Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living Richly In Retirement: Lifetime Learning (an Update)

Back in July, I talked about returning to school. I saw returning to school as a chance to develop a new skill set, a way to expand my mind, a chance to generally expand life.  I've now been though my first week back in college since 1980. I thought I'd share some general thoughts about my experiences so far....

I'm not the only semi grey haired gal in the