An American Editor

February 28, 2022

On the Basics: Thinking about retirement

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 3:51 pm

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

© An American Editor. Content may not be recirculated, republished or otherwise used without both the prior permission of the publisher and full credit to the author of a given post and the An American Editor blog, including a live link to the post being referenced. Thank you for respecting our rights to and ownership of our work.

For many of us, it might be time to start thinking about retirement from our publishing-related lives, whether we work in-house or have our own businesses. Some things to consider are relevant either way, while some are more relevant to one or the other.

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the Girl Scout motto “Be prepared.” I’ve written often about being prepared for emergencies. Retirement, ideally, should be pleasant, but it can become an emergency if we don’t think about and prepare for it ahead of time.

About the money, honey

The first and probably most important aspect of planning for retirement is to start saving money now, whether you’re 25, 35, 45, 55 or 65. One of my clients is an institute that studies retirement financing, and the statistics about retirement preparedness in the reports I’ve edited for them have been scary: Far too many people don’t save for that day, and then find that Social Security and Medicare aren’t enough to maintain the lifestyle they’re used to. If health problems crop up, the situation can get even worse.

And don’t get me started on the dangers of relying on expected pensions. My beloved Wayne-the-Wonderful retired from Bethlehem Steel with a decent pension and  excellent related benefits — and the company went out of business, after 100 years, the next year. His pension was slashed; his monthly bonus for taking what had looked like a generous early-out option (retiring a few years early because of his combined age and number of years with the company) disappeared; and our medical coverage went from free to so much per month to nothing, so we had to pay for health insurance. We were lucky because I was still working and we had very few expenses to worry about, but co-workers who had worked there even longer — 30, 40, even 50 years to his 27 — saw their pensions slashed in half or by even more, and many of their spouses had never worked outside the home. It was awful, and Beth Steel employees are not the only ones to suffer such treatment in recent years. The Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp. is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t cover all of what most people have earned and expect to receive.

For those who are single and worried about money, retirement might offer an interesting option that I just read about in the Washington Post: communal living — several friends or relatives sharing a home to save money and feel safer about the potential of needing help in a crisis. It isn’t for everyone, but that model might be a great way to make retirement feel less lonely and isolated. (The same model could be used for those who become widowed and don’t want to live alone.)

Identity issues

A big issue is preparing for the emotional aspects of being retired. Be prepared to feel at least a little disoriented and need some time to adjust to this new version of life, even if you’re stepping away from work you don’t enjoy. Many people feel lost when they don’t have a job to go to or do every day. Your identity, as well as the pattern of your days, also can be so wrapped up in the work you do that you no longer know who you are when you stop doing that work.

For people in various aspects of publishing, this might be easier to manage than for those in other careers or professions, because we can often keep writing, editing, proofreading, indexing, designing, photographing, etc. — for pay, as volunteers or for our own enjoyment — long after other people who do other kinds of work. We might even find new pleasure in doing the same kinds of editorial work on our own terms. If you never want to look at a blank page or someone’s manuscript again, though, that sudden gap in how to fill the hours of the day, and identify ourselves, can be hard to handle.

My mom was very worried when Wayne retired; she thought he might feel lost and confused when he couldn’t call himself a steelworker any longer. But he was thrilled! He was dedicated to his job, but delighted to retire and catch up on all the reading he didn’t have time or energy for when he was working; run errands whenever he felt like it (he loved going to the grocery store, of all places), rather than have to use his rare days off; spend more time with me; and plan trips longer than his official vacations allowed for … He had no interest in finding another job, either part- or full-time — he was the happiest retired person I ever saw.

Communicating before crises

If you’re part of a couple or family, retiring can change also the dynamics of how you interact with each other, especially if you’re suddenly home all day instead of at an office, warehouse, job site, station, whatever. You might have to reassess and rearrange some of the routines and relationships with the people around you, especially anyone who’s used to running the home. Those sit-com and advice column instances of a retired person driving their still-working or accustomed homemaker spouse nuts by reorganizing everything or wanting to change how everything gets done aren’t clichés; they’re real.

This might require formally sitting down to talk about the new life and its impact on everyone in the family. Communication is key. I had to do that when Wayne retired; he had never really seen me working and didn’t realize that I might not always be able to drop everything for the day trips, grocery runs and other adventures that he could take when he no longer had to go to work. We had to establish a new routine of my letting him know when I was on deadline and had to stay put for the day; in the past, that never arose because I got my projects done while he was at work. We still had unplanned, impulsive adventures, but sometimes I had to say no.

Alternative activities

Once you’ve figured out the financial side of retiring, think about not just how to spend your retirement income or cushion but how to spend your time. There might be hobbies, crafts or adventures you’ve been putting off because work was taking up all of your time and energy. Don’t be surprised if some of those “I’ll do it when I retire” options aren’t quite as fulfilling as you expected them to be, but don’t be surprised if you find a new identity and excitement about life when you try them.

For years, I’ve only traveled for business, other than vacations with Wayne. I often stay with or see friends and family when I’m out of town at a conference, but the event is the primary reason for the trip. My plan for if and when I ever retire is to travel for pleasure — to visit friends around the country and family outside the country just for fun.

Retirement might also give you the chance to try new creative outlets. I already have some hobbies (ceramics, glass art, sewing) that I expect to spend a little more time on now and a lot more time on then. And I plan to take up some new creative projects; maybe painting, maybe some other craft I’ve never tried before. I expect to write, edit and proofread indefinitely, but I might do more on a volunteer basis than I do nowadays.

Think ahead, but enjoy the now

I’m a big believer not just in being prepared, but also in living for the moment, because we never know when illness, injury or family issues can arise and derail even those best-laid preparations and plans. By the time you do retire from editing or other publishing work, your or a family member’s health and funds might not accommodate big trips or projects you put on hold “until I retire.” Now is the time to take those trips and look around for new hobbies, interests, activities and adventures — while keeping that retirement moment in mind.

Are you thinking about retirement? If so, how are you preparing? How do you think it will feel?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and owner of An American Editor. She created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and sponsored by An American Editor. She also owns A Flair for Writing (www.aflairforwriting.com), which helps independent authors produce and publish their books. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

3 Comments »

  1. What a great article. And what great timing. I’m thinking about retiring so I can go to the grocery store any time I want, too!

    I am having my “covid slow-down” now, finding myself with no work for the first time in as long as I can remember. I’m noticing those identity issues creeping in, wondering what I’ll do if I’m not working (besides grocery shopping). I was working from my hospital bed the day after I delivered my first son! But my partner wants me to travel with him, so I bet I’ll figure it out.

    Thank you for a timely piece.

    Donna

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Donna Mosher — March 1, 2022 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  2. Something else to consider: Start looking for or thinking about a successor for your freelance work well before you’re ready to let it go. Your clients and colleagues will both appreciate it if you have someone – or several someones – in place to hand off projects, especially if you take care of that in time to be involved in a transition to a new editor, proofreader, writer, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by An American Editor — March 3, 2022 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  3. I enjoyed your article, although I myself am doing a “reverse retirement.” After years as a stay-at-home soccer mom, I was thrilled to return to editorial work when my grown children left the nest. I’m not sure when my career will peak, but I’m keeping all your considerations in mind—knowing that retirement could come sooner than I expect.

    Like

    Comment by marymoore500 — March 19, 2022 @ 10:48 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: