381: How to Thrive in Retirement and Not Fade Away with Celia Dodd
Today, I’m talking to Celia Dodd. After 30 years of contributing to publications like The Independent, the Times, the Guardian, Country Living, and Good Housekeeping, Celia started writing books about parenting and life transitions.
Celia is the author of All Grown Up: Nurturing Relationships with Adult Children, The Empty Nest, and Conversations with Mothers and Daughters, but today’s conversation is focused on her book Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement.
In this conversation, Celia and I discuss many topics, including her keys to a successful retirement transition, empty nesting, and the top three challenges every retiree faces. If you’re approaching or in retirement, there’s sure to be something here for you.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What made Celia’s father’s retirement so sad–and how his depression made successful retirement so near and dear to her heart.
- How to better navigate the complex emotions that come with leaving the workplace and the regrets that can come with life transitions.
- The value of slowing down–and even learning to love boredom.
- Why finding purpose is at the very top of Celia’s retirement checklists.
- How to transition from being a hands-on to hands-off parent as your children reach adulthood.
- How to reduce your risk of gray divorce as you enter retirement.
- "This is your opportunity to please yourself and find what really brings you fulfillment. And I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity, but it needs effort." - Celia Dodd
- "With all relationships, whether it’s your partner, friend, whatever, to genuinely put yourself in their shoes and to think about what it’s like for them and to really listen to what they’re saying to open up lots of opportunities for talking." - Celia Dodd
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- Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement by Celia Dodd
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- Empty Nest: How to Survive and Stay Close to Your Adult Child by Celia Dodd
- Conversations with Mothers and Daughters by Celia Dodd
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Casey Weade: Welcome to Retire with Purpose podcast. My name is Casey Weade, where it is our mission to help deliver clarity and purpose and elevate meaning in your life through personal and practical financial strategies. We do that in a couple of different ways. We do that every single Friday with Marshal Johnson and myself. We get together and we discuss a trending topic around retirement, both financial and non-financial. And then every other Monday, what we’re here to do with you today is we bring on one of our world-class guests and we deliver to you a conversation that could be financial, could be non-financial. Today, it’s going to lean into that softer side of retirement and we’re doing that with Celia Dodd.
Celia comes to us as a journalist with three decades of writing experience in UK newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in The Independent, The Times, The Guardian, Country Living, Good Housekeeping. And after 30 years as a journalist, Celia turned to authoring books, writing about topics like parenting and major transitions in life such as empty nest and retirement. She is the author of four books, including Not Fade Away: How to Thrive and Retirement. That’ll be a main focus of our conversation today. She also just released a new book titled All Grown Up: Nurturing Relationships with Adult Children and has also authored the Empty Nest and Conversations with Mothers and Daughters. I am excited to cover many of her checklists with you, top three retirement challenges, eight keys to a successful retirement transition, marriage and retirement, empty nesting, and so much more.
Casey Weade: With that, Celia, welcome to the podcast.
Celia Dodd: Thank you so much for having me on, Casey. It’s great to be with you.
Casey Weade: I’m excited to have you here. You’ve said that many of these topics are just so close to your heart – empty nesters, retirement, relationships. What makes these topics so near and dear to you?
Celia Dodd: Well, it’s partly my stage in life, I suppose, as these things that I have gone through myself, my children leaving home, for example, and now having adult children. But when it came to retirement, I was kind of approaching the retirement years myself. But my view of retirement was kind of haunted by my dad’s retirement, which was a really sad experience, not a good experience at all. He got really depressed, very anxious about money in particular for no good reason.
And I grew up with that, really. I was in my 20s when he retired and he’d gone from being a sort of very successful person at work. He was one of these people that worked really hard. And he was in academic, he was a physics lecturer, but sadly had no interest outside work. And so, I reflected on that. Obviously, it haunted the whole family. It was very, very difficult because he never got out of it. He was stuck in that depression.
But then my father-in-law had a wonderful retirement. So, I’m able to compare the two. He prepared for it. He had something he really wanted to look forward to. What really look forward to, he wanted to learn how to do etching, kind of printmaking. So, he went to college. So, he kind of seized it, whereas my dad wasn’t really ready.
So, with that book, I felt very passionately about trying to show people how not to get stuck like my dad did. And if they did get stuck, I wanted to show them how to get on the start, how to get out of it, or indeed their loved ones, people around them because, of course, it had a huge effect on my mother as well, indeed, the whole family. She was always trying to make my dad feel happier, but it was too late. It was too late to start finding new interests.
And also, I just wanted to hear good stories about retirement. So, I went and set out, I interviewed 60 people, 60 retirees. And a lot of them had struggled, a lot of them had dark times, but they all had great ideas about how to get through that because transitions are difficult, it isn’t always easy. So, it was fascinating hearing these stories. And then I think it’s a great way to then work out how you would do it yourself. You don’t copy them, you work out, you listen to stories and then work out how you could do that yourself, work out your own path. So, yeah, that’s why.
Casey Weade: It’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to see contrasting experiences. And I think that’s what I experienced. Howard Weade, Ralph Bailey, my two grandfathers had polar opposite experiences on the softer side of retirement. And then you go out, you interview 60 different people, you get to see all of those different experiences. And I’ve had the opportunity to see thousands of experiences over the years. And it just brings so much color to those that maybe aren’t quite there or are also struggling with retirement.
And I wonder about you. You’re doing so much still. You’re writing books. You’re doing so much writing and putting so much great content out there that’s having a positive impact on lives. Do you consider yourself retired at this point?
