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It's Never Too Early to Start Planning

Diane Schmidt shares the non-financial elements of planning for a successful and fulfilling retirement
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Did you choose retirement or was it chosen for you?

I chose to retire to move on to other opportunities.

How was the transition from the working world to retirement?

The transition was smooth, due to pre-retirement planning and moving on to other opportunities, specifically being elected to the ACS Presidential succession and joining the University of Cincinnati Chemistry Department as an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry before retiring. 

What do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?

I feel I was well prepared to retire at a time of my choosing.

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

ACS, University contacts, participation in non-profit Boards, and professional network.

ACS has many opportunities for volunteers and is a great way to contribute, engage and apply one's knowledge and skills to advance ACS and the chemistry enterprise. My experience is that ACS is truly a remarkable resource at every stage of a chemist's life journey. Many lifelong friendships have been developed along the way. ACS is a great way to "give back" during my career and in retirement. Being engaged and contributing to something much bigger than self is very fulfilling. I highly recommend it.

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?

Excellent universities, excellent health care system, easy access to the arts [museums, plays, symphony, concerts, etc.], professional network, great airline connections - because my husband and I like to travel - excellent veterinarians in our area because we greatly enjoy our pets.

What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?

No state income tax.

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

To quote Abraham Lincoln: "You can't escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." 

Let me elaborate. At least 5 years before one considers "retiring" [or anticipates a "buy out"], devise a basic action plan for optimal retirement readiness and transition adjustment. It is never too early to start retirement preparation, likewise it is never too late to start. 

Doing the work of pre-retirement planning is worthwhile, since it enables one to retire at the time you choose, not the time someone else chooses. A successful orientation/attitude is that you do not retire "FROM" something, but rather you retire "TO" something.

Review your action plan at least annually, as life happens and circumstances change. Assess your circumstances where you are now and what you want them to be when you retire. Your action plan should take you from current state to where you want to be when you decide to retire.

Retirement can mean many things. Determine your perception of retirement. Your enjoyment in retirement can be greatly influenced by the way your family, friends and fellow employees perceive retirement. Some key non-financial concerns to address in retirement are Health, Boredom, Attitude and Important Papers.  

  • Health – Good health habits are important. As the great poet John Dryden stated, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” We are fortunate to live in a time where nutrition options are great, and preventive and therapeutic health and dental care are available. As our parents often say "if you do not have your health, you do not have anything". 
  • Boredom – The ability to adjust from work to retirement is dependent on one's own acceptance and understanding of retirement. Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy is a good guide. The first 2 tiers are governed by the “family environment” while the top three tiers are governed by “social interaction”. While still “on the job” develop new and/or revisit previously enjoyed activities that you can carry into your retirement years. Keeping happily busy is the only way to truly prevent boredom.
  • Attitude – To quote Bob Hope: “If I could speak at one time to all senior Americans, I’d tell them to forget their age and do exactly what they like doing. It all comes down to attitude. Excitement is what really keeps you going.” While it would seem obvious, we must look to ourselves on what we are going to do with the rest of our lives. Learn to live life as you want to, not as others would have you do.
  • Important Papers – I found it helpful to have in place a will, living will, health care power of attorney, financial power of attorney and revocable trust. Our family attorney has the originals, etc. We keep copies in a safe place. Also, we review our insurance beneficiaries and other important papers about annually or if a change occurs triggering a review of the documents. 

In conclusion, retirement planning is not a cure-all, but it is a beginning, if your goals are to be realized. There is nothing more practical than living your dream. You stand a good chance of succeeding because you are willing to give it all of your energy and all of your skills. I think a key secret to a successful and fulfilling retirement is to retire "TO" something not "FROM" something.

Diane Grob Schmidt, Professor of Chemistry-Adjunct Research, University of Cincinnati
Diane Grob Schmidt, Professor of Chemistry-Adjunct Research, University of Cincinnati

Diane Schmidt retired from The Procter & Gamble Company in 2014 after 34 years of service in R&D where she played key roles in such brands as Tide®, Head & Shoulders®, Pert Plus® and Safeguard®. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati.  

Diane served as the  President of the American Chemical Society in 2015. Her overall Presidential theme was “Inspiring and Innovating for Tomorrow”. Prior to that she served as a Director on the ACS Board of Directors 2002-2010. Diane is a member of the ACS Budget and Finance Committee, Immediate Past Chair of the Business Development & Management Division  and the Immediate Past Chair of Corporation Associates. 

Copyright 2021 American Chemical Society (All Rights Reserved)

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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