January 25, 2016

Retirement is a Journey

By Phyllis Bonfield

Welcome to my new blog on the subject of retirement. Some come to retirement well prepared for what lies ahead. Others, I dare say, most, are more like me — not as well prepared for what life has in store. I knew approximately when I would retire some years before the actual date – November 15, 2004.

As things go, I thought I was prepared. I knew where I was going to live. I had happily anticipated “the move” for four years. I was moving to a home on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I bought the house with my long-time partner in December 2000 with retirement in mind.

“Chesapeake Dream” on Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland

“Chesapeake Dream” on Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland

I have two grandchildren in New Jersey whom I adore. But, my oldest grandson is only four and his brother recently turned one. So when I retired, grandchildren were not part of the equation.

In 1998, I was downsized after 12 years as an executive with a not for profit association serving the financial services industry. The 18 months between full-time employment was tough. I didn’t have the means to retire at age 56. And I feared I couldn’t find another job in my field.

I did consulting and part-time jobs while looking for full-time employment. Through trial and error, my computer skills did improve over those many months. I even learned how to be my own techie.

Eeks! What do I do now!?!!

Eeks! What do I do now!?!!

If something I was trying to do, didn’t work, I had to figure it out myself. I learned how to price consulting jobs, develop Excel worksheets, PowerPoint presentations and more.

My improved technical skills helped me get a new job. But I had to take pay and title cut.

For the four years before I retired, I worked for a regional library network based in Philadelphia. I was grateful to have a job in my field — marketing and communications.

When I retired, I had recouped some, but not all of my lost wages. Thanks to my partner, I did not have to go into my retirement savings while out of work. By 2004, I felt financially secure enough to retire.

Just after Thanksgiving near the end of 2004, we moved to Southern Maryland, relocating near Solomons Island, Maryland, a well-known boating community on the Chesapeake Bay. Our home, on Maryland’s the Calvert Cliffs, was located on a 70-foot cliff with a breathtaking 22-mile view of the Bay.

The takeaway: I had not anticipated retirement would have so many challenges. While many retirement experiences have been fulfilling, this journey is not without peril. My blog will explore the past 12 years as I continue on this journey called retirement.

As I blog on a topic affecting so many of us, I would like to hear from you. I want to learn about your experience/s on your own retirement journey. My hope is to start a dialogue that’s helpful to all who participate – whether as a reader or more fully as a blogging companion. Please provide your name and how I may contact you, either by email or phone. I will not print your name, but may need clarification or have a question. Blog with me at [email protected]

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Phyllis Bonfield

About Phyllis Bonfield

Phyllis has been writing for publication since she was an editor on her high school newspaper. After graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked for more than 30 years with educational and not for profit organizations in public relations, marketing, conference planning and development. Prior to her retirement in 2004, Phyllis was the marketing & development manager for a Philadelphia-based regional library resource network. She was in charge of web development, publications, membership recruitment and conference and event planning. Phyllis also served as vice president of public relations for an association serving the financial services industry. She directed an award-winning public awareness campaign in conjunction with the American Red Cross. She was also instrumental in developing a campaign to promote business ethics in America that received front page coverage in USA Today and recognition on CNN, ABC and other national news outlets. After she retired, Phyllis waged a personal PR campaign to curb shoreline erosion at her home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The project included organizing other shoreline homeowners and Maryland’s elected officials to take on 17 federal, state and local agencies who opposed her property receiving a building permit for revetment. After a two-year effort, she received the first permit on Maryland’s western shore to build a continuous nearshore breakwater. This project paved the way for neighbors to receive similar permits for erosion control. Phyllis has a bachelor of journalism degree from The University of Texas-Austin where she majored in advertising and public relations.