Marin editor offers up retirement tips from hundreds

Retirement might not be easy, but you can actually learn to love it, says Barbara Waxman, certified life coach, author and editor.

“The large wave of baby boomers is redefining the meaning of retirement,” says Waxman, a Marin County resident who interviewed hundreds of people for her latest book, “How to Love Your Retirement.”

Barbara Waxman

Waxman says today’s seniors don’t want to recline and be idle. “Today’s boomers are approaching this life stage with the same zeal as they did their youth,” she notes.

For example, one 60-year-old woman interviewed in the book changed careers 11 years ago — and became a model.

“My modeling career started at this crazy age that you would never expect,” the New Yorker, who had been a makeup artist for 25 years, says in the book. “But that is because the baby boom generation is still the wealthiest, healthiest and biggest buying population in America, and the advertisers want models that these people can relate to.”

Waxman prefers the term “pro-tirement” over “retirement’” — and offers in her book several tips for coping with the transitions.

“Retirement doesn’t mean not working for money,” says Waxman, who is active in Tiburon’s Congregation Kol Shofar and has served on the boards of the JCCs in Marin and San Francisco.

She offers examples of retirees, or “pro-tirees” as she would say, who began teaching or making art or who joined the Peace Corps.

“I’m amazed at people’s resilience,” says Waxman, who has been a Wexner Heritage Fellow. “I’m amazed by the inspiration of people going back to fulfill their dreams.”

In “How to Love Your Retirement,”  published last week, Waxman outlines core tips for helping people prepare for the next stage in their lives.

“People should get involved in other activities before they retire,” Waxman says. “Also, people should look at their relationships and understand how retirement impacts those relationships. Be intentional. People also need to understand their physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy, and focus on strengthening those areas.”

Waxman says the hardest part of retirement may be for people to adjust to a new identity, one no longer anchored to their definition of self: CEO, doctor, breadwinner. But people can prepare, she says, for change.

In the book, a man from Wisconsin says: “To enjoy your retirement, you have to be able to feel useful, needed, wanted, and valuable.”

A woman from Maryland talks about retiring early: “These extra years have given my husband and me valuable extra time to see the country and do things we were never able to do before.”

Waxman’s book contains 10 chapters that offer wisdom on topics such as feelings and attitudes about retirement, creativity and brain fitness, finances and technology. There are also exercises that readers can complete to gain further insight, and then perhaps apply the lessons to their own lives.

There’s more to retirement than can be learned from a book, Waxman admits.

“Listen to messages you’ve gotten from your most significant mentors,” she advises. “Accept yourself inside and out. It takes courage to make peace with yourself. And identify your core passions and sense of purpose. Think about what gifts and talents you possess — even those you’ve never used before. Use these as a launching pad as you design the post-career life you’d like to lead.”

In the book, sex and relationships are a major topic.

One woman from New York says: “I always kidded with my husband: For better or worse, but not for lunch. If you’re going to retire, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be with you 24 hours a day.”

Then again, says a man from Maryland: “Nothing will revive your sex life like being home all day, every day, with your spouse. It’s like the period right after you first get married all over again.”

The experience of interviewing hundreds of people for the book led Waxman to formulate one general conclusion: “attitude” is probably the crucial ingredient in whether or not people love retirement.

As a man from Tennessee observes in the book: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body … rather, you should skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming, ‘Woo hoo! What a ride!’ Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

“How to Love Your Retirement”  by Barbara Waxman (208 pages, Hundreds of Heads Book, $14.95)


Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is a freelance writer.