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#15 - Unveiling the Secrets to a Truly Successful Retirement for Women

“Don't simply retire from something, have something to retire to.”

- Harry Emerson Fosdick


What if there's much more to women's retirement planning than you ever imagined? 

Dr. Karen L. Midyet, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and Retirement and Aging Coach with a career spanning over 45 years. Specializing in life, career, retirement, and aging.

Karen is the visionary behind Coaching Aging Adults, LLC, a practice dedicated to assisting aging clients in developing life purpose and addressing issues related to isolation and loss. She also conducts workshops, online courses, and retreats to assist older adults as they prepare for retirement, facilitating emotional adjustment and planning for their next act, be it an encore career, volunteering, or grandparenting.

In this conversation, Eric and Dr. Midyet dissect the intricate blend of financial and emotional elements crucial to a woman's retirement journey.  

You can learn more about Dr. Karen Midyet's story by reading a recap of the episode below, on YouTube, or listening on your favorite podcast app!


Wendy McConnell: Welcome to the Simply Retirement Podcast with your host, Eric Blake. I'm Wendy McConnell. That seems to be the trick, the secret. The thing that keeps everybody going. 

Eric Blake: It does. As a financial planner, I talk about Social Security, taxes, and all the financial stuff that goes along with retirement planning. It’s all very important, but one of the most underrated aspects is the emotional side of retirement. For so many people, their identity is tied to their work and career, and that changes. It's significant. A friend of my wife’s just retired after teaching in the same school district for over 40 years, and she is really struggling with some of the things that we're going to be talking about today. 

Wendy McConnell: I have a neighbor who lives across from me who is 83 years old, and he says that the worst thing for a retiree is the remote control. 

Eric Blake: I can see that. Today we're going to be joined by Dr. Karen Midyet. Karen is a clinical psychologist and a retirement and aging coach with a career of over 45 years. She specializes in life, career, retirement, and aging, operating primarily in Denver, but she extends her services remotely to clients across the U.S. and Canada. Today we're going to find out exactly what that means for women who are planning their retirement journeys. Karen, welcome to the Simply Retirement Podcast. 

Karen Midyet: Thank you. I love being here. 

Finding a new purpose

Eric Blake: I'm so glad you joined us. Over the last couple of months, we've gotten to know each other a bit through social media and LinkedIn. You've posted some great stuff. I've shared a few of your posts and articles, but if you don't mind talking just a bit about your background. Forty-five years is an extremely impressive number. How did you get into what you are doing today? 

Karen Midyet: I started out working as a psychologist with a background in career counseling. I worked with adolescents and underachievement, so nothing like where I am now. But just as I tell my clients, we can recreate our lives multiple times, and I ended up going back to school and getting a doctorate in clinical psychology. My practice was mostly mental health until 2001, when I decided to get a coaching credential. It changed my life because it was more forward-looking and planning rather than dealing with mental health issues. I continued my mental health practice, and I was a director of hospital services, so I saw when things got really bad. I really wanted to focus on helping people recreate their lives as they got older, and that actually ended up happening.

I retired in my late fifties and took three years off. I learned something totally different and new that had nothing to do with psychotherapy or coaching, and at that point, I missed social interaction with people and helping people prepare for the next chapter of their lives.

I did on-the-job training in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I supervised other clinicians in the field of aging, and at that point — which was 12 years ago — there wasn't a lot written about mental health and aging. It's become much more popular today, but the reality is that as a coach who’s a psychologist specializing in aging and retirement, there aren't a lot of people who do that. There are a lot of retirement coaches, but my mental health background has really made a difference in helping people figure out how to shift from the life they've lived to the life they want to work on and create in their next chapter of life. It’s exciting, fun, and creative work on both my part and my clients. 

Eric Blake: That's awesome. It's funny. I think part of my fascination with retirement and retirement planning came from my grandparents. You know, my mom was a single mom, and my grandmother was widowed when she was 62. I don't think I knew what retirement was back then, but my grandparents retired when they were in their forties and I spent my summers with them, fishing. And I thought to myself, ‘I don't know what this is, but how do you do it?’

It’s one of the things I remember about my grandmother. When my grandfather passed, she was still very active, but there was a point where she lost some of that. I'm not sure what causes that, but I know that many women have concerns about social isolation in retirement.

What advice can you provide as far as building and maintaining a strong social support system as you transition into 20, 25, or 30 years of retirement? 

Finding Community 

Karen Midyet: Well, it depends on your community and what's available. I’ve worked with people in rural areas, where it's a bit more challenging than for people who live in cities. But I’d say that social isolation is probably one of the biggest issues that people coming to me are trying to figure out: How do I connect or reconnect with people? I will tell you that it is always a process. People need to understand that it takes time. I encourage them to do the things that they feel most comfortable with. Connecting or reconnecting with church or synagogue can be an easy way — it’s something they know. I’ll ask them whether they’ve tried anything now that we're no longer in a pandemic. Meetups are great ways to begin meeting people if they haven't connected.

The other area to work on is any kind of community group that you can join. I know some older people don't like to go to senior centers because they don't see themselves as a senior. I'm a senior! I know the resources that senior centers offer can vary.

My earliest work was working with seniors when I was at the University of Denver. I couldn’t believe how active the seniors at those centers were. I was in my 20s at that point, and they had a hard time fitting me in. Some seniors really do a great job of connecting. The other part is working on family and trying to reconnect with people you might have lost touch with — going on a social media platform like Facebook to see what they’re doing now. I have clients who continue going back to their 50- and 60-year reunions to connect with old classmates from high school. It’s really an unlimited quantity.

The other thing to consider is online education or something like the Ollie program, which is offered through universities throughout the United States. There are a lot of programs that are senior-specific and very interesting. They're not anything you get graded on, and you can have fun with it. You can do some of them in person and some of them online. 

Education as a Path to Engagement

Eric Blake: One of the things you posted about that I really loved talked about the importance of education for the senior community. Whether it’s formal or informal, there are so many different options. Maybe you can touch a little bit more on some of the things you've seen retirees go into that really seem to make a difference.

Karen Midyet: It can be a class. It can be an online educational program in an area that you’re interested in. Because of the pandemic, so much online education is available. You can search for any interest area, or you can sign on to watch YouTube tutorials.  The other thing is the Ollie program, which I just mentioned. Many universities let seniors go back to school as long as it's not for a degree program. You can take classes for free at many universities. Some people go back to school in their 50s and 60s and 70s to get a degree. I have one client who is 60 who’s decided she wants to get a degree. She’s an artist, and she wants to go back to school and get a degree so she can teach. 

Eric Blake: What are your thoughts about connecting on social media? I would think that if you need reconnection, you’d need to get together in person to get past the isolation aspect. 

Karen Midyet: I’d say if you want to find to connect ways in your local community, there are things like community newcomers’ groups. Many of them don't have a requirement that you’re actually new to the area: You just need to be new to the group. There are groups for everything from learning to garden to book clubs. Sometimes they're fun social events, or meeting for coffee or dinners, those kinds of things. Volunteer work is also popular. Engaging with a community and doing things consistently is the easiest way to make friends. Doing something here and there is harder. 

Some of my single women have particularly blossomed from joining those groups. It's just an automatic way to get to know people over time, working on similar projects and interest areas, and not just working on helping themselves but also doing something for the community.

Eric Blake: Right. I definitely see a lot of women getting value out of that. I can't remember the exact saying, but it’s something like when you learn something yourself, it's great. But when you can teach something to somebody else, that's where a lot of the fulfillment comes from.

I think one of the things I'm trying to figure out is how I can turn pickleball into a networking event. We started playing pickleball a couple of months ago and it's amazing. 

Keeping Mind and Body Healthy

Karen Midyet: Pickleball has been the instigation for quite a few couples’ relationships. It's natural. It's not online dating, which is another thing that people try to do to connect. 

Wendy McConnell: You're talking about my favorite thing in the whole wide world. I have literally met hundreds of people playing pickleball. It’s the most social thing I've done in my entire life.

Karen Midyet: And it's not just for older adults. My kids love playing pickleball. It's definitely a multi-generational opportunity, which is wonderful. 

Eric Blake: From your perspective, what are one or two key insights or recommendations to help people improve their physical or emotional health? 

Karen Midyet: Having a coach is a great option. Some people love to do things on their own, and they have the fortitude and desire to actually work on both their physical and emotional health, but sometimes working with a coach or a trainer is a great idea. I think part of the beauty of aging is knowing yourself. I know myself, and if I don't have a trainer, I don't go. I have to have a trainer to keep me on track and to keep me responsible, but I have other clients who have a routine. They put it into their day, and they’re good to go. Whichever way is best for you, it's important for mental and physical health.

The reality is your physical workouts help more than your body. They help your mood and your mental health and prevent problems down the road. I do so much coaching about mental health, exercise, and nutrition. 

A lot of people who are older or live alone don't take the time to eat healthy. They forget about getting enough protein. They don't even know what accurate amounts of protein are. That sets them up for problems in the health arena. When I work with people, I work with the whole person, including the health and physical aspects. I work with life purpose, really trying to figure out values and what's most important to you. We do a whole life search to help determine what areas in your life have holes and need shoring up. That way, they can work on them and feel like they’re making progress.

It’s so exciting for them to be able to get a do-over. 

It’s Never Too Late

Eric Blake: I was aware of the quote and thought it would be great to include it in this episode, but as I was searching for the author, I came across an article in Forbes that suggested that people shouldn’t wait until they retire to start this process. It suggested starting within that five-year window of retirement, putting a plan in place so you know what it's going to look like, and what is your income going to look like. What's your tax strategy going to look like? What’s your ideal scenario with Social Security? 

All those things can change, but at least you’d have a path to run on. From your perspective, when is the right time or the best time? When would you recommend that women start reaching out to a coach or starting this process of laying out what their retirement life is going to look like? 

Karen Midyet: I think starting to put things in place in your 50s, while you still may have kids at home, and you have the opportunity to influence and teach them that these are things that are important in life. It’s really a time to begin modeling planning and life planning for your children if you have them. Not just financial planning, but planning about the kinds of things that you enjoy, having the opportunity to try new things. 

All of a sudden, you realize you have a different perspective. I started the nutritional piece and my personal training in my 50s, and as I got older and my kids left the nest, I had a little bit more time to do other things.

As you get to different decades, different things become a little bit easier and sometimes more important. But understand that it’s a lifelong process to recreate yourself and try new things. Sometimes, you try things, and you realize you don't like them at all, but it's important to try it. 

I still have things on my list that I’d like to do, and I've shared them with clients. Sometimes, they check in on me and ask, ‘Have you done that?’ 

We all have nuggets of things in our lives that we didn't put away or we didn't try. Maybe we were too scared. Now, we have the freedom to try to do it without judgment. Who cares if you're good? 

I remember one time I tried water skiing. I hadn't skied since I was a kid, and I just wanted to know if I could still get up. I didn't need to do huge things or slalom. I just needed to know I could. Sometimes, having those kinds of experiences in your life, knowing you can, gives you the bravery to try something new. 

Getting Started on Your Re-do

Eric Blake: Karen, a couple more quick questions. I want to make sure we get your information out there and let our audience know how to reach you if they would like to do so.  

What is a typical engagement? When somebody comes to you because they're struggling with the transition into retirement or they want to be proactive. What does that kind of relationship look like? How does it start? What's the timeframe? Is it six months? 12 months? A lifetime of engaging with you?

Karen Midyet: I work with people based on what they're able to give me. Some people have more time than others. I try to have them do some homework. I get their life history, and then we look at their values and purpose. I give them exercises to do. Sometimes, I have them do a vision board of the things they want to look at. We look at the wheel of life because it’s a great way to look at where you are compared to where you’d like to be. Then, we work on monthly topics. It can be overwhelming if you try to do everything all at once, so they can decide which areas are important to them. 

I'm also doing a group coaching program that is starting next month. I used to do group coaching way back but hadn't done it with retirement coaching. I set it as an intention, and now it’s getting off the ground. 

Eric Blake: How would people sign up for group coaching? 

Karen Midyet: Email me at Karen@coachingagingadults.com is the best way. 

Eric Blake: Are there any other social media platforms or anything else you'd like to share regarding how people can reach or communicate with you? 

Karen Midyet: People can reach out to me on LinkedIn, and I'm also on Facebook. I know I'm on Pinterest, but I have no idea how you even get in touch with anybody on Pinterest. I'm on Instagram as well. 

Wendy McConnell: Are the social media accounts under your name or the business name? 

Karen Midyet: Some of them are under DrKarenMedyet.com. I have a YouTube channel as well. 

Eric Blake: It's very helpful content that you put out there, not just for women. Anybody would benefit from what you put out there. Hopefully, you'll get some more followers after this conversation. 

Karen Midyet: I hope so. 

Eric Blake: Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen. 

Please reach out to Karen Midyet if you have questions or would like more information about how she can help you make a successful transition into and through retirement. As we always say, retirement is not the end of the road. It's the start of a new journey. We'll be sure to share all of Karen's contact information in the show notes as well. 

If you’d like to learn more about us and our firm, Blake Wealth Management, go to our website at www.blakewealthmanagement.com, where you can learn more about me and our team and find a lot of free resources.

We also have the Simply Retirement newsletter, which is an edited transcribed version of the podcast for people who’d rather read than listen. And if you’re a woman who is less than five years from retirement and you have questions about how to optimize Social Security, minimize your lifetime tax liability, and invest smarter, click the Start Here button up in the top right corner of our website.

That's where you can learn about our process for helping you make an educated and informed decision about whether we’re the right firm to help you navigate your retirement journey.

If you want to ensure that you are on the right track to retirement and living retirement on your terms, send us a note! Or, check out episode 2, “The Simply Retirement Roadmap™ Process,” and get your own personalized Simply Retirement Roadmap™ here: 



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