Celia Dodd: No, no. I mean, it may sound a bit hypocritical that I write about it, but I would say, like a lot of people now, I might even call myself unretired. Certainly, in the UK, there’s this whole movement, I’d say called unretirement, which is people carrying on working or building a whole kind of portfolio of things that they do in retirement. So, I really work. I’ve just taken on a contract for another book, my next book. So, I’ll be working probably three days a week or two and a half days a week. And the rest of the time, I do look after grandchildren, that kind of thing, all the things that retired people do. But I think, my husband is fully retired. He fully retired. He gradually, and now, he is, since 18 months. So, I have got a very good experience of living with retirement.
Casey Weade: Living with a retiree at that.
Celia Dodd: Living with a retiree, exactly. I know what kind of ups and downs that that bring.
Casey Weade: Yes, even traditional retiree, and then you have yourself. Do you ever see yourself going in a fully retired direction? And how long are you going to continue to do what you’re doing today? How do you view that?
Celia Dodd: It’s difficult to say. I mean, I would say I’ve just taken on this new contract and I did think twice about it because I feel busier than I ever have been with all the other things outside paid work that I do. But I think as a writer, it’s very easy to carry on working. It’s not physically demanding. It’s great for my brain and what I love and what I think, I recommend to anybody who’s retiring is that I keep learning, I keep making connections with other people. I’m curious, I’m constantly– and in fact, since I signed the new contract for this book, I feel really energized. I think whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be paid work. It can be any kind of thing you feel very passionate about, but it’s energizing and it’s kind of good for you in all kinds of way. So, that’s why I think it might be quite hard for me to stop. Maybe after I finish that next book, we’ll see.
Casey Weade: You’re pretty exhausted after a book. Yeah, I completely understand.
Celia Dodd: Definitely, yeah.
Casey Weade: You talk about how many are not used to having conversations about retirement, this major shift that you make in retirement, this sense of identity and loss of purpose, mission, vision, values, things such as these. It’s just such a big transition when we’re so commonly talking about getting a new job, getting married, having children. We recently brought in a Chief Purpose Officer here at our firm and we’re developing our own coaching program.
And my father was having a conversation with our Chief Purpose Officer. And dad is 73 years old. And he said, “I just don’t get it. I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish. What are you doing here? What’s your job? A Chief Purpose Officer, this didn’t make any sense.” And it just goes back that we don’t have these conversations. And then our CPO, Les, he had this conversation with Dad and said, “Hey, do you feel the same level of significance today that you had when you were working? Do people still look to you in the same way?” And he said, “No.” He said, “Do you miss that?” He said, “Yes, I do miss that.” He said, “Well, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re trying to deliver that and coach that back in the individuals that are having that kind of struggle.”
And it kind of clicked for him, but I’m still not sure he would be ready for that conversation or maybe never will be ready for that conversation. What are you finding as you’re having these conversations with this generation? Is this a strange conversation for them to have? And are you finding that they’re very open to the conversation when it comes to the softer aspects?
Celia Dodd: No, I don’t think it is an easy conversation for people to have because I think retirement is quite a dirty word almost. I mean, people are in denial about it, I think, on the whole. So, I think you don’t really want to think about that future and what it could bring. It’s very uncertain. You’ve been on autopilot probably since you were in school, you were in college. And now, everything’s up in the air. You don’t know quite what’s going to happen next.
And I think there’s a tendency to look very much back and to say what you’re going to give up, so all the things you’re not going to have to do. You’re not going to have to get up early in the morning. You’re not going to have to have meetings, boring meetings, all of the not things. And some of those will be things that you’ll miss and some of the things you’ll be, great, I won’t have to do that anymore. But that’s not enough. You really need to have something to look forward to. And so, that’s why those kind of conversations are so important long before you retire to really start thinking, well, what will that feel like? How will that day be? How will I cope without structure routine?
Maybe I’ll love it, maybe I won’t, but to really, I think, ask yourself an awful lot of questions. And so, they’re really important conversations to have, but I think they’re becoming rarer. There’s very little sort of retirement preparation certainly over here in the UK, that sort of formal retirement preparation. So, in a way, books like mine are the only way you can do that. Setting out structure of the questions you need to be asking, the discussions you need to be having with your friends, I think it’s really helpful to talk to friends who are retired and to find out how it’s worked for them, what are they doing. The mistakes, we all make mistakes, things that you wouldn’t do again. So, I think, yeah, they’re really important discussions to have. But I think people are in denial on the whole because they don’t like the idea of being retired and they don’t know quite what the future holds.
Casey Weade: We don’t like to talk about death, politics, religion, and retirement.
Celia Dodd: All of those things, yeah. And it feels like an end, not a beginning, whereas in fact, it’s the beginning, I think.
Casey Weade: Well, I love that you look at it that way and you highlight in your book Not Fade Away three top retirement challenges. I think this is just a transition to that. You say that number one thing is leaving the familiarity of the workplace and colleagues and dealing with a mixture of emotions – excitement, sadness, anxiety. Those are a lot of emotions that can lead to a bit of a rollercoaster ride. And I wonder, how do we deal with this?
You talk about having conversations with friends and colleagues. What about coaching? What about therapy? Do we need some type of coaching or therapy for this? What’s the most effective way of managing these emotions?
Celia Dodd: I think coaching is really helpful both for couples and for people on their own. I mean, that may sound a bit drastic, but I certainly think being able to talk things through with an objective person is invaluable because it’s a good way to work out what really has meaning for you, which is the key and how you’re going to find value beyond when you’re not being paid for what you do because we’re so used to valuing things in terms of how much we’re paid. And if we are not going to be paid, you have to find a whole new way of valuing the way you spend your time. So, yeah, I think, therapy again sounds a bit drastic, but I think there’s ways of doing all this stuff informally. I certainly think therapy can help you. It can help people. I think people need outside help, but I think there are also ways.
