Most people know when and where they will retire and are able to plan for that transition well in advance. Every now and then, however, life throws a curve ball. When Joy Nevin’s husband, John, retired ahead of schedule, the couple’s world was turned upside down. “When a corporation springs the end of a career on someone, there is little time for advance planning,” Joy writes in her new book, Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, Learn. Those early years for the Nevins were difficult. “Sparks often flew as we each struggled to find our new normal,” she said.Through many fits and starts, the couple settled in and now, looking back, Joy is not only elated about their new life, but wants to help others manage that passage. (Click on the book title or book cover to buy on Amazon.)
She is certainly speaking to a large audience. According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day and that trend will continue for the next 19 years. The number of new retirees may be even larger, of course, since some people don’t wait until they turn 65 to retire. The workplace is still volatile and many may find themselves in John’s situation, being downsized, bought out, or let go with little or no warning. Rather than a smooth adjustment, retirement comes as an unwelcome jolt. Not only is there the loss of income, but also a feeling of corporate betrayal after many years of faithful service.
John had been an executive with a paper company and during his career the family made a dozen moves. With four children to raise, Joy didn’t go to business and concentrated on managing the family home. Wherever they lived, she was very active in volunteer activities, those responsibilities often demanding a great deal of her time and effort. Suddenly finding her workaholic husband at home 24/7 was a shock. “I was used to my own routine,” she said. “I had activities of my own – church meetings, volunteer work, and lunches with friends, and my own way of doing things around the house. Sitting around all morning drinking coffee was not acceptable.”
Joy’s dilemma is becoming more common these days with many women continuing their careers even after their husbands have retired. While it’s nice to think that some role reversal will happen, with the husband managing the home while the wife goes off to work, often the woman finds that she just has added something else to her to do list – managing a partner who now has nothing to do. Still, Joy knew that John, like so many retirees, was mourning the end of his career. In addition, John began to question how Joy managed the household finances, something that in the past he left to her. She realized, after speaking to a good friend, that with no new money coming in, their financial situation was very much on John’s mind.
What helped most in handling any issue that came up? Joy doesn’t hesitate: “When we clashed, we kept the dialogue going. We learned to communicate well without angst. We did not always agree, and it was often difficult for him to grasp my concerns. But as a smart and sensitive fellow, he gradually worked through the end of his career grief, listened more carefully, and developed his own philosophy for our new life.”
After having crossed the bridge into retirement, Joy can provide some perspective. Using her own example, as well as those of her many close friends, she serves as a warm, friendly guide, focusing on some of the problems she and John encountered and providing strategies for dealing with whatever obstacles crop up.
Many retirees face the issue of where to live. Should the family home be sold? Do parents move to be closer to children and grandchildren? (She tells a chilling tale of one couple who did just that, only to have their youngest son and his family move away, leaving his parents in debt, responsible for a large mortgage.) Finances often play a role on where to live. Although John gave Joy the opportunity to choose their new location, ostensibly to reward her for all those corporate moves, she knew that moving back to Connecticut, her first choice, would be too expensive. The couple settled near Richmond, Virginia and have never questioned that decision.
With people living longer, many retirees find themselves being sandwiched between even older parents and young adult children, many of whom are forced to move back home because they cannot afford to live independently. The Nevin’s youngest son, Charley, moved back home after college. Joy was happy to have him back for a while, but she expressed feelings common to parents in that situation when they find themselves – once again – feeling responsible for a child’s safety. .”I remember listening for the sound of his car at night,” she said. Charley’s stay at home was brief, meeting through friends at work the woman he would marry.
For many years, Joy and her older sister, Judy, were long distance caregivers for their aging and ailing mother who often resisted their offers for help. Joy later discovered that her mother had been abused and robbed by the home health care workers that she and Judy had hired. “We accepted the word of a hospital associate who recommended the women,” she said. “If either of us had done due diligence, we might have spared mother unnecessary pain, angst, and financial embezzlement.” Living through that hurtful experience has prompted Joy to make sure her own plans are in place, preferring not to leave that burden to her children.
While most older Americans hope to remain healthy to enjoy retirement, medical issues are inevitable. At different times, Joy and John faced a health crisis – his occurring because of an infection, hers from a heart issue. Her message here is clear: seek out the best medical advice, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion, and be your own best advocate. “When we sense something is amiss, we must be pro-active with our own medical care,” she said.
In the book, Joy deals with a wide variety of issues encountered during retirement, from dating and enjoying a social life, to managing Emotional IQ and physical appearance. She makes it clear that adjusting to retirement is a process and being open to change along the way is essential. And she includes a reminder that a positive attitude goes a long way towards surviving whatever life tosses in the way. “I want to share some thoughts about our experiences, lessons we have learned, as well as meaningful stories of people we know who have enriched and nurtured us,” Joy said, explaining why she wrote the book. “I believe in my heart that the more we give of ourselves with our knowledge and our experiences, the better we serve others.”
Joy of Retirement
WAT-AGE Publishing, LLC
Photos by Jai Williams of Januari Jai Media