Retirement these days is not just about recreation, it’s about re-creation, says Mark Evan Chimsky, the editor of 65 Things To Do When You Retire.
“To overcome the stress of not knowing what to do in retirement, it’s best to start thinking about the things you’d love to do, perhaps dreams that you put on the back burner for years,” says Mr. Chimsky, whose book is heading into its fourth printing in less than a year.
This book of essays about how to create a meaningful retirement has landed on a number of best-of lists, including The Wall Street Journal’s, which named it in 2012 as one of their six best guides for later life.
Capitalizing on the book’s popularity, Sellers Publishing, an independent publishing company based in South Portland, Me., is publishing a sequel in March – 65 Things To Do When You Retire: Travel – which explores so-called glamping, the golden gap year and strategies for just plain getting away.
Mr. Chimsky explains the gratifying reader response by saying, “unlike other books about retirement by single authors with one perspective, this book packs in 65 perspectives,” with practical advice by some of the best retirement experts in the field as well as a number of first-hand accounts by retirees themselves.
“If our mail is any indicator, readers age 50-plus are hungry for books that can help them keep fit mentally, physically and financially,” Mr. Chimsky said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail.
The essay by Robert Delamontagne, who writes about those who suffer negative psychological effects after retirement, says many are not prepared emotionally.
I positioned Robert’s essay first in the book because I wanted readers who felt adrift in retirement to know that they weren’t alone. All of a sudden their work-based identity is gone. … Many retirees are reluctant to talk about feeling this way, but even smart, accomplished people feel a sudden loss when crossing the threshold into retirement. Some have devoted their entire lives to their jobs or careers, sometimes at the expense of family and outside interests, so they don’t have the resources built up to help them create the next chapter of their lives. In this book, we give readers the tools to start thinking about how to make this transition in a fulfilling way.
Another essay suggests people budget for 100 years. Do you find that many soon-to-be retired folks are ostriches about their money?
In the same way that many people don’t prepare themselves emotionally for retirement, a large number find it challenging to plan financially for retirement. … For people who are already anxious about retirement planning, and let’s face it, that includes many of us, the thought of financial planning, which can be daunting in its own right, can become especially nervous-making. …That’s why I thought it was important to have essays in this book by noted financial experts that address our emotional response to financial planning and to include user-friendly, practical tips from them about how to think more effectively about money management.
How can do you go about educating yourself on finances and investment portfolios?
In the book, we have an informative essay by Julie Jason, who manages retirement portfolios and has written award-winning books on personal finance. She says the process of personal portfolio management “is based on the premise that we cannot make certain what is uncertain, that mistakes will be made in assumptions, and that while risk cannot be avoided, it can be measured, monitored, and managed.” I think every reader will benefit from the seven key points she describes.
Is a good financial advisor is crucial for most people headed into retirement?
The goal of 65 Things to Do When You Retire isn’t to give specific financial advice. There are already plenty of books that do that. Rather, what I wanted to do was to help people who are retired or are planning for retirement to think about how to create a meaningful, emotionally fulfilling next chapter of their lives. … I took the position that it wasn’t for me to dictate to readers whether they should hire a financial adviser or not, but I did feel it was important to have an essay on what to look for in a financial adviser for those retirees who planned to hire one.
How is the boomer generation redefining retirement?
Boomers are looking to forge new paths, to “rewire” their retirement as Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners say in their essay. I was amazed by the stories I read of how people were reinventing their lives in retirement and becoming incredibly productive. One contributor, Sally Paradysz, built a cabin in the woods – by herself – at 65 because she wanted to have a writing studio and a place where she could provide spiritual counselling to others. After retiring from Abbott Laboratories, Barry Childs started a non-profit in Tanzania to help improve conditions in villages there … In previous generations, retirement meant an end to that kind of engagement, in today’s generation it often means the beginning of it.
With your follow-up travel issue, and an earlier title, 60 Things To Do When You Turn 60, it seems like retirement advice books have become a small industry. Why?
From now until 2030, about 10,000 people [in the United States] will turn 65 each day. That’s an amazing statistic, and of course it has influenced our decision at Sellers Publishing to focus on the boomer market. On a personal level … I’ve been moved by stories of people who say they feel anxious because they don’t know what they’ll do in retirement. And yet, this could be an exciting time in their lives that’s filled with self-discovery and wonderful opportunities, … In the new book, 65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel, I’ve included essays for a wide range of retirees – those travelling with a group, or with a spouse or partner, as well as those travelling on their own.
What kind of adventures are they having?
I love the essay by Lynne Martin, who writes about how, after three years of retirement, she and her husband decided to sell their house, put their most beloved possessions in storage, and to become “senior gypsies,” travelling the world. In fact, Lynne wrote part of her essay in Dublin and part of it in Marrakech. She e-mailed me that in order to get her essay to me on deadline, she was going to have to miss the snake charmers. I told her to forget the deadline and enjoy the snake charmers.
What are some of the most common travel themes?
Some of my favourites are glamping, which is a combination of glamour and camping for people, like me, who love communing with nature but enjoy their creature comforts as well; “voluntourism,” which can be any kind of volunteer trip, from doing an archaeological dig to helping people in developing countries; the “golden gap year,” which is like the gap year that college graduates take before starting to work, only for new retirees it’s a year of glorious travel before they settle into their retirement.
Are some finding valuable travel experiences in their own backyard?
In one essay, Mike Bonacorsi writes of “travelling local,” going to the White Mountains of New Hampshire when he and his wife found they had time only for a brief getaway. Their “experiential” vacation included a thrilling day of zip-lining and dinner on the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train, one of only 20 moving dinner trains in North America. In her essay, Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill writes beautifully about going to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which she calls her “Thin Place,” the Celtic term for a location where there’s very little separation between the physical and the mystical.
What other sorts of discoveries did retirees who started travelling make about themselves?
For a number of contributors, the self-discoveries have to do with finding a surprising new passion within themselves, whether it’s for RV travel, sailing or working as a volunteer to help others. For some, the personal discoveries go much deeper. In a haunting essay, the film actor and award-winning travel writer Andrew McCarthy writes of following the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage road in Spain – he had told his friends he was in need of “a good long walk.” Along the way, he meets a mysterious man named Lars. McCarthy’s essay takes us along on his own physical journey, but also on one that’s more interior, as he seeks “a way out of an insular kind of life that had begun to not only confine me, but define me as well.” He shows how the time he spends with Lars helps him to get over his sense of isolation and to rejoin the human race, and it makes for very powerful reading.
This interview has been edited and condensed.