Each year, more baby boomers cross over to retirement age — yet fewer are actually retiring.
It is this phenomenon that inspired Miriam Goodman of San Francisco to write her book, “Reinventing Retirement: 389 Bright Ideas About Family, Friends, Health, What to Do and Where to Live.”
OK, first question: Why 389?
Goodman explained that when she was writing, all she really focused on was filling each of the book’s seven sections with helpful advice.
However, after she finished the project — which is written as a narrative, rather than in list form — her publisher counted up all the tips and ideas — and the total was 389. So that was that.
In order to come up with so many ideas, Goodman, 65, questioned people between the ages of 50 and 70 about their retirement qualms. “I talked to a lot of people and I tried to come up with personal experiences to help others,” she says.
Goodman is a public relations consultant in San Francisco and the host of a radio show, a journalist who has written for publications such as Family Circle and Ms., and a two-time local Emmy nominee for documentaries produced for KRON-TV.
She got the idea for “Reinventing Re-
tirement” when she began noticing “that people who were of what is considered retirement age were not retiring — not because they loved their jobs or because they needed money, but because they were afraid of retirement. Then all of a sudden, retirement loomed ahead of them.”
Goodman, who is married to Martin Goodman and attends Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco, began questioning these people about their retirement issues.
One thing she found is that facing retirement often goes hand in hand with losing a piece of one’s identity: “A lot of people are really locked into their self-image [and] their identity is their job.”
For example, a senior can feel less like a person, Goodman says, if he or she has to “I’m retired” when asked the common question of “What do you do?”
But “I’m retired” doesn’t have to be the pat answer. “You can still say, ‘I’m a lawyer,'” Goodman says. “You can also say what you do now. People don’t have to give up that whole identity when they retire.”
Goodman adds that retirees should find something they’re passionate about.
“What were your career goals when you were a teenager that you never got to do because you had to take care of family?” she asks her peers. “Look at why you were interested in those dreams and start doing them as a hobby.”
For example, people who were in a band in high school but ended their connection to rock ‘n’ roll when they entered the “real world” can start playing music again — perhaps in a bluegrass band or a municipal symphony.
Also, Goodman discovered that many people have a hard time breaking away from their professional community, or even from their old job.
“After retirement, they go back and continue to have lunch with former colleagues,” says the Ohio native. “They need a new community to replace their work community. It is not easy to make new friends at 60. But don’t be afraid to.”
Goodman suggests that retirees take classes and find new interests and hobbies that will allow them to create a community separate from their former employer. She urges retirees to “stay physically active and get out of the house” in order to create a happy retired life for themselves.
According to Goodman, retirement will be different for the baby boomers because they will have had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the previous generation.
“I felt my parents’ retiring was not done well,” Goodman says. “My father retired because he was ill and my mother basically said, ‘I’ll retire with you.’ When he died two years later, she was left with no husband and no job.”
Goodman’s book tries to help people steer clear of those kinds of mistakes and others. She gives similar advice on her 30-minute radio show, “Reinventing Retirement,” which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on KUSF 90.3 FM.
“Every retiree needs a plan for what they’re going to do with the 20 or 30 years they have ahead of them,” Goodman says. “Today, the average person at 65 is going to live to 85.”
While it is not necessarily to have a strict schedule, it is important to have an idea of things to do in retirement, Goodman says. An empty calendar can be very daunting for recent retirees.
“Join book group, improve your tennis skills, take walks,” Goodman says. “Think about who you are as a person and make a plan based on that.”
And, she adds, “don’t feel guilty because you’re retired.”
She notes that it was the baby boomers that “were out there protesting the Vietnam War and fighting for civil rights. These same people should take that energy and experience to help their future.”
“Reinventing Retirement: 389 Bright Ideas About Family, Friends, Health, What to Do and Where to Live” by Miriam Goodman (176 pages, Chronicle Books, $14.95)