Will You Still Need Me When I Retire?
Toward a Meaningful, Healthy, and Happy Retirement
By NAfME member Paul K. Fox
Adapted from the Fall 2019 issue of PMEA News
When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?
– Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
When I’m Sixty-Four lyrics © 1967 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Mattering vs. Marginality: Perspectives for Those Leaving the Profession
Do you feel “needed” and that you are “making a difference” to others? This is an essential part of what author Ernie Zelinski of the best-seller book Retire Happy, Wild, and Free emphasizes: “finding purpose, structure, and community,” goals for which your job and career usually provide but are equally essential in retirement.
“Work structures us and gives us routine in our lives,” says psychologist Louis Primavera of Touro College in New York City, who cowrote the 2012 book The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire. “We plan around work. It is part of our identity. We go to a social gathering and people say, ‘What do you do?’ Clearly, what happens is people say, ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to be?’ The loss of identity is a major fear.”
Retiring is “a series of transitions,” says Nancy Schlossberg, a professor emerita of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, and now of Sarasota, Florida, where she is a consultant and public speaker on life transitions. “Change is very unsettling. There are people afraid because they can’t forecast the future,” she says, and because they worry “they no longer will have a purpose.”
In her 2009 book Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose, Schlossberg talks about “mattering,” which she describes as “the degree to which you feel you’re appreciated, you’re noticed, you’re depended upon.”
Citing the research of Morris Rosenberg and B. Claire McCullough (adolescent studies), Schlossberg further defines it as “a universal, lifelong issue that connects us all.” Her “four dimensions of mattering” are:
- Attention – the feeling that a person has the interest of another;
- Importance – the feeling that others care about what you want, think, and do;
- Ego-Extension – the feeling that others will be proud of your successes and/or saddened by your failures;
- Dependence – the feeling that a person can depend on someone else.
Schlossberg also describes the opposing term “marginality” as “a sense of not fitting in,” which can lead to “self-consciousness, irritability, and depression. For some, these feelings can be permanent conditions.” Furthermore, “feelings of marginality often occur when individuals take on new roles, especially when they are uncertain about what a new role entails.”
Sound familiar? This might resemble that sometimes-tumultuous passage to and emotional ups-and-downs during the initial stages of “life after the work!”
Retirees, do you wake up in the morning feeling like you have an important part to play in the grand scheme of things? According to blogger Carol Larson and life coach Mary Helen Conroy,
“During those early months of retirement, folks often try to figure out what their purpose is now that they’re not working. They wonder if they matter.” They view this concept through the lens of popular culture and the literature of transitions. You are invited to try their shared “recipe for mattering” in the Retiree Rebel free podcast.
According to Dr. Amit Sood, author of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, “treat the first year in retirement as if you are ‘interning’ to give yourself time to readjust and set new expectations.” So, seemingly taking his advice, plan a “break” from everything, take extended trips, tours, or cruises, and enjoy some unscheduled time . . . to literally “go with the flow.”
Susan Woodward, now 75 and living in Tucson, spent four years of her retirement traveling the country in her RV. She visited national parks and the maritime provinces in Canada, and even spent of that time volunteering. What she remembers most is her first trip, when she headed to Deming, N.M. from Raleigh, N.C. “I had such a sense of freedom, empowerment, expansion. I can’t even explain it,” she said. “It was like the whole world opened up.” — Alessandra Malito
But, a “traditional retirement” may not be for everyone. As Alessandra Malito writes in MarketWatch, “Some can’t wait to put in their papers, while others dread the day they give up work for fear of having nothing to do, and no meaning to their name.”
It’s true that retirement can be a dangerous time for some. Without a sense of purpose, the risk of depression increases, and what should be a relaxing time becomes an anxious one. Studies show that without anything meaningful to do, and “mental exercises” throughout the day, cognitive abilities diminish in early retirees. They should also engage in social activities and find a leisurely activity they can enjoy if they aren’t trying to spend their retirement years still working. — Alessandra Malito
The good news? You have friends in high places. NAfME and your state’s affiliate music education association (MEA)—colleagues who have successfully “Crossed the Rubicon” into an active, meaningful, healthy, and happy retirement.
Anyone contemplating retiring over the next three years should visit their state MEA’s retired member section and even peruse the free (no-password-required) PMEA Retired Member focus area. Take a look at past issues of the PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS, read the Ultimate Retiree Resource Guide/Bibliography, and view the How-to-Retire video. (See past NAfME articles on retirement.)
Finding purpose and “mattering” during your post-full-time employment years will be easier if you continue your own pursuits in music artistry and creative self-expression, as well as your support of music education—be as active as you want—but consider the value of a few of these Goals/Benefits of NAfME and state MEA Retired Membership:
What music teacher retirees need from their professional associations…
- Recognition and archive of past and current professional accomplishments, assignments, interests, skills, and talents.
- Sessions geared for retired members, such as nurturing expressiveness and participation in amateur/community ensembles, retirement planning, etc.
- New “brain-engaging” outlets for learning, leadership, advocacy, “encore career” development, and service.
- Discounts for membership and attending festivals, workshops, and conferences.
What NAfME and state MEAs need from retirees…
- Mentoring of new/less experienced teachers
- Advising “best practices” in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and literature
- Serving as leaders or consultants on local, state, or national councils/boards
- Volunteering at local workshops and state/national conferences
- Advocating music education to the legislature and general public
- Presenting sessions at workshops or conferences
- Conducting, coaching, or accompanying students at festivals
- Assisting in technology, teacher training, recruitment, auditions, etc.
View NAfME membership benefits and other information.
Yes, you do matter, and you have a lot to offer the profession to which you have devoted your entire life! Happy trails to all retiring and retired members!
Jayson, Sharon. (2017). Are You Afraid to Retire? AARP.
Larson, Carol & Conroy, Mary Helen. (2017). Mattering: Do I Matter After Retirement? Retiree Rebels.
Malito, Alessandra. (2017). Afraid of Being Bored in Retirement? Consider These Options. MarketWatch.
Malito, Alessandra. (2017). This Is What Older People Do When They’re Not Quite Ready to Retire. MarketWatch.
Malito, Alessandra. (2017). Why Retirement Can Be a Dangerous Time. MarketWatch.
Primavera, Louis, Pascale, Rob & Roach, Rip. The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire. Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, 2012.
Rohwedder, Susann & Willis, Robert J. (2010) Mental Retirement. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Rosenberg, M., & McCullough, B. C. (1981). Mattering: Inferred significance and mental health among adolescents. Research in Community & Mental Health, 2, 163-182.
Schlossberg, Nancy K. Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose. American Psychological Association, 2009.
Sood, Amit. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. Da Capo Press, 2013.
Zelinski, Ernie J. How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. Ten Speed Press, 2009.
About the author:
Paul K. Fox, a NAfME Retired Member, is Chair of the PMEA State Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention. He invites you to peruse his website.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
December 31, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)