Retirement can mean different things for different women. For Phyllis Smallman, it meant the time to relax, explore new pastimes and forge lasting relationships. It also meant finding a new part-time career as a mystery writer.
Before retiring, Smallman worked in a construction office for 40 years. Upon her retirement, at 61, she picked up a pen. One year later she had published her first novel, "Margarita NightsMargarita Nights. Opens a new window in your browser."
"Once I no longer had to do what I needed in order to survive, I could focus on what I loved," Smallman said. In retirement, Smallman found she had the time to explore her craft. As it turns out, other people enjoyed reading her mystery novels too.
In 2004, Smallman was a finalistfinalist. Opens a new window in your browser in the Debut Dagger Awards, hosted by the Crime Writers Association in the UK. By 2007, she had won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel and was approached by McArthur & Company to publish her work. Today, at 69, Smallman is working on her ninth novel.
“For me, retirement was about finally having time to explore my passion," Smallman explained. And while Smallman's creative success may feel like an outlier, research shows she's not alone.
According to Pychyl, investing in a lifestyle shift during retirement, like pursuing further education or developing a new hobby, is not only enticing. It can also aid mental and physical stamina. Learning for the sake of learning, he explained, is very different than going through the motions of a job you've been doing for years.
“Learning about new things improves mental clarity," he stated.
Pychyl's findings are backed by 2016 researchresearch. Opens a new window in your browser from Harvard Medical School, which found that the process of acquiring new information can stimulate brain cell growth at any point in a person's life. Having the ability to learn something new, the Harvard study found, can keep individuals cognitively strong. For those in their later years, this can also mean enhancing the retirement experience.
These statistics, while not alarming, are something for women to consider when it comes to planning for the Renaissance art history class they've always wanted to take, or the ability to tackle that half-finished screenplay that's been sitting in the closet since their MFA.
While women working through their sixties and seventies can mean a commitment to careers and signs of longevity, it can also be a result of financial pressure more prevalent among women than men. The 2016 Transamerica Retirement Survey found that women and men tend to enter retirement with different financial liberties. While the average American male saves $211,000 for retirement, the average American woman saves $109,000.
As women prepare for the retirement of their dreams, it's important not to be spooked by these figures but to instead keep in mind that creative freedom isn't always as simple as picking up a paintbrush. Most times, it's painting the luxurious retirement you want by first putting money in the bank.