February 26, 2019 Book Synopsis

Get the Most Out of Retirement

Sally Balch Hurme, JD

Just about everyone dreams of retiring someday. Who doesn’t want to ditch the commute, slow the pace down, and enjoy our families and hobbies more? You probably have a vision of what it will look like.

You may be feeling some excitement and anticipation with a dose of trepidation. You may be wondering: What do I need to do to make my vision work?

I can tell you from my experience: The big step into retirement involves lots of thought and decisions—and revisions. You’ll want to think about how your family and friends will react to a new schedule; how much time you want to devote to vacations, hobbies, and volunteer opportunities; how to get your medical and financial matters in order; where you are going live; and many more details that go into making your retirement even better than expected.

It turns out that retirement involves quite a lot of, well, work. And then it takes some getting used to. Whether you are just in the thinking stages for what your life is going to be like when you stop your regular schedule, or you are already living in retirement, a lot goes into making the most of every day. In my book, Get the Most Out of Retirement, I walk you through the process from managing your money to last a lifetime to simplifying your life, so you can focus on what you want to do next.

Your first focus should be on who are you right now: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Think about how your sense of identity changes upon retirement. It can be hard to reorient from worker to retired. I’m still not sure what to say when people ask if I’m retired. For me, the label “retired” says more about what I’m not doing, rather than who I am. I’m still a lawyer and always will be, even though I practice in a different setting. I continue to be an author, spouse, mom, grandmother, volunteer, and friend. Those identities haven’t and won’t change. And with my so-called “retirement” from AARP where I worked for two decades, I now have more time to devote to who I want to be.

In my book, I encourage you to think of retirement as an adventure when you can try new things, meet new people, and have a different schedule. Perhaps the best part of being retired is you can choose how you spend your time and who you spend it with. This is your chance to do things you’ve never done before. You’ve got twenty years to fill with purpose.

Think back to all the changes that happened in your life between ages 20 and 40, or between 40 and 60. Some plans were fulfilled; others got diverted due to events you couldn’t foresee. It’s okay to take detours or explore byways that seem attractive as you transition through retirement.

Your retirement means being open to opportunities and taking the actions you need to achieve your vision. Sometimes though, plans don’t quite go as planned, as you well know from your own experience. Do you have a Plan B? I help you build in some options if Plan A doesn’t work out. Your plans for retirement are not something you set and forget. Goals change as life changes.

Retirement doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it isn’t a rest-of-my-life vacation. Talk with your spouse, family, and friends about how your new life is working out for you and for them. You’ll need to be open to negotiating when their and your priorities don’t mesh. Speak up when you see a need to change course. Tell key people what quality of life you want now and how they can help you get what you want in the future.

People have differing ideas of what “being organized” means. It can range from just this side of hoarding to picky neatnik. Wherever your comfort zone lies within that continuum, I have lots of ideas about how to get your “stuff” sorted out. At a minimum, know where your important documents are located so you can find them when you need them. Prepare and update the key planning documents: health care power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and estate plan. Document your special personal possessions, and write down who you want to get them. It’s easier to talk about your own funeral wishes now than later. Procrastinating on these difficult topics limits your options and leaves your family in a quandary about what’s the right thing to do. 


Sally Balch Hurme is the author of Get the Most Out of Retirement: Checklist for Happiness, Health, Purpose, and Financial Security. This is the fourth in the ABA/AARP Checklist series, which includes the bestselling Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans, and Final Wishes; Checklist for Family Survivors: A Guide to Practical and Legal Matters When Someone You Love Dies; and Checklist for Family Caregivers: A Guide to Making It Manageable. To order these books, go to www.ShopABA.org or read more about them here. Coming in 2019 is the next in the Checklist series on all our housing options.

Scarcely retired from elder law, Hurme brings to her writing three decades of experience with AARP, the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, the Department of Justice, legal services, and private practice.