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Speech-to-text transcription can look a little quirky. Please excuse any grammar or spelling errors.

Episode #23 - Retiring, Unretiring, and Rediscovering Purpose with Kim Lee

Eric Blake: Welcome to another episode of The Simply Retirement Podcast. I am your host, Eric Blake. On this show we provide retirement education and support for women throughout the retirement journey. Today, we're going to do something a little bit different. My guest today is going to be Kim Lee. Kim is not only the first guest that we had on the podcast, she's now going to be the first return guest. Back on episode seven, Kim joined us to discuss health and fitness in retirement, how to find a personal trainer, and so much more so please go back and check that episode out if you have not done so yet. But at the time that we recorded that episode, Kim was about to embark on her own retirement journey, and today we're going to talk to Kim about that journey and where she is today. So Kim, welcome back to The Simply Retirement Podcast.

Kim Lee: Hi, Eric. Thank you.

Eric Blake: How are you?

Kim Lee: I'm great.

Eric Blake: Excellent.

Kim Lee: I'm doing really good.

Eric Blake: Well, very good to see you once again. What I was hoping you would do, if you're okay with this is again, I think you the official retirement date or when you left the gym that we are both at, well I think it was August 1st, is that right?

Kim Lee: That's correct.

Eric Blake: So just take us back a little bit farther than that when you were going through the process of deciding that you were going to retire and you were going to be moving to Mexico, just kind of walk us through the timeline, what was going through your mind and let's go from there.

Kim Lee: Well, it was roughly March, April. Had a friend of mine getting ready to move to Mexico and my husband was getting ready to retire in May after 32 years of law enforcement.

Eric Blake: Oh wow.

Kim Lee: So it just hit us like, wow, that would be great. What an idea, what an adventure. Been to Mexico, love Mexico, the people, the weather. So we decided to sell most everything and moved to Mexico. So we started, I have my own business and I kept trucking and working until August 1st and we shipped out and we did it. We made that leap. Yeah.

Eric Blake: So fast-forward, spoiler alert here, you are now back to personal training. So how long did it take you before you realized that, hey, this is maybe not the direction I want to go long term?

Kim Lee: I would say really about two weeks.

Eric Blake: Two weeks.

Kim Lee: Yes. We were in Mexico and for a couple of weeks everything was great. Traveling around, seeing different places in Puerto Vallarta, that's where we moved and made some friends. Our friend that had already left out, she was there as well. So it was socializing, it was settling in, and then a couple of weeks I really started feeling uneasy and I couldn't get plugged into the community that's so very important to me and that is the fitness community and they have some gyms. Our condo had a gym, but really fitness is different in Mexico and it was hard to get plugged in with a community.

Eric Blake: What are some of the differences when you say there's differences because actually culturally there's differences from country to country, but anything specific to share with what you were seeing?

Kim Lee: Well, in Puerto Vallarta where we were, it was on the marina, so I think location is huge as well, but there were the condo gyms and there were some little gyms that were on the marina. We weren't down in the city proper where they did have some big box gyms down that way, but transportation is very different there too. And not everything is in walking distance or being in a foreign country and learning the rules of the road and biking and there's a lot of traffic there. It was very, very different. And with all the traffic and traffic and catching a cab going down to the city proper, it's a 20, 30 minute journey sometimes even longer to get there. And so just different, a big adjustment.

Eric Blake: It is. You start thinking about it. You said within two weeks you started getting these feelings, so can you share a little bit about what were those feelings? What was going through your mind, what was going through your gut about that decision?

Kim Lee: First and foremost, I was missing my kids, my family. I was missing my tribe. I was missing the conveniences that I was accustomed to having and my tribe, my community, all that at about two weeks started settling in and I started feeling it. And it hit me, this is not a vacation, this isn't temporary in my mind at that time. We had sold everything and moved and so that's when really starting to miss people and things hit me at two weeks.

Eric Blake: How long after the two weeks, I guess let's say this, how long after you started getting those feelings, how long did it take you to decide, hey, I'm going back? I need to go back to where I was, get back to doing what I was doing before?

