Drawing on her life and career experience, Judy Rafferty has come up with what she describes as a guide to leading your best life post-work.
“Partly because of my age and partly because people are now much more open to seeing a psychologist, I found that I was really enjoying working with people discussing retirement issues,” she says.
“One older client suggested that I should start writing down these things and that I could write a book.”
When Judy mentioned it to her friends, they didn’t laugh as she expected, but said it was a good idea. And that’s where it all began.
It took a while for it to come together though, as she was working on Retirement Your Way in her spare time.
“It contains the same information you might get when talking to a psychologist,” she says. “We have all got life challenges depending on the age and stage we are in and it’s about finding strategies for dealing with those life challenges.”
Some strategies cross life stages – one woman wanted the book for her 35-year-old daughter.
Judy says the key message is to think ahead and be prepared for retirement, not just in terms of finances but emotionally, socially, and psychologically. While many of us are anxious about being financially secure in our dotage, it is not the money that will make us happy.
“Planning means addressing the frightening and we are reluctant to do it and tend to avoid it, and that doesn’t go well,” Judy says. “We need to just get on with it. We could do it when we were young, when we had to find our way. We had to find a job and often didn’t know what to do. We have to keep that robust attitude to life and think ‘ok what is next?’.”
Her other message is that even if you have been retired for some time, you can get real value from thinking about where you are at and what you are doing.
Judy’s career began as a speech pathologist in paediatrics, she went backpacking overseas, came home and completed her master’s in psychology, worked as a national resources manager for a major retailing corporation, had children and finally moved into counselling, the field she loves.
She’s still working now, but part-time and feels blessed that she can have one foot in the workforce and one out. Her husband has retired, but she has recently undertaken on more work in aged care.
“I think we all need to understand our identity and who we are and what is important to us,” she says.
“The book looks at values, the things integral to relationships and leading our most happy life.”
Judy sees not doing enough or doing too much as the big issues in retirement.
“We often hear people saying that they have been so busy since they retired that they are pushed for time but what are they achieving according to their values. What was meaningful and worthwhile? It’s an enormous issue in retirement and one that doesn’t jump out,” she says.
“As a society we are used to wearing busy-ness as a badge of honour but in retirement we have got windows closing. Some feel like they have lost identity, structure, and social networks.”
Response to her book has been strong and she accepts that many may feel ho-hum about reading it. Women have taken it up enthusiastically, but while men have been slower on the uptake, they have become enthusiastic.
She gives the example of a man who told her he had read the book even though he had been retired for seven years.
“His wife gave it to him so he said he just left it beside the bed thinking it would help put him to sleep,” Judy says. “He later told me he had learnt so much and it had changed his retirement.
“It depends on how deep you want to delve into yourself. You don’t have to work through it step by step.”
Retirement Your Way can be ordered through local bookshops or online bookstores or email firstname.lastname@example.org