myself. A well regulated schedule is my best ally.

So.... is this the retirement I imagined? Not quite. But I have to conclude that the necessity of generating additional income has brought out some strengths in me that I didn't know I had. I am learning something new every day as I create a business out of a long loved avocation. I am enjoying the customers who find their way to me, and they seem to be pleased since there is nearly always a way to make their clothes fit better. As a classic introvert, one to one interactions have always been my best thing! And yesterday I sold my first knitting bag from the new website! Best of all, I wake up every morning in anticipation of the day's activies (which include that lunch time nap and lots of time to 'play' with fabric and yarn).

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