Kim Lee: I think I started feeling it at that time actually, but certainly wanted to give it more time and I would say it was at about the two-month marker that I knew. I knew then I was going to move back, but fitness is more than physical. It's a whole lot of mental, and it's emotional and it's spiritual and it's just a total body experience. And mentally I started suffering. It wasn't just the physical aspect of being in the gym and lifting weights and doing cardio. Mentally, I felt the decline and at that point is when I knew for my mental health I had to make the shift and I had to pivot and come home.

Eric Blake: One of the things that, you and I had a chance to talk, since you've gotten back, one of the things that we chatted a little bit about in preparation was, was there anything that you felt like you could have done differently that would've changed the results that would've kept you there longer than what you ended up staying?

Kim Lee: I think the advice I would give someone is do a test run. Do a test run for two to three weeks, two to four weeks, go to the location and join in the lifestyle and see can you get plugged in to your community? Does the lifestyle align with your interests? Can you adjust to the differences in lifestyle, shopping, transportation? Here in the States, we're accustomed to getting in our car and going down the road and go and do whatever store it is we want to go to and convenience and coming home. And in other places it can be very different and a lot of times is, and in Mexico it was, we called it an adventure. We had to catch a cab, you had to plan for it to go to the store and then get in the cab to help load the groceries and get back home. And so that, along with the differences in gyms and do they exist, where it is you're going, what are you into? Swimming, hiking, doesn't matter what it is, is it there? Can you access it and satisfy not only our interests but our needs.

Eric Blake: And I think one of the things that's interesting, and I'm glad you brought up the planning conversation because one of the things that we talk about with clients as they're getting close, and I always talk about there's this five year window. Once you're within that retirement red zone, once you're within five years, the planning both financially and emotionally, that's really when you got to ramp it up. And especially as you get within that final year, we talk a lot about practice retirement, practice and what I mean by that is what do you plan to do? What are you going to be doing to keep yourself busy? Because again, retirement, the definition of retirement has changed a lot for people. What are you going to be doing? What are you going to fill your time with?

Also, financially, what are you going to be, you've said from a planning perspective, we identify how much do you think you're going to need or how much do you want to have when you retire on a monthly basis, live on that, that last year, live on the amount you think you can live on, live on that while you're still working to again, test drive, test run that to make sure that the assumptions that you've made both financially and emotionally are accurate while you still  have the opportunity to adjust.

Kim Lee: Absolutely.

Eric Blake: Because once you get into it again, if you've obviously learned this is once you're into it in the middle of it's harder to make adjustments. There's an emotional aspect that, and I would love for you to share a little bit about that if you can. Did you have a feeling of, was there any feelings of regret in the decision you made? Was it more, hey, I'm going to make the best of it as I can, and what were some of the emotions that you felt like you were dealing with?

Kim Lee: No regrets. It was a life experience that I learned so much from. Another point I'd like to make is I'm passionate about fitness. I'm passionate about helping my clients and that, very passionate about it.

I wasn't very clear that that was my purpose in getting up, getting out of bed and moving through my day. It's my drive. And I found myself waking up going, what's my purpose today? Who am I impacting? And it was a huge void for me that I couldn't fill. And I don't know if even a test run for two to four weeks would have sparked that feeling in me, but definitely that's an emotion I dealt with. And my advice on that is to pivot. Life is full of pivoting and we make decisions all the time where we go, oh, well, maybe this isn't what's working for me, but don't hesitate to pivot and make a change. We change stuff all the time, but selling everything and retiring and moving to Mexico, that's no small feat. That's huge. It was huge and I would do it again.

I learned a lot about myself and my husband and I learned a lot about us as a couple. And oh man, I dove into the language. I learned a lot, met some great people who will be friends for life and in the end it was like, this is not the timing for me. I thought it was, but learned that it wasn't.

Eric Blake: Well, what is interesting, of course, is that you actually have successfully retired one time in your past, so you spent 25 years in law enforcement as well. You retired from that and you moved into the next phase of life. What do you think went well with that transition that didn't go as well this time around?