I know a couple who every year, they go away for the weekend and they talk about where they’re going to be in 10 years, where they’re going to be in five years, and they take it back. So, they work out a strategy of how the future is going to be. I think that’s incredibly helpful, actually, but it’s painful. It’s not easy, none of this is. A transition like this is never easy.
And these emotions, like you say, it’s a rollercoaster. I think when people first retire, they can be often happy as anything one day and then really down in the dumps the next. So, it’s very confusing, a very difficult time, it can be. But also, out of difficult times come great things, out of crises come fabulous opportunities.
And by this age, we’re used to a few difficult times. So, we have resilience. We have adaptability. We have a lot of the qualities we need to move through this difficult thing of leaving work. And there are a lot of ideas out there about what you could do next. You could start up your own business. You could do all kinds of volunteering. There’s many more opportunities than there were certainly when previous generations retired. It’s all changing.
Casey Weade: I love the idea of a retirement retreat. I think that’s what I take away from that. I mean, having just this annual retirement retreat, which my wife and I, we always seek to do an annual marriage retreat. And I think some of these things come very naturally, especially for business owners or entrepreneurs are maybe used to having leadership retreats, out-of-office retreats where they’re really focusing on the vision and where they’re headed in the future.
And for myself, I’m just very used to coaching. I’ve always done coaching. So, coaching comes very natural, but I’m finding that that’s kind of an unfamiliar concept for the majority of retirees to do some type of retreat or some type of vision building or working with a coach. That’s where coaching comes in handy because if you’ve never done it before, it takes a coach to really help you get on the right track.
Number two on your top three retirement challenges is taking stock of your achievements, meaning coming to terms with regrets and limitations and accepting that a chapter is closing and that some ambitions haven’t been fulfilled. I was wondering for yourself and maybe lean in this with your husband, what types of regrets do you have? What type of regrets does he have that maybe others could be on the watch for themselves and how they manage those?
Celia Dodd: I think I often have regrets that I didn’t pursue my career more single-mindedly, that I had kids so I always work part-time. And sometimes, when I look back on my career, I wish I could have worked full time on a magazine or on a newspaper with my children. So, I would have probably progressed up the ladder a bit, been more senior, done more, traveled more, whatever. But I think it’s a double-edged sword. So, I know that I really want to spend time with my family. And that was crucially important as well.
So, I think I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to– I regard this retirement, I think for a lot of people. I think for my husband as well, it’s a kind of like harvest of all the kind of skills and experience you’ve built up over the years. And you can use these. Now, they all kind of come together in these new things that you do. And I think my husband’s quite a bad example of regret. He’s not someone who does regret things, I don’t think. He just thinks that chapter’s over. Now, I’m going to do this.
And in his case, he’s learning to play the viola and be in an orchestra and all of this stuff. So, he has many new interests. So, yeah, I think it’s really important to try and deal with regrets if you have them and to think realistically. As I’ve just said, it’s not realistic for me to think that I could have been the editor of Good Housekeeping or Vogue, whatever, because I had my kid. So, I think you need to not look back and go, “Oh, dear, I should have, I should have,” and just close the chapter but acknowledge. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and acknowledge that there’s a certain amount of sadness that you won’t ever be the CEO or whatever it is that you dreamt of doing.
Casey Weade: Do you find that over time that becomes more challenging as you put more distance between you and the potential of an action that you took that you might be regretful of, that you become more regretful of those things? I feel like younger people tend to deal with regrets that they have relatively resiliently because there’s so much future ahead. Now, we get later in life, there’s not as much future ahead. And now, do regret start to creep their way in more so in those later stages of life?
Celia Dodd: I think that’s so interesting that you say that because I would say the opposite. I’d say, yeah, I would, because I think if you can close that chapter successfully, then I feel you’ve got so much ahead of you. You could have another 30 years ahead, a third of your lifespan could be retired. And if you look back on your past 30 years and how much change and how many different kinds of work you did and how many different things you did, and you think, well, the same could be in the next 30 years, and how amazing is that?
So, I think it’s quite important really not to dwell on it. And it’s interesting that of the 60 people that I interviewed, I don’t think any of them talked about regret very much. I mean, they weren’t all super happy to be retired, but they had dealt with it basically or they were dealing with it. So, I think maybe that’s the thing about getting older, although the older people are actually much more flexible than we’re led to believe. We’re actually very adaptable. And dealing with regrets is part of that I think, and saying, “Oh come on, that was age ago.”
And of course, you get perspective when you leave work, you get a fantastic sense of perspective. Why was I worrying so much about that guy? Why was I worrying so much about that promotion? Really, there were more important things in life.
Casey Weade: Well, it’s about zooming out. I love that on perspective, it’s the opportunity to zoom out even further, right? If we’re younger, let’s say we’re 30, we might be zooming out 10 years and going, “Wow, look at how much had happened the last 10 years. What are the next 10 years going to look like?” And that seems like a lot.
But then as you are 60, you’re looking back 30 years, 40 years, 50 years and going, “Wow, what could happen over the next 30, 40 years?” That is definitely true. It’s all about zooming out and recognizing purpose as well. And that is your third piece of those top three retirement challenges is looking for a new purpose, new energy, perhaps a new way of life. For someone that’s entering that phase, they’re wondering what is purpose, what’s my purpose, where am I going to find energy, what does a whole new way of life look like, where do you recommend they begin?
