5 things I lost and 5 things I gained when I retired

5 things I lost and 5 things I gained when I retired

5 things I lost and 5 things I gained when I retired

Retirement is one of the major decisions that are really hard to make. Losses are easy to identify. And they are not the same for different people. However, when I look at my life now, I realize that all these losses have been offset by much substantial gains.

5 Things I Lost When I Retired

In 2004, I retired and immigrated from the Philippines to the United States. When I decided to retire, I was the general manager of the national e-procurement center. I lost many things that I was used to and that kept me comfortable in the Philippines. Looking back, here are five things I’ve lost.

Installation as president of Bayan Trade

Installation as president of Bayan Trade

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

1. Money, money, money

First of all, I lost my income as CEO. And it was a huge sum, even in pesos. Considering the low cost of living in the Philippines, it was way more than I needed. But my kids were already working and didn’t need that much support other than we lived in the same house (before they left for the US and Canada).

I had so much discretionary income that I could build a modest retirement fund. The hardest question was, “How could I do without all the manna from heaven?” I was only 54 and could probably expect 10 more years of high income compensation just by continuing to work. This last decade of employment would have earned him a golden pension.

But in the end, I said goodbye to the black Volvo sedan, a handsome company car that I’ll be driving to all my meetings in town, complete with fuel allowances and a full-time driver. I also lost all paid trips – domestic and international – that were related to work. What about all those free lunches and dinners at business meetings?

When it comes to money, I certainly gave up a lot!

Swearing in of Philippine President Fidel Ramos

Taking the oath with his family as Deputy Commissioner of BIR to the President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

2. Status and more status

Secondly, I lost the status associated with my position. Having been fortunate enough to break the glass ceiling, I have earned the right to serve on organizations such as the Management Association of the Philippines, a prestigious national club of CEOs.

I have also been called upon to influence important events in the country. For example, I was invited as a pro bono en banc consultant to the Electoral Commission during the automation of electoral processes in the country. I loved those times when I was doing important work for the country and people of the Philippines.

3. The calling and the way of being useful

Resigning my position and falling off the career train (risk, even if only for a short break) would have lost my calling and the credibility as a professional that I had built up over the years. The IT industry is growing very fast and I would surely soon lose my reputation as a tech-savvy executive who could launch and manage large innovative start-ups in the country, such as the ATM network and domestic revenue automation.

Folk dances for foreign delegates of the Asian Tax Conference

Folk dances for foreign delegates of the Asian Tax Conference

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

4. My community and my country

Because I moved to the United States, I lost the comfort of living in familiar surroundings: my own home, neighborhood and country. I cannot tell you how much loss I felt at that moment, more than the previous three. I was born in the Philippines, grew up there and flourished there. I am Filipino and that will not change. I was so pleased that the United States has a dual nationality agreement with my home country that I was able to keep mine. Otherwise, a certain sense of betrayal that I felt for a while might have been the reason for breaking the deal.

Friends on a trip to a Philippine landmark

Friends on a trip to a Philippine landmark

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

5. The company of loved ones

And my best friends are still there: most of my classmates in elementary school, high school and college, and industry colleagues. And although I lost my parents before, I still have two sisters there, all my aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. It’s so good that technology somehow fills the communication gap. At first I was able to visit every 2 years but now that I don’t like long haul flights anymore I have not been able to visit for the last 5 years. There is pain and longing.

5 things I gained in retirement

When I retired, gains were not as easy to identify as losses. In fact, the ones I wanted were not guaranteed to come true. You have to imagine all the possibilities that open up and act to make them a reality. I did, and here are five that materialized.

Author with family in Little Delhi

The author with his family in Little Delhi, San Francisco

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

1. More time with family and at home

This was the main reason why I immigrated to North America. My daughters married American and Canadian citizens and moved to Seattle, Washington, and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My move allowed me to live with one of them and visit the other often.

Some of the happiest times of my life were when I looked after my newest grandchildren, one born in Calgary and the other born 7 months later in Seattle, for 3 months each. It allowed me to give them the love and care I couldn’t give my own daughters when I was too busy with my career.

And I’ve even become a homebody when I’m not traveling. I managed to beautify our little house in Arizona and even tend to a small garden, keeping both flowering shrubs and fruiting dwarfs alive. And I learned to cook in 13 kitchens from my travels: far from the Philippines, where I left the household to cooks, nannies and drivers.

Your travel and life partner

Your travel and life partner

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

2. Travel and life partner

There was a second motivation to retire in the US. There is no divorce in the Philippines, only a long and expensive marriage annulment process. It required the intervention of my boss, the commissioner of the Tax Office. But even after an ab initio annulment of my failed marriage to the father of my children as a consequence of my job, there were no free partners. At my age, they were either confirmed bachelors or common adulterers. Well, as they say, they’ve all been taken.

So it was a great fortune to meet and marry my travel buddy and life partner. We kind of met online. I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet him if I was in the Philippines. One of his requirements was that the lady should be no more than 25 miles away from him for comfortable dating. He was in the middle of a divorce and lived alone in Puyallup, Washington, while I was with my daughter in Renton (a suburb of Seattle), just 24 miles away. Phew, I barely qualified!

The author signs copies of her second book

The author signs copies of her second book

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

3. A new way of being useful

While I was caring for my new grandson in Seattle, I volunteered for the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Word spread and I was invited to teach at three colleges. I thought this could be my new career; but after only a year of teaching, my groom took me on an “endless honeymoon” in a motorhome through North America.

This prompted me to blog about our travels, which prompted me to write two travel books: Cruise to the American Dream and Cruising in the seventies, both available on Amazon. And then it took me to a popular online magazine as well the journey awaitsfor which I now regularly write as an expert/contributor. This is my new hobby: travel writing, complemented by my other hobby, photography. I found a great new way to be useful.

The author and her husband on a trip

The author and her husband on a trip

Photo Credit: Carol Colborn

4. Long journeys

What gives me the greatest satisfaction is that I always have fresh material to write. And it’s a much better kind of travel than I’ve ever had in my job in the Philippines. My husband and I have been traveling full time for the 8 years we were RVing. Now that we have a home in Phoenix, Arizona, we only travel 6 months a year, which is still a lot for two seventy-year-olds. Together, we visited all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and seven Mexican states, and 28 countries around the world. And I can say that traveling is one of the things we do very well together!

5. A New Ministry

My hunger for associating with other Filipinos led me to meet another graduate of the University of the Philippines in Phoenix. Together, we founded the UP Alumni Association of Arizona and applied for membership in the first branch of the UP Alumni Association of America, a national organization. They both gave me fire to help the underprivileged in the Philippines through our scholarships.

I found a full life in retirement. It may not give me the money I used to earn, the status I enjoyed, the career I depended on, the familiar surroundings that made me comfortable, and the many people who were my emotional support. But it certainly gave me the spiritual growth I was longing for. I have more time for my family and a second chance to raise my young, even a second chance to become a wife, a rewarding way to be useful, long trips and a new ministry of helping others in need. I couldn’t ask for more.

The business card I used in the Philippines read “Carol E. Carreon, President and CEO.” But now I proudly display my precious new “Carol E. Colborn, Wanderer, Writer, Wife.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *