Putting Your Pastime to Work
Jack had always thought it would be nice to retire early. But as he faced his 55th birthday, he and his wife, Phyllis, couldn’t see any reason to cut their retirement savings short. He had worked for the same company since he was 18 and was still healthy and strong. Phyllis was planning to work for several more years, so he looked forward to at least another five years on the job.
A New Consideration
Yet later that year, while they were visiting their first grandchild in California, Jack and Phyllis received a surprising phone call from home that turned these carefully laid plans upside down.
“Someone from the company head office called,” their daughter relayed. “They’re offering a special early retirement package to certain employees and it’s great! You qualify, Dad. What are you going to do?”
What, indeed? For many men and women who are faced with this kind of opportunity, the initial answer seems very straightforward: take the money and kick back. Retire and goof off. Most working folk would have no argument with that. If you work hard and ‘pay your dues,’ why shouldn’t you take full advantage of the chance to do as little as possible?
As Jack and his wife considered their options, Jack looked forward to all the things he wished he’d had more time for while he was working, like golfing in the summer, curling in the winter and time with the family. He just wasn’t sure that would be enough. When he shared his good news and his concerns with his older sister, who had retired some years before, she was quick to agree.
“You’ve always been an active person,” she advised. “You can’t just do nothing.”
Will I be bored?
Retiring at 60, 55 or even earlier can present some challenges. For people like Jack, who have always been busy, the prospect of sitting at home with no fixed plans can be a little scary. Boredom can set in and, coupled with the feeling of no longer being “needed,” may lead to more serious problems like depression. The physical risks can be as significant, particularly for those whose professions kept them active and in relatively good shape.
The idea of going back to work may not be very appealing to the newly retired. For some, like Jack, it is the idea of going back to working for someone else. For others, it is uncertainty about what to do. Many professionals may feel they haven’t any option but to do some form of what they did before they retired. Some retirees look at work only as something they do – or did – for money, forgetting interest and satisfaction.
Try something new
Jack talked with his wife about needing to stay active and out from under foot in the house. He took on some consulting work in his own field, then tried his hand at selling insurance. He tried working in the local hardware store, and later he would even run for public office. Yet nothing felt right until the day he decided to put one of his pastimes to work.
Jack’s love of gardens and ability with lawn care were legendary. His neighbors all admired his lush, thick green lawn and tidy well-trimmed hedges mixed with bright containers of flowers. He had passion and interest, and, with a little help from an extension course at the university on northern gardens, he was ready to go.
The benefits of this small, seasonal business were numerous. Jack made his own hours and took on as many or as few customers as he liked. He stayed in shape and kept a little bit of a tan while he did something he truly enjoyed. He found satisfaction. He fussed over the aging and neglected lawn of a sweet elderly lady who just wasn’t ready to give up her house. He fought weeds and overgrowth to maintain the ‘natural’ look for a doctor and his family. He gave advice about planting and groomed beds for the brother of one of his daughter’s friends. He didn’t charge much, according to the going rate – usually just enough to cover his expenses and materials. It was hard, dirty, hot and sweaty work, but he loved every minute of it.
Putting his pastime to work
A few years later, when Jack and his wife began attending a new church, he found a new opportunity to put his pastime to work. The church lawns and gardens had been neglected and there was no one to look after them. Jack took on the job and took pleasure from this practical way that he could contribute to his church community.
Now, more than ten years later, Jack and his wife are enjoying a more ‘traditional’ retirement. Jack doesn’t do a lot of yard work, but he still works from time to time and keeps busy with a variety of other hobbies. Looking back, though, Jack is convinced that those first few years of early retirement were crucial – to his relationships, his health and his vitality.
Early retirement can be a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy additional leisure time. It can also be a time to expand horizons and try something new. With a little ingenuity, any hobby can be turned into a satisfying occupation and provide the opportunity to stay active and stay involved in life. Have fun, and try putting your pastime to work!