Celia Dodd: I think, make a fairly simple, straightforward list of the things that you really liked about work, the things you enjoyed at work, the skills you enjoyed using, the kind of sense of flow, the moments of flow that you had at work, and then a list of the things that you really didn’t like. And that gives you a very good idea of what a good life would be, what a good retired life would be.
I think the same with holidays. You can think about, well, what are my happiest things on holiday? Do I like lying around on the beach? Or do I like abseiling down a cliff? Or what is it that gives me? You’re always searching for this sense of flow, this losing yourself in the moment, things that really fulfill you.
And I think that requires quite a lot of soul-searching to ask a lot of questions. I think that’s quite a practical way to start when thinking about your work, but then thinking about your core values and what really has meaning for you. And again, that’s quite a lot of soul-searching. You can try different things. I think trial and error is very good.
Of course, we all want to find something that we feel passionate about that gives us purpose, but that can feel a bit daunting, I think. I think it’s good to start with something that you just feel curious about and that leads on to something else. You start by investigating something. You feel curious about learning more about it or taking it up. Maybe something like me, I used to play the flute when I was a teenager. I’ve taken it up again recently. Things like that that might have been a disaster. I might have just closed the chapter.
I did take up horse riding, and that wasn’t a disaster, but I decided maybe, maybe not with a life extreme. So, I think the mistake is an experiment. They’re not mistakes, they’re experiments and working out what really, really makes you feel fulfilled and full of purpose. And it’s entirely individual. That’s the difficult thing about retirement. It’s up to you. Everybody’s different.
So, although I say my book helps by telling all these different stories of how people have made things work for them, you don’t want to copy them. You want to work things out for themselves. Hear those stories, hear what your friends say, talk to a coach. But then it’s up to you to work out from all of that information. What was right for you? And it’s a journey, it’s a learning, continue learning journey.
Casey Weade: Well, pausing, reflecting, slowing down, that’s what we’re talking about here. And in the US, that’s kind of a shock to the system. We’re not good at slowing down, right? Everything’s very fast paced and that can be anxiety inducing even to all of a sudden, I’m bored, I’m slowing down. And that makes me think of someone that you interviewed in your book, a retired school head, Anthony. Anthony had talked about being used to being bored. Can you speak to that and the value of boredom and just acclimating ourselves to that slower pace?
Celia Dodd: Yeah, sure. I mean, I think Anthony found it really hard. He was finding it really difficult. But then he realized he had to kind of sit with it almost, and then something new would happen. But also, he had to be open to that new. He had to be almost not completely passive. So, I think those periods, I mean, especially when you first retire, I think it’s really helpful to have a kind of retreat. It might be a holiday, step completely back from your life. Maybe go on a retreat. A lot of people go away for more than an ordinary holiday. They go away for a couple of months or they go and volunteer abroad for a couple of months. That gives you space away from your life.
So, yeah, I think you do need those periods of reflection and it is very difficult to get used to it because as you say, we’re busy, busy, busy. And being busy has great status, unfortunately, but being busy isn’t the same as being fulfilled. And that’s what we’re after where you’re busy at work, but in fact, you can be much more fulfilled when you’re retired, when you get away from all that busy, busy, busy, busy.
Casey Weade: In 2019, you had a Daily Express article. You quoted a psychotherapist named Mark Vernon, where he said, “It’s in tolerating that period of uncertainty that you reform yourself as a person.” And I’m thinking as we slow down, we start to recognize the uncertainty in life. But throughout our working lives, when we’re busy, we just don’t recognize how uncertain things really are because things are always uncertain. Whether we’re working, whether we’re 19, 29, 39, 49, 69, 79, there’s always uncertainty in life, but we don’t really recognize it until things do slow down.
Celia Dodd: No. Or indeed stop. In retirement, they could. If you don’t do anything about it, life can stop. So, yeah, I think and I’m afraid, one has to recognize that. When you’re retired, things can be uncertain in a bad way. One’s health can be uncertain. You don’t really know what the future holds and the health of your partner, the health of your loved ones. And that’s a particularly uncertain thing that I think is hard to deal with.
But again, I think I come back to this thing that older people have many more strengths than they’re given credit for and they do have wonderful resilience and they do have adaptability and they are incredibly flexible. And that really helps you. So, it’s really good to plan, but you can’t be fixated on your plan because the chances are things are going to change because it’s an uncertain world. You know circumstances change all the time. So, you have to be flexible within your plan, I think really.
Casey Weade: Well, that just makes me think for younger individuals that are at that point in time, maybe they’re not pre-retired, they’re not retired, just the value in taking pause and living in some uncertainty, really recognizing that uncertainty, that’s where we find our purpose. That’s where we find our mission. That’s where we find happiness at the end of the day. It’s just so difficult to really live in that uncertainty and just embrace it and ultimately make the right decision.
And that leads me to your eight keys to a successful retirement transition that was also in the book and everyone was making the right decisions. I mean, okay, well, I need to make the right decisions. So, I think that there could be many right decisions, but maybe there’s some very clear wrong decisions. What are some of those wrong decisions that maybe you caught onto with some of those 60 individuals that you interviewed? You said, “Hey, watch out for this. These are some red flags. These are some things you need to be aware of.”
Celia Dodd: Well, what was great about the people I interviewed was that they were very happy to talk about the decisions that they’d made if going wrong. I mean, particularly when it came to moving house, that made me think there are several people moved house the wrong area, but then those were decisions that they could change. You can move again. It’s not the end of the world. So, when I thought about the word right decision, I think it’s a kind of good decision. I think the important thing is to make a thoughtful, intentional decision to really think of carefully, but then accept that not all decisions are right.
