Retirement 102

In my last post, Retirement 101, I emphasized the need to make a smooth transition to Retirement and the importance of waking up each morning with a purpose.  In this post, Retirement 102, I’d like to expand on that idea and urge you to take time to reflect on the  “benefits” of retirement and the newfound freedom it offers.

When my five children went off to college, the primary advice I gave them was that their success in college would depend upon how they spent their time and with whom they spent it.  A successful retirement, I have learned, is much the same.

I remember a couple of weeks after I retired, driving along I-20.  If there was any doubt I was retired, reality gave me a wakeup hug as I listened to the radio – AM750 – to catch up on the News.  The morning traffic report blared forth about a wreck on I-20 westbound at Boulevard Avenue and another wreck at Wesley Chapel Road that had I-20 westbound shut down.  I simply smiled as I cruised eastbound at 70 mph, contemplating how a decision made in early March to punch the retirement button had me traveling in the opposite direction.

If this had been just thirty days earlier, I would have been driving westbound toward my downtown Atlanta office and AT&T job as Director of Planning of the AT&T Global Switching Network.  But it was April, and as a new retiree, I was instead driving eastbound toward Lake Oconee to babysit two of my grandsons. I could not have been more delighted in the direction of my car…or my life.

There are some great benefits to being a retired grandfather.  When I got to my daughter’s house, she relayed a conversation she had the night before with her 3 1/2-year-old son.  The conversation went like this:

Grandson: “Mommy, do you know who is coming over tomorrow?
Daughter: “No, I don’t. Give me a hint
Grandson: “Well, he has a gold car with big black wheels
Daughter: “Hmmmm…..Uncle Matt?
Grandson: “No. He’s bigger than Uncle Matt.”
Daughter: “Give me another hint
Grandson: “Well, he’s very tall. He has a big, fat mustache. He wears glasses on his face. He gives very good hugs. And….he gives me everything I want. That’s all I can tell you.” 

A week later, I dropped by the local Chic-fil-A for a chicken biscuit and a glass of tea.  I picked up a copy of their complimentary USA Today and proceeded to read it from cover to cover.  Thirty minutes later, refreshed with a refill of my ice tea, I walked to my car, and the proverbial light bulb flashed.  I was not in a hurry, not in a rush to get anywhere, I didn’t have to wolf down my food because I only had a 15-minute break or a conference call to join.  It finally dawned on me what retirement felt like.

With a smile on my face, I told myself, “Yes, I can get used to this. 

As I pondered this new lifestyle, it occurred to me there were a number of other indicators that served to remind me of my new status and why I am ever so thankful for the decision to transition to the next phase of my life.

    • I consistently get 8 hours of sleep and no longer wake up to a clock radio alarm.
    • I sometimes forget what day it is, or as one of my former colleagues told me, every night is Friday and every day is Saturday.
    • I suddenly realize that the _ension in my life now starts with a P instead of a T. 
    • Sometimes you don’t appreciate how significant something is until you recognize its absence.  Another newly retired colleague admitted that his blood pressure had dropped so much his doctor planned to change his BP medication.
    • I realize conference calls no longer dominate my daily life. Correction, they no longer exist in my daily life, unless they are with my grandchildren.
    • I am reading more…and only what I want to read…and if I wish to stay up to midnight to read those last 3 chapters, I can.
    • I am able to play golf once a week, at any time I choose.
    • I no longer check Company email at night, on weekends, on vacation…in fact, I no longer check company email at all.
    • I can visit (babysit) my grandchildren anytime I want to.  For example, I now can say yes to my daughter and daughter-in-law when they invite me to join them and 3 grandchildren to pick strawberries on a Thursday morning at a Watkinsville Strawberry Farm.
    • My gas bill and laundry bill are significantly lower than usual.
    • I find myself relaxing and smiling when I used to worry and frown.
    • I now only consider putting my hydrangeas on a performance improvement plan, not people.

But the most significant realization, the numero uno lesson learned, the great aha moment was recognizing that I now have more freedom and time to participate in activities that serve others.  I may be retired from what was an exciting and satisfying  42-year telecommunications career, but I will never be retired from being a worker in God’s kingdom.  God is simply not finished with me yet!  Yay!

This may explain why, as noted in the previous post, I prefer the term re-purposed rather than retired, whereby I don’t allow retirement to become some version of institutionalized sloth.  Don’t allow this new freedom, I told myself, to become one long narcissistic last hoorah! A retiree is one step closer to enjoying a significant retirement/re-purposement if they will only stop and count their blessings.  It is then that they can move forward recharged, refocused and reengaged to pursue the opportunities that God provides. 

A successful retirement does indeed depend on how and with whom we spend our time.  Realizing this truth was a key first step for me in finding meaning and purpose in this last phase of my life.

Having emerged from the fires of the challenges of a corporate career, and endured the grief of spousal loss, I discovered that my faith, still strong and still growing, had prepared me to stand ready to embrace the future.  In essence, Retirement is another opportunity to answer the call upon one’s life, a call, that once answered, provides meaning, purpose, and contentment.  

The author, Francis Chan, summed it up well.  “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  

Amen to that!

ps:  Here’s a few more quotes to stir the soul.
A Christian never retires from serving God through his or her vocational call. While we may have moved into a new season in our lives, God still calls us to grow and invest our gifts and talents in the work that he is doing in the world.”   Hugh Whelchel, “How Should Christians Think About Retirement?tifwe.org, August 15, 2013

We should be always ready for the work God has placed in front of us, before retirement and beyond it, for God’s call does not fade over time, but beckons us ever onward for as long as we live.  James Clark, “Retirement Reexamined,” tifwe.org, June 2, 2016

Retirement is an opportunity for a redeployment, a recalibration, a reset, revival, reform, and a new trajectory.”  Peter Markgraaff, “Redirection not Retirement,” tifwe.org, July 24, 2017

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  1. Curtis Wall

    Ok, this is awesome. I’m getting close but not quite there. 9 months to two years: somewhere in there.

    But, I’m befuddled: I thought you had retired some time back. Is that true or have I just been clueless for the last several years (be kind with your response, please.)

    By the way, I had breakfast in Atlanta with Gary Ludgood a week or so ago. He looked great, literally 10 years younger, and he was in great spirits. He, too, is enjoying that lengthy ice tea break.

    God bless, Buddy


    Curtis M. Wall 3313 Balmerino Lane The Colony, Texas 75056



  2. Buddy McElhannon

    Yes, Curtis, I retired in 2015. I published some these comments at that time but decided to incorporate them along with a “things I have learned since” perspective on retirement. So while it may have sounded like a recent phenomenon, it is really just an updated perspective. Hang in there.


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