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When Bill Welch moved to Palm Coast, he knew he was facing a bit of a transition. Not only was he adjusting from life in New York to life in a considerably less urban setting, but he was also transitioning into retirement.
It was like starting a new life.
Welch worked for 25 years as a music teacher in New York. His wife, Beth, was a counselor for the mentally handicapped.
The couple knew that retirement would look differently for each of them, based on their needs. Bill Welch, who thrives on being busy, wanted to get involved in his new community. Beth Welch, in contrast, was looking forward to spending leisure time at home and taking care of their new house.
Taking an individualized approach to retirement is important, said Jan Cullinane, a Palm Coast resident and author of books on the topic. This phase in a person’s life is exciting, but it also presents challenges that need to be planned for, she said.
Cullinane’s most recent book, “The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement,” was published Oct. 9. It focuses on issues of retirement specific to women who are unmarried, divorced or widowed.
Her first book on the subject, “The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life,” which she co-authored with Cathy Fitzgerald, also a Palm Coast resident, ranked No. 2 in Amazon.com’s sales after it was released.
Cullinane, who no longer works full time but doesn’t consider herself fully retired, either, is similar to Bill Welch in that she likes to be busy. She travels the country to speak about planning for retirement.
Cullinane became interested in retirement planning years ago. Her husband’s jobs caused them to move a lot during his career, so the couple lost many of their roots.
Recognizing that most people relocate when they retire, Cullinane began to wonder what would happen when she and her husband decided to retire, and started to research the matter.
Her solution? Anyone approaching retirement, or anyone already retired, should think hard about what they want from this stage of life.
When people retire, they gain 40 hours of free time each week. Without a plan for what to do with those hours, people become bored fast, she Cullinane said. People who decide which interests they want to cultivate and plan how to spend their days are generally more happy than those who don’t.
“People don’t think much of planning for retirement, except for in the financial realm,” she said. “But you have to look at all aspects of retirement — and there are a lot.”
Building a new life
Most people relocate when they retire, Cullinane said. This presents an exciting opportunity: Often, for the first time in people’s lives, they can consider what kind of environment they prefer. Some prefer cities; some prefer warm climates.
For example, for Cullinane, who moved here about six years ago, Palm Coast’s then-lack of a movie theater was almost a deal breaker. The addition of EPIC Theatres to the Town Center area a few years ago perfected the city as a retirement location for Cullinane.
But, as with many aspects of retirement, relocating is bittersweet. People move here, often with no connections, and find themselves at a loss for what to do for their social support.
That’s why one of Cullinane’s tips for those approaching retirement is to relocate with a friend, if possible. For those who have already retired, the key is reaching out.
“It can be uncomfortable, true,” Cullinane said. “But there are ways to make it easier.”
Cullinane is an advocate of online dating for the newly single, many of whom were married for the better part of their lives and aren’t sure how to start dating again.
She also recommends a singles golf league at www.singlesgolf.com, which helps single people meet one another without the pressure of a blind date.
And anyone who wants to make friends can do so online through www.meetup.com, which connects people in specific areas who have the same interests.
With all the technology available to meet people, there are ways for those who are uncomfortable with the concept or with technology to branch out as well, Cullinane said. She has spoken to people who have handed out fliers about book clubs they wanted to start as a way to meet their neighbors.
She said that enrolling in classes or sports activities helps people meet others with interests similar to theirs, and the group situation makes interaction more natural.
“But you can also ask very non-leading questions in certain situations,” she said, suggesting that people try asking others in grocery stores if they know where something is or asking people reading in coffee shops how their books are, can open doors.
Palm Coast as a social haven
Palm Coast is a prime location for the retired, said Jamie Woyton, a financial adviser with The Executive Compensation Group. Woyton’s client base consists largely of retirees.
“Most people who live here didn’t grow up here,” he said. “Everyone’s in the same boat and need to meet people.”
That’s why Palm Coast is a perfect location, Woyton said. There are more clubs and activities here than most other cities this size.
But he, too, cautions that people plan their retirements carefully, giving the example of a woman who used to make dinner for her children every Sunday at her house — before relocating to Palm Coast for retirement.
“When people are unhappy, I ask them to figure out what it is about their old life they’re missing and find a way to recreate it,” Woyton said.
In this example, he might suggest that the woman planning to leave money to her children or grandchildren sets up her life insurance so that a check is cut for her family members each year on her birthday.
“In this example, the woman finds a new way to maintain the satisfaction she felt as a matriarch of the family, even if she’s far away from them,” Woyton said.
And, just as Cullinane said, the ideal retirement lifestyle is contingent on the individual.
“Anyone I know who moves here and thinks hard about what they want and dives in to the social scene ends up very happy,” he said. “It can feel uncomfortable, but it’s very doable.”
As for Welch and his wife, they couldn’t be happier in their retirement.
Welch, a jazz guitarist who spent his evenings in New York playing different venues, decided to get involved with music in Palm Coast.
He now plays in a jazz combo called the House Cats in St. Augustine on weeknights. He also teaches music lessons part-time at a music store in Ormond Beach. He spends the rest of his time enjoying life in Palm Coast and spending time with his wife.
“Find what you like to do in retirement and remember to enjoy your retirement,” Welch said. “I’ve seen people who spend a lot of time comparing their retired life to their working life and stressing themselves. But you’ve paid your dues; now you’ve earned a life of ease.”