There was the man in my book who he tried volunteering, he hadn’t traveled very much at all, and he was a retired police officer. And he went to Nepal after– there was an earthquake and he went to volunteer out there to help. And it didn’t suit him at all. He was out of his comfort zone. There was no one to meet him at the airport and he broke his leg. And it just didn’t suit him. He came back to England, but then he tried again. He went back. He was determined and it worked okay the next time. And then he tried different jobs that didn’t work.
So, again, it was sort of trial and error. So, I think we can get too hung up on making absolutely the right decision, but I think as long as it’s a thoughtful decision and you take in all of the kind of factors that need to be taken into account, that’s the best way to make a good decision. But as I say, don’t get too hung up if things don’t turn out perfectly in the end.
Casey Weade: And what I take away from that is if it’s thoughtful and it’s intentional, it’s the right decision you think it turns out to be wrong.
Celia Dodd: Yeah, or if it’s wrong…
Casey Weade: Because it’s thoughtful, intentional.
Celia Dodd: Yeah, yeah. And usually, things aren’t complete disaster. They usually– and we learn so much, then you make the next decision is right. It’s a much better one as a result of what you learn and what you’ve learned throughout your life actually. But obviously, getting advice is helpful, it is really good. I mean, I think there are certain things obviously you need to make good decisions about and you don’t want to make mistakes about finances, for example. There are some things you need to get really solid good advice of that.
Casey Weade: And that probably leads to number two, which is preparation. So, that’s a key to a successful retirement transition. And like, sure, we need to get the money right, of course. But is there a checklist of sorts when it comes to the softer side of things? What’s at the top list?
Celia Dodd: Preparing. Well, thinking about getting a new purpose actually. It all comes down to purpose. I think everything else falls into place. All of the other kind of keys to success, which are sort of health, having good health, good connections with other people, I think it all comes down to finding a purpose. And I think you can start by preparing, I would say two years before you retire, at least by looking for new interests and new activities, preferably sociable, but if you’re not a sociable person, that doesn’t matter.
But something, this idea, I spoke to a psychologist who said it really helps people cope with the transition is building a bridge so that you’ve got a new interest which takes you from your old life to your new life. That is well bedded in by the time you actually retire. And there’s a fabulous train driver in my book who is an absolute shining example of the perfect way to retire because he knew, he drove high-speed trains, and he loved his job and he stopped it, one day was doing it, one day wasn’t.
But about two years before, he knew he’d miss his colleagues. So, he set up three groups that would carry on after he retired, a walking group. The next one was old train’s group, going to see if they were involved in train. So, they love vintage train. And then the other one was something called real ale, which I don’t know if you have in America, but it’s like proper beer. And so, they go around the country going to old traditional pubs and touring.
So, there he has these three things in place. He also writes poetry and he plays in a band, but he loves being retired. But he also loved his work. So, I think, that is a really good example of sort of preparing, finding purpose, and then that takes care of your health in a way and your energy and your desire to get up in the morning, all of those things.
Casey Weade: When I hear that as a wheel, most people hear purpose, and I think I have to have this one thing, this big thing, this purpose with a capital P, and what that person did was kind of created a wheel of purpose. We have all of these different activities we really enjoy and we’re going to continue to do those things in retirement. How do you define purpose?
Celia Dodd: Something that really makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning and say, “Yes, I’m going to do that.” And it could be anything. It could be caring for somebody else, looking after grandchildren. It could be going to volunteer. It could be setting up your own business. I think that could really fill you with purpose. And you’d have to learn so much if you set up. If you’re an entrepreneur, you set up your own business, whether it was making jam or even if it’s small scale, there’s so many new things you’ve got to learn and that’s going to really energize you, I think.
So, for me, it’s about energy and it’s about fulfillment. But I think what I like to think of is that you need to look for kind of long-term purpose, so long-term goals, an overarching goal which then incorporates a whole load of daily goals. So, I started playing my flute again. To get good, I have to practice every single day. I have to play in a group. And my own end goal is to play in an orchestra so there’s lots of other things and then there’s lots of spinoffs that come from that.
It’s very sociable. I play in a group with other people. I meet new young people, which is important, people who I wouldn’t otherwise– in different walks of life. It’s really good for my posture, my health. It’s good on all kinds of levels. It’s great for my brain.
So, I think that’s a really good thing to have an overarching purpose. It could be a trip abroad. You could be doing a big trip, which involves a lot of smaller little goals in between. It could be setting up a business, in which case you might have to learn some new skills, new technology, talk to people. So, that for me is the ideal purpose. It’s a long-term thing which has got lots of daily things that get you out of bed in the morning.
Casey Weade: It almost drives itself back to a goal. And that makes me think of one of the studies that you cited in the book. You said that it was great for your brain. And in the book, you mentioned a study that showed that a strong sense of purpose appears to lower the risk of dementia by 2.4 times and that people with clear goals live longer in retirement than people without.
And you gave some examples of what clear goals might look like there. I mean, are there some ingredients that you see show up as what a clear goal should look like in retirement? And I ask that question because I know there’s a big interest from retirees and what’s a goal look like in retirement? That can be a challenge because one of our most popular podcasts of all time with Schofield, he talked about how to set clear and meaningful goals in retirement. And some people still have this question, are there some ingredients? How do we think about goals? How do we set goals? What are some meaningful goals? Can you just take us a little bit deeper there?