Kim Lee: I think the difference there though is I did move through a transition into another profession and still helping people, still fulfilling my purpose and still nourishing my soul. And it wasn't until I thought I could hang it up and not work, and I felt like my soul was drying up. That's what I felt like it was emotional. And I think that's the difference. I retired from a great career in law enforcement, moved into personal training, health coach, and still helping people grow and improve and having an impact and fulfilling my purpose. And then when I tried to move out of that totally and retire, I wasn't ready.

Eric Blake:

Well, I think that's a great point, and again, something you and I talked about, and it's a quote that I actually used from, I think it was episode 15 where you've got to retire to something, not retire from something. And that's such a big factor. In many cases the success of retirement is what again, if you're just getting away from something, which in your case you were so passionate about. And I also know that your clients were very, there were some interesting responses from your clients when they...

Kim Lee: Yeah, they-

Eric Blake: Both when you left and when you came back.

Kim Lee: Yeah, they were happy for me to come home. Yeah.

Eric Blake: There was a couple, at least I know they were off at you for leaving.

Kim Lee: They were pretty mad at me, Eric. They were pretty mad. I'm like, why'd you let me do it? Couldn't you foresee this was going to happen? And I had several of them tell me, "Kim, we knew. We knew. You can't go," and you've seen me in the gym. I go 95 miles an hour, I'm nonstop. And just to go, put the brakes on and stop didn't work for me. And I think those who really know me, there was a big question mark whether or not this would work. And some of them were like, it was just a matter of time. We knew you were coming home.

Eric Blake: Well, so here's a big question. How long do you think it will be before you start having some of those similar feelings or will you ever? Do you ever see yourself fully retiring again?

Kim Lee: Wow, I don't know about that. Now that I tried it for three months, I don't know about putting the brakes on and stopping. I can see me slowing down, but stopping and waking up, asking myself, what's my purpose today? Now I tried it at 54, who knows when I'm 60? Maybe I'll feel a little different but wow.

That's what living to me is all about. Getting out, interacting with others, impacting them, inspiring to the best of my ability. Motivating, changing lives. Changing lives. And I will say that the retirement living was great. Some people thought I was crazy because we're over there. We have our circle of friends, where are we going eat today? What restaurant? Oh, tomorrow we're going to go out on the yacht. Okay, that's great. Beautiful, water, Yelapa. Going out, laying on the beach, going down to the cabana. Life was beautiful. My gosh. It was a dream. It was a dream, but I wasn't nourishing my soul.

Eric Blake: So was there ever a feeling like that that kind of got old a little bit? Or was it more just the feeling of, hey, there's something that's just missing?

Kim Lee: Well, it kind of combined. It got old, but then the beauty wasn't so beautiful anymore because I was missing what made me tick and missing what, golly, made me just feel so good from the inside out. So I would look at the beautiful mountains and I would look at the beautiful sunrise, and I expressed this to my husband where it's not so beautiful anymore because I was literally going out of my mind a little bit because not only I was missing community for my myself, and when you get plugged in, that gives us electricity, it illuminates our light. It's so deep. And when you can't get plugged in, there's no light and there's no electricity. And that's how I feel. So they kind of combined.

Eric Blake: So if that day comes and you start maybe thinking about it a little bit more, are there any particular things you feel like you would do differently as in preparation for that transition? Is there anything you'd do differently than what you did the last time?

Kim Lee: Well, yeah, this time around, I know that missing my kids, missing my family, missing, even though my kids are adults and they've moved on with their lives, I need to be around them and I need for them to be able to get to me. And I thought I could, but I told my husband, I was like, I don't know if I can ever move away again. But if I were wherever we were thinking about, I would really research based on what I know I need to have access to, what I need to get plugged into. Is it there? Can I? And that's what I would do different, because that was big. Otherwise, until I experienced it, I didn't know. I couldn't have forecasted it.

Eric Blake: So with that, are there maybe 2, 3, 4 things, whatever's appropriate in your mind, what would you like to share with our audience for women that may be in this transition process or maybe getting ready to transition into retirement or maybe a year or so from it? Any recommendations, any suggestions that you would have for women who are going through this similar thought process of, hey, I'm looking at possibly retiring. I want to make this a success, whatever that is, whatever the other side of retirement looks like. Are there any recommendations you would have?

Kim Lee: I think introspection is huge. And to ask yourself the hard questions. And having children doesn't pertain to every woman. That may not be a factor. But can you live away from what you're accustomed to? Can you move through the adjustment? Are you ready to truly stop working or doing what you do daily that fulfills you?

And going back to a point you made, I liked it a lot. Not retiring from retiring to, huge. What are you retiring to? I love that. And what are you going to do? How are you going to fulfill yourself in your time? And the vacation lifestyle is great. Resort living, oh my gosh, so fun. But it comes to a point where it gets old and it's not enough. How are you going to engage your mind? How are you going to engage yourself? And if you have a partner, what are you going to do together? If individual time is important to you, how are you going to fulfill that?

There's so many different aspects, really. I would map it out on paper again if I were to do it again and ask myself hard questions and what would be my plan? And again, that's knowing where you're retiring to, the location, know it well and know what it has to offer. And is it enough?

Eric Blake: I so appreciate you sharing that because one of the things I wanted to get out of this episode and the conversation you and I have had is that it's okay to change your mind, to un-retire. That's not a failure. It's not success. It's just, hey, it's a learning opportunity. Next time around, we can be better prepared or we can, that decision to retire, you might completely do away with that for a while and that's okay. And I think that's one of the things I wanted, I was hoping that the audience can take from this is that everybody's retirement is different. Everybody's retirement is theirs. It's not anybody else's.

So number one, you do need to prepare. You need to be prepared financially, but you need to prepare emotionally. What is that going to look like? What are you going to do? Just as you said, what are you going to do? How are you going to spend your time? Are you going to volunteer? Are you going to work part-time? Are you going to start a business? What are you going to do to give yourself purpose, to give yourself a reason for waking up in the morning?

Kim Lee: Oh, that right there, Eric, that right there, because for me, speaking of my personal experience, waking up and going to the beach and looking at the beautiful mountains and everything there ran its course. And it didn't engage me. It didn't fulfill me. And I began to feel rather empty. And again, going through the experience, that's what I learned. And I don't regret it at all. But I didn't hesitate to go, whoa, this isn't for me right now. And I thought it was, I could be, but it's not. So I need to pivot.

Eric Blake: And I think that's tough. I mean, I think you should, having the guts, let's call it, to make that decision, that's tough. Again, because everybody's going to go through whatever their own set of emotions are. Sometimes it might be fear of, did I fail at retirement? Again, there is no failure. There's just, as you said, changing course, changing paths. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is always going to be some emotions connected to that and that decision to actually pull the trigger on a decision like that, that again takes some guts to do that and say, yes, I'm just not ready for this. And move back to what you were doing before. Again, there's nothing wrong with that.

Kim Lee: It was an undertaking, it was an adventure and it was, I knew in the moment that I made the decision that it had to be done, and I'm a happy camper. I am back feeding my soul. And that is what, and I told my husband, I said, let's go visit the beach. Let's travel, get back to traveling. We don't have to move there. And he's like, yeah, I understand. Yeah.

Eric Blake: Well, awesome. Well, now that you are back in the fold, you are back to personal training, you're back to working with clients, how can our audience connect with you, learn more about your personal training services, and I don't know if you're open to it, but there may be somebody out there that wants to have a conversation about your retirement journey and maybe again, any words of wisdom that you might be able to share. How can people connect with you?

Kim Lee: Total Body Fitness by Kim on Instagram.

Eric Blake: Perfect. Is there anything else, a website or anything you want to put out there, or is that the easiest way?

Kim Lee: That's the easiest way. Total Body Fitness by Kim on Instagram.

Eric Blake: Perfect. We'll definitely share that in the show notes of the episode. Kim, thank you so much for joining us today to share your retirement journey. For everyone, please like, follow and share this show. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our website at www.blakewealthmanagement.com. We'll see you again on the next episode of The Simply Retirement Podcast. However, in the meantime, as we learn today, please remember that retirement is not the end of the road. It is the start of a new journey.

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