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Jerry Davich: Are you emotionally prepared for retirement? Really?

Bill Leavitt. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Bill Leavitt. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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History 101

Are you interested in the history of Northwest Indiana and the Calumet region?

If so, listen to my “Out to Lunch” radio show at noon Monday on WVLP, 98.3-FM (streaming online at www.wvlp.org), when I will be talking with historian, author and Indiana University Northwest professor James Lane. Call in with your questions and comments at 476-9000.

Looking to purchase the book? It’s available at the following local businesses:

Suzie’s Café, 1050 Southport Drive, Valparaiso; 219-462-5500

The Remarkable Book Shop, 7227 Taft Street, Merrillville; 219-738-2084

South shore Convention & Visitors Authority, 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond; 800-ALL LAKE

In mid-September, the Purdue University Calumet Bookstore plans to carry the book.

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Updated: September 21, 2012 6:09AM



Bill Leavitt is not your typical retiree, a fortunate thing for other retirees and soon-to-be retirees.

The 71-year-old former technical writer from Valparaiso penned a new book that is a must-read for anyone over the age of 50. Its title says it all: “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure — A Retirees’s Guide to a Happy, Fulfilling Life” (Write On Technical Writing, Inc.; $13).

“This book can be important to a lot of people who are not doing well with their retirement or who don’t have a good idea about what they should do with their retirement,” Leavitt told me.

After bouncing around the easy-to-read, large-print, 136-page book, I agree completely.

It’s full of sound advice, helpful tips and intriguing ideas about a subject that too many people have no clue about.

“You should be looking forward to retirement — not lying around doing nothing — but looking forward to having the time to try new things,” Leavitt writes on page 7.

This line says it all about Leavitt’s book, which includes lists of possible activities, a workbook for readers and mental challenges to keep the mind active.

“After money concerns, the single biggest problem for the new retiree is the let-down resulting from how retirement changes how you feel about yourself,” he writes in chapter two, “Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Retirement.”

I’ve witnessed this sobering aspect first-hand with retirees across Northwest Indiana. Too many of them base their identity solely on what they did for a job or a career, and when they leave that job — or when it leaves them — they lose their identity. As well as the power, control and respect that came with that job.

“Retirement means rest, relaxation, fun and games, right? You’ll live a carefree life, right? Maybe not,” Leavitt writes.

Isn’t this the stereotype that many of us wrongly believe, regardless of age? Sure, it can be true to a degree, but what about our needed sense of accomplishment, accountability and purpose? Such aspects are what get us out of bed each morning, as much as a regular paycheck.

Leavitt’s book not only explores the planning for retirement — a luxury that not everyone is afforded — but also several other related issues including where to live, how retirement affects your spouse and where to now spend your valuable time.

“Since I retired, I have learned that one of this country’s greatest natural resources is the retiree,” he writes on page 28.

But where should retirees donate their time, usually for free?

“There is a danger that if you do something for free, those who you are doing it for may value your efforts at too low a level,” he writes. “If they don’t recognize the value of your contribution, stop doing it.”

‘Everyone should
have goals’

Such frank advice is wove throughout the book, including sound suggestions on keeping up your appearance, keeping fit (or getting fit) and discovering new opportunities.

He also points out an aspect that many new retirees don’t think through well enough: How their spouse feels about having them around “24 hours,” a response that Leavitt’s wife, Ann, revealed to a moderator at a financial planning seminar. Working in Chicago for many years, Leavitt was typically gone much of the work day, until he retired.

“I realized that she had a valid point,” he writes. “It’s one thing to be around someone for a couple of hours a day during the week, but yet another to be together all the time.”

Leavitt, a sports enthusiast who enjoys skiing, offers a lengthy list of things to do and places to go for retirees of any age. Here are just a few: Get a pet, join a band, share your expertise, visit museums, take a cruise, learn to email, set new fitness goals, join a YMCA, substitute teach or jump into politics.

Or do what Leavitt did, in part, and write a book.

“Everyone should have goals — even retirees,” he writes near the end of the book, allowing space for the reader’s own goals.

My favorite suggestion in the book is one that I would not have thought of, but one that I already do. He recommends to avoid a “work hangover,” like he experienced, a new retiree should stop wearing a watch. Otherwise, you keep glancing at the time of day as you’ve done for decades, usually for work-related reasons.

Without a wristwatch, “Every time I looked at my wrist, the lack of a wrist watch reminded me that I didn’t really need to know what time it was,” he writes.

Ah, now that’s a retirement highlight any of us can look forward to.



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