Celia Dodd: Yeah, again, I think one of the big challenges of retirement is that it’s very individual. And so, what is a goal that has real resonance to one person will be meaningless to the next person? So, I really do think you have to think about what is worth spending your very precious time on. And for me, that means, as I mentioned before, thinking about your core values. There is a sense that your time is limited now and you want to get your ladder up against the right tree before you climb it. So, you want to think about the thing that you think, either the organization that really needs your time, the volunteer, a way of volunteering that would be really good use of your skill.
I mean, I think the ideal for some people is to use skills that they use to work. And so, the great thing now is that you can get rid of all the rubbish things about work and you can use the good thing. Some people want to leave that completely behind. So, I think really, it’s about keeping an open mind and doing a lot of exploring and a lot of investigating to work out what is the right thing for you. I don’t think there are single answers, but I think, as I say, what you need is something that is going to be long term and then have shorter-term goals within it.
So, you’re driven forward all the time. You’re making progress. And when people are searching for goals, I do think it’s really important to just start somewhere. Just start. Don’t get too hung up on perfection. I think it’s easy to just feel, oh, I know. I’ve got to feel totally passionate of this. But if you can start with something that really chimes with you that you really enjoy and you find fulfilling, then that will lead to another thing and that will lead to another thing.
With clear goal, you’ll get more clarity the more you do it. I think the worst thing you can do is sit at home watching TV or waiting for it to happen because in retirement, you have to be proactive. You’re more proactive than you ever had to be in your working life because it’s up to you to make it work.
Casey Weade: One of the things that really stands out to me and what you said there was leveraging skills from work and actually pulling those things forward, and that can be your starting point. Just start with the things that you know, and maybe some of those new things will develop. And that leads me to one of your other keys to a successful retirement transition, you state new identity and status. And now, that makes me question, do we really need a new identity? Do we really need a new identity in retirement? Maybe it’s not a completely new identity. Do we need a new identity or not? Because most of us feel that, yeah, I need a completely new identity because this is a completely new stage of life, but is it really?
Celia Dodd: I think it’s a more rounded identity is what you can aspire to in retirement because at work, your colleagues see you as the jokey guy or the really clever guy or the guy that is there all the time, works very long hours. You have your work identity. And I think this is a wonderful opportunity to have a much more rounded identity. So, you’re right, you’re not getting rid of the old identity. You’ll always be a doctor or a financial person or a writer. You’ll always be that.
But then you have this opportunity to develop that and to say, “Well, I’m using my skills in this new and exciting way.” And I think, the question that people really dread, retired people, is, “Oh, what do you do?” And a friend of mine got really freaked out by it. And she came up with the idea of just saying, “Oh, I’m just taking a pause.” But you really want to be able to say not, oh, I used to be a brain surgeon, whatever. You want to be able to say, oh, I’m doing a fantastic photography course or I’m going to Australia or I’m volunteering for the homeless shelter. You want something because that’s just as much as a crucial part of your identity as the profession that you were in or the career you were in, so.
Casey Weade: Letting go of being that CEO or being that surgeon and saying, “No, I didn’t use to be that. What I am today is what’s most important, being in the present, being mindful of that.” And we covered four out of your eight keys to a successful retirement transition. So, for those of you that want the other four, we’re going to give away copies of Celia’s book, so stick around. I’ll make sure that you get one of those copies because I just don’t want to miss out on some of the really important aspects that you’ve written about, and one of those being empty nesters. And in your book, the Empty Nest and All Grown Up: Nurturing Relationships with Adult Children, I wanted to ask how writing that book yourself helped you cope with becoming an empty nester.
Celia Dodd: It helped me so much because I decided to write it when my eldest son, I’ve got three children, and the eldest one was leaving home and I was really lost, I mean, discombobulated, I mean, I was really, and very sad. But at that time, it was about 12 years ago and it was thought of as very much just something that affected stay-at-home moms, not career women, not dads. And of course, it affects fathers and it affects everyone just as much.
So, again, I set up the talk to loads and loads of other empty nesters, men and women, to find out how they felt about it and to find out how they got through it. And it helped me so much just hearing, getting tips really on how to say goodbye without bursting into tears, for example. And what do you do when they come home for the holidays and vacations and they’re argumentative or they seem like a different person?
And then with All Grown Up, which is sort of after the Empty Nest, it’s really about having a lifelong relationship with your child, which again, in the past, I wasn’t really expecting. It comes back to that uncertainty. I had no idea what my relationship with my kids would be like when they left home. I thought that would be it. They’d be off. They never want to see me again. But of course, now I realize that it’s a lifelong relationship and it needs nurturing and a certain amount of work for it to be good. And it changes and develops all the time.
Casey Weade: Well, I hear a theme that you continue to pull back end of this, and that is having conversations, asking lots of questions, and seeking consultation. It’s got to be one of the biggest takeaways I hope many have from this is actually get to talking, have these conversations. Don’t just try to figure it out yourself, bring others into the conversation. And I think this is a great lead in to one of our questions we received from our Weekend Reading subscribers. So, every week prior to this interview, we will reach out to all those that’s subscribed to Weekend Reading and we will ask them, “Hey, do you have any questions that we can point to this conversation?” And we received a really relevant one from a fan named Jennifer.
Jennifer had this to say. She said, “As a mom of a 22-year-old boy and girl twins, I am looking to improve my relationship with my young adult children. How do I shift my role from a hands-on mom to a hands-off mom? What tips and tricks do I need to know to stay in their life from the sidelines and ensure they don’t make too many mistakes, which is so difficult sometimes? Thank you for your advice.”
