Before Making Big Decisions in Retirement, ‘Experience’ Them

Anna Wilson sees the importance of ‘try it before you buy it’
Anna Wilson, on right, with neighbor Joann Bonner
Anna Wilson, on right, with neighbor Joann Bonner
Image credit: Anna Wilson

Anna Wilson grew up in Adams County, Indiana. In 1958, she started college at Indiana Central College in Indianapolis and met her husband. After he graduated, and with their daughter, they moved to Lafayette, Indiana. Anna continued her education at Purdue University and received a BS in chemistry education in 1968. She taught at a local high school until earning her MS from Purdue in 1972. After a few years in the Purdue freshman chemistry prep lab, she took a newly created lab coordinator position in the biochemistry department, where she stayed for 31 years. After working at Purdue for 36 years, she retired in 2007. 

Anna has been a member of ACS since 1975. She has held many elected positions and committee chairs in the Division of Chemical Education. She loves to travel and many times managed a vacation along with an ACS or BCCE meeting. In 2018, after her husband’s and daughter’s deaths she moved to an apartment in a retirement community. COVID curtailed her travel, but she still volunteers, reads, tries new art projects in her community, and studies geology and computers.  

What is the most important piece of advice – on any topic – that you would share with your 30-year-old self?

I can't think of anything I would tell her. I think things have worked out pretty well.

So far, what has surprised you most about retirement?

I thought I was a loner and would be happy to be on my own, but after my husband and daughter died, I wasn't happy to live in a house alone. I have no family nearby to help with upkeep stuff and I was pretty lonesome. 

What is your favorite part of retired life?

Sleeping late, or whatever hours I want. Not having an always structured life. Choosing what I WANT to do, rather than HAVE to do.

How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?

I am on the Senior Chemist's Committee. There isn't much local for me to participate in.

Is there a travel destination you are most eager to visit?

I have been to many countries and all the states. I still want to take Amtrak to the Cascades.

What do you like most about where you are living in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?

I am very happy in my retirement community. They promise to keep me until I die. Now I am in an independent living apartment and can come and go as I want. I still drive. My neighbor has become my best friend and everyone here is friendly. I can participate in art and hobby classes, go to lectures, and be as social as I want. Meals and twice a month house cleaning are part of my monthly payment. I can cook if I want. I volunteer on community committees.

What guidance do you have for people who are getting ready to retire?

Before I moved in here, I visited several times, talked to people who lived here, ate meals, and looked at living units. If possible, don't make irreversible decisions before "experiencing" them and talking to others who have made that choice. Have some hobbies or volunteer opportunities lined up and tested before retiring. Make sure your finances are in order. Discontinue things that won't be necessary if you aren't at a job every day. If you are married, don't try to combine everything (like cars and friends) into one. Each person still needs to have his/her own space, hobbies, and transportation.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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