Magazine Features

Joy After Retirement

During the frenetic flurry of 2017, Major Stella McGuire had hurtled towards her official retirement date like a rider on a zip–line.

After a 22–year career as a Salvation Army officer, she and her husband stepped down as corps officers at Youngstown Temple Corps in Ohio. Frankly, her “D–Day” retirement date of Sept. 1 had come much faster than she ever could have anticipated.

“I don’t think we took time to prepare for it. We are super go–go–go, busy–busy–busy! I’m one of those people who tries to make sure that all the ‘i’s are dotted. I want to make sure that the people who come after us step into something that is functioning well. As a result, I don’t think we emotionally took time to think about or prepare for what was going on with us. Even house hunting was a last–minute thing,” McGuire says.

Ironically, retirement has overtaken the McGuires the same way officership did. In 1995, when Stella and Doug decided to change careers and become officers, the switch literally occurred overnight.

“We had been involved in the church and had done a lot of the things and were approached about becoming envoys. That evolved into us becoming auxiliary captains,” she recalls. “One week, we were on the pew. The next week, we were in the pulpit. And now, we’re going back—from the pulpit to the pew.”

Retirement sneaks up on people who have long served others throughout decades. As the Baby Boomers begin to age out of the workforce, thousands are now facing these questions,—“What do I do next?” and “What is God’s will for me now?” and “Will I have trouble meeting expenses?”

‘Glum’ Retirees

Did you know that through 2020, about 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire every day, according to the Pew Research Center? Additionally, by 2030, when all 79 million Boomers will have turned 65, a full 18 percent of the nation’s total population will be at least that old, Pew says. The center also reports that Boomers “are also more downbeat than other adults.”

“At the moment, the Baby Boomers are pretty glum,” the Pew Research Center writes.

When making the transition to retirement, it’s easy to feel blue, especially if you’ve spent your entire career working at high speed, like the McGuires.

Majors Kellus and Marcia Vanover, now in Lexington, Ky., found that was the case when they retired seven years ago. The couple has stayed active in their local corps. They have even stepped in to temporary assignments for the Army. But the transition from one life to another hit them emotionally, Marcia says.

“The thing we found in retirement is that initially, you’re busy getting settled in. But once that’s done, you need to be busy. After so many years in ministry and giving yourself to others, that’s why I think the ‘hit’ came,” Marcia says. “After a couple of months, I said, ‘I can’t clean the toilets anymore. I’m bored with it. I need something to do!’”

Is it possible to plan ahead to avoid and/or manage emotional, spiritual, and the practical challenges of retirement? Here are tips on finding joy and peace in your newest life’s journey.

Embrace the Moses in You

For many, retirement comes after a second career. That was the case for the McGuires. Stella was a supervisor at a research corporation, and Doug was in manufacturing when they felt called to officership in the 1990s.

“I felt like Moses at the burning bush,” she recalls. “It happened so fast.”

Now that they are retired from The Salvation Army, she feels that way again.

“I’m looking for my ministry, a different ministry than being an officer, and I don’t know what it is yet. But I do know that what I’m looking for is doing something well,” she says.

Major Charlene Fawcette also retired on September 1 from Akron Citadel Corps in Ohio. She has found an unexpected joy during her last appointment, counseling drug addicts. She’s not sure what she wants to do in retirement, but she knows she loves counseling, and she loves the business office management aspect of running a corps.

“I’ve run into some people who have a hard time retiring. They go into a post–retirement situation where they’re depressed. I’m tired. I want a chance to regroup but not become stagnant. I want to make sure I’m always relevant,” Fawcette says.

The Vanovers say, if you also feel a little “long in the tooth” and are worried about no longer being “relevant,” remember that God has had plans for many people throughout history when they thought they were too old.

“After those initial months of settling in, we asked God, ‘What is it you want us to do? We have a lot of pep. What is the ministry you want for us?’” Marcia says.

Since they retired in 2010, they have filled roles as interim corps officers in Newport, Ky.; a short stint on headquarters staff in Moscow, Russia; pastoral counselors to active officers in SWONEKY for four years – and Marcia has even worked for three years at Curves, a weight–loss and exercise place for women.

They also are active volunteers, both at the corps in Lexington, Ky., and in the community. Kellus helps with canteen ministry during fires and emergencies, has helped with kettles, and has been a Corps Cadet counselor. Both have helped with Bible school, have played in the band, and have played percussion for The Salvation Army Student Fellowship band at Asbury University in nearby Wilmore, Ky. Kellus, a Vietnam War and Air Force veteran, also volunteers at the local VA, playing his guitar for veterans, and sitting vigil by the bedside of those who are alone and dying. He also plays in a local jazz band.

Avoid the “Would–a, Could–a, Should–a” Trap

A constant piece of advice that the McGuires have heard from others is to go after life dreams after retiring, whatever those may be. Don’t be someone who gets near to the end of life and says, “I wish I would have done that.”

“If there is something you want to do after retirement that you know you want to do, take time to get your education on that. We’re fortunate as officers to be able to do that, and I wish I’d spent some time in college. If you have a plan or goal, go for it,” she says.

Regarding financial matters, she also advises younger officers to start planning now for the long–term. “Everyone thinks, ‘We don’t have to worry. It’ll be okay when we get there.’ But I would tell young officers, begin to save for it. There are some officers who we know have had difficulties in that area. You are never ready to sign up for Social Security, and everything changes so fast. Take one step at a time and get as ready as you can,” she says.

Expect Miracles

Don’t shortchange the power of prayer, and expect unexpected miracles, Stella McGuire says. Sometimes God opens doors with something as simple as the type of retirement home you have been envisioning.

“I tend to put myself last. We work from morning to night to make sure things are done. We were cramming our work around trying to find a house, traveling to Youngstown 40 minutes away to spend a whole day looking,” she recalls. “The roadblocks were taken down. God provided. I knew – kind of – where I wanted to be, and we had put a bid in on a house. We were just settling on this one house, because we were so tired. And I had had both knees replaced recently. So we put in a bid and couldn’t get in touch with the owners – and this other house came open!

“It was the one God planned for us all along!”

Their retirement home is everything she imagined and more. It is also in a neighborhood she wanted, a high–demand area where it’s tough to find a home for sale.

“I knew I wanted a fireplace and a safe place for our grandchildren—all of these things were provided. The house is more than what I deserve. It is a lovely home that I really wanted and could envision us in,” she says.

Savor the Joy of Family and Friends

Happiness is fleeting; joy is permanent, Fawcette says. Find joy in retirement by spending time you may not have had during a busy career with family and friends. She is looking forward to being with her grandchildren—and her oldest daughter was due to have a baby on Fawcette’s retirement date.

“I told her she can’t have it until September 1!” Fawcette laughs. “She has two others, and my son has four. She and her husband have moved into where I’m going to move. My youngest has Down Syndrome. We will all be together in September.”

Meanwhile, as you journey into this new chapter of life, don’t forget the most important tip: keep God and prayer front and center, Fawcette says.

“It’s a necessary component of this. You’re changing directions. Your life is changing in ways you never thought it would change and at every level,” she says. “My conversation with God—it helps me tremendously. When I get to those places of anxiety, I have to become quiet, and He gives me the answer. You know it’s Him talking to you, without a shadow of a doubt. It plays a key role. I don’t have a clear vision of my future, but I can tell you, over the last few months, prayer has become more important with the direction I can take.”

by Heidi Lynn Russell

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