Celia Dodd: I think the first thing is I’m afraid they’re going to make mistakes and you have to just stand back and let them make mistakes. And it’s agony, it’s a horrible feeling. But that’s your job as a parent. And of course, you’re always there, sort of like a lifeguard at the edge of a swimming pool, always ready to jump in to help when they really need you and when they ask you for help. You’re always there for them. So, I think that’s the difficult thing.
And basically, that goes along with seeing them as an adult, treating them as an adult, talking to them as if they’re an adult. I think we’re all guilty parents of adult children of slipping back into parent-of-little-child mode, sort of telling them off, shaking your finger. My daughter called me out doing that the other day. She’s 30. So, I think we have to really see them as the world sees them, as adults and treat them as adults. And with that goes responsibility from their part. The great thing about having adult children or 22-year-old twins is that they see you with a new respect, I think, especially if they’ve left home. They don’t take their parents for granted anymore.
And so, it becomes a much more mutual relationship when you’re not having to do all the cooking and laundry and all that stuff. I think that’s an important part of it, if they still happen to be living at home as a lot of boomerang kids do now that you don’t do everything for them, that you expect them to cook dinner from time to time, that they pull their weight in the house as much as– that you’re living together as equals, you’re not in that parent mode anymore. And I think that takes a kind of pressure off the relationship that it just allows it to be more equal, sort of frees it up. It takes away some of the clutter of the practicalities and it frees you both up to have a much more– to talk about different things.
And I think another really important tip is to genuinely put yourself in their shoes. I think it’s very easy for people like me to say, “Oh, when I was your age, I’d left home and I was living and I had a flat and everything.” And of course, for this generation of boomerang kids, it can be quite hard to do those things. And I think this goes with all relationships, no matter where, whether it’s your partner, friend, whatever, but to genuinely put yourself in their shoes and to think about what it’s like for them and to really listen to what they’re saying to open up lots of opportunities for talking, but to really listen and not jump in and say, “Oh, yeah, I know what it was like,” but just allow them the space. Again, sitting with maybe them saying something uncomfortable to you.
Casey Weade: You said boomerang children a couple of times there. And I know you experienced this yourself. And so many look at this as a negative thing, including myself, I mean, I don’t want my kids coming back home after this. I feel like I didn’t do a good job if they’re coming back home and maybe that’s not a good thing for them to come back home. I think many see it as a very negative thing, but you’ve pointed out maybe there’s some positives as well. How do you view boomerang children? Do you view that as a parent didn’t do the job they’re supposed to do to create an independent child? Do you view that in a way that is negative for them to be coming back home? Or are there a lot of benefits of this?
Celia Dodd: I think there are a lot of benefits. I totally agree with you that it doesn’t feel like you’ve maybe done a good job or that they should be independent and that maybe often, boomerang kids themselves, they don’t want to come home. It’s not ideal. They want to be off living their own lives and their parents might.
But I think now, there’s a lot of research that shows that young adulthood lasts until sort of 29 now. It takes much longer for people to become independent, and that’s not because their parents have done a bad job at all. It’s because of circumstances, expectations, longer life expectancy. People aren’t in quite such a hurry. People get married later in life.
So, there’s a whole load of reasons that are not to do with individuals. And I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know your children as adults. I think that’s the big fantastic benefit that you really…
Casey Weade: But we don’t view them as adults. If they’re boomeranging back to you…
Celia Dodd: Well, you have to do. Well, you have to. Yeah, you have to. It’s a question of how parents shift their attitude. So, if you treat them as adults and expect them to contribute rent, set a time limit on how long they’re going to be at home for, and okay, you might have to review that if they really can’t find somewhere to live or whatever, but set a time limit, so you both know where you are, whether it’s a year, six months.
So, yes, do your best to treat them as adult. You’ll always be their mom or dad. But being a mom or dad, my father knows that being a dad of a 29-year-old is just as wonderful as being a dad of a nine-year-old. And it’s actually true. It’s great, whatever age they are.
Casey Weade: Well, I want to make sure we talk a little bit about strategies for marriage and retirement. I don’t know if this is the same way in the UK, but in America, studies have shown that adults age 65 plus are the only age group where divorce rates continue to rise. And I wanted to gather some from you around what really is that test, what’s happening in retirement, how does this retirement test your marriage, and what type of strategies have you learned to help avoid this risk of silver divorce.
Celia Dodd: Well, I think there are two retirements. In marriage, there are two retirements that you could negotiate. There are two people being retired, whereas back in the day, it was usually just the man who was retired. And now, we’ve got two people with possibly very, very different views of the future. I think it’s quite common for women like myself to really focus single-mindedly on work and to carry on working, whereas the husband might want to stop.
And you see so many, I hear so much from couples where one is so disappointed that the other doesn’t want to do this, doesn’t want to travel, or doesn’t want to move to the Lake District or they don’t want to do the same thing. And the next problem is if you’re together 24/7, that’s the same here, once you are both retired, the saying is I married you for life but not for lunch. And that is difficulty. It’s difficult negotiating territory.
Casey Weade: Now, I’m going to use that one on my wife, though.
Celia Dodd: So, I think, there are lots of solutions. And I mean, I think it’s really helpful to go to– I mean, my husband and I went to a very short pre-retirement couple’s sort of counseling, it’s called an MOT, and to just talk through all of these things. And what came out of that was most helpful was setting aside a time once a week, at least. No, once a week is enough, I think. So, really sit down and talk about what’s going on for each other.
And I think it’s really important to not make assumptions because you think the other person hasn’t changed whereas you might have changed, but in fact, the other person might have changed, they might not still want to go live in the night with you. They might want to go and travel the world, but you won’t know until you really sit down and talk it through. So, I think it’s vital not to make assumptions.
And I think after, and you’ve been married a long time, it’s quite hard to get back into the habit of having quite deep conversations about this stuff. So, that’s why I think it’s a good idea to set aside a date somewhere outside the house, not at home. Go away for the weekend, maybe, to really, really hammer it all out, to really have a really proper discussion about it, and to keep that going all the time, that you keep reviewing things, like the couple I talked to earlier. They didn’t just do that weekend. You were talking about the marriage retreat. You don’t just do it once. You keep doing it, you keep checking in and making sure that you’re both kind of on the same page. And that doesn’t mean doing the same thing at all. I think you have to respect and compromise, respect that the other person might want to do something different, but work out a way that you can still be together because, yeah, I think silver divorce is a real worry.
And one of the marital therapists I spoke to for the book said, affairs are very common about 18 months after people retire because people still want to feel part of the world. So, trouble can be brewing unless you are proactive and really think about, maybe even kind of reinventing your relationship in a way which is great. I mean, it’s full of great possibilities. It’s not a great chore, but it does require thinking about and what you could call work. It just needs a bit of effort.
Casey Weade: Well, it’s back to what you’ve been talking about this whole time, having conversations, continuing the talk, and never stop talking. That was one of the first pieces of marriage advice I had was from a friend that had just gotten divorced and he said, “Never stop talking, always communicate.” And I can see how that can slow down as we step into retirement. We can forget how much we need to talk because we’re going through this transition and even how much more important it is to talk at that stage in life because we are going through that transition.
And I want to talk about a very specific situation that one of our Weekend Reading subscribers shared with us and see if you could speak to that. Mike, in relation to this, says “I’m currently 63, but my wife is just 55 and we have no children. We are each insured individually by our respective employers. My wife is mentally closer to wanting to retire than I am, but being diabetic, she needs to continue working to have good insurance coverage. What are some thoughts you might have on how we successfully phase ourselves out of work into retirement without causing a wedge by having one of us retired and one still working?”
And I’ve seen this time and time again where we have one soul working, one retired, and there’s a little jealousy in many circumstances that happens there. Maybe that’s not exactly what Mike’s speaking to there, but speak to that in general. We have one spouse working, we have one retired. How do we manage this without creating a wedge?
Celia Dodd: Well, I think, again, it’s thinking about really, really putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and thinking, well, what’s it like for them? It’s very easy. The classic situation is where the husband takes over the kitchen or takes out the washing in a different way that you’re used to or does all of this stuff and the wife gets really fed up or the husband likes playing music really loudly or when one is working and the other one isn’t that you think, well, why haven’t the chores been done? Why hasn’t the broken chair been fixed? What have they been doing all day? So, that resentment is really, really absolutely out there. It’s kind of natural in a way, especially if you’re a bit fed up to be carrying on working.
So, yeah, I think you really have to, as you say, keep communicating, keep talking about it, but then think about ways of making it better. Don’t just think it’s all our fault. Think about ways that you can adapt as well, ways that you could maybe spend more quality time together, ways that you could maybe suggest in a kind way that you’re fed up about your territory, your kitchen being taken over. Have that discussion, but not accusing. Just maybe have a discussion about the things that are making you feel a bit better, a bit cross, but also the things that are positive and work out ways to do things separately as well as together. I think that’s the secret of happy retirement with couples that they need to have lots of things that they do together but then separately.
I don’t think many couples want to do everything. Although you do hear stories of women complaining that their husbands say, “Oh, well, what are we going to do today then, darling?” And the wife wants to be off with her friend, but he expects her to sort of work things out. So, I think, again, a quiet word to say, well, I think it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do today is helpful.
I think it sounds like from the couple that wrote in that if they could work out a way of both gradually retiring, those kind of both working part-time something and doing it in a way that they were seeing each other and working had an aim, a goal that when they were fully retired, some really nice plan that they had to look forward to, I think that would be really helpful so that you’re carrying on seeing it as a growing relationship that’s going to carry on and go from strength to strength actually, when you’ve got more time.
Casey Weade: That’s great. So much great stuff, Celia. As we bring things to a close, I want to ask you one last question. You’re on the Retire with Purpose podcast, what does retire with purpose mean to you?
Celia Dodd: It means having your best retirement. This is your chance to please yourself, perhaps for the first time in your whole life. You have got to please a teacher or your boss. This is your opportunity to please yourself and find what really brings you fulfillment. And I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity, but it needs a sort of effort. So, you need to think about it. You need to not let it slip through your fingers. That’s what it means, I think, to me, and to be energized into the future.
Casey Weade: Not let it slip through your fingers, I love that. So, Celia, thank you for this. I want to make sure we get your book out to as many people as possible. So, we partnered up with Celia to give away her book, Not Fade Away: How to Thrive in Retirement. And this is how we’re going to do that. So, we’re going to give it away for free as long as we have copies remaining here. And the way that we’re going to do that is if you write us an honest rating and review over on iTunes, we’re going to send the book out for free. All you have to do is shoot us a text. So, write the review on iTunes and then text us at 866-482-9559.
Just text us the word “Book” at that number and then we will send you a link so that you can then provide us your iTunes username and we will be able to verify things and send you out a book for free. It’s a great book. There is so much great information in here and great exercises for you to bring back into your life and your marriage and your family. They can make a huge impact in your life. Celia, thank you so much for joining us here. I look forward to your next piece of work.
Celia Dodd: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Casey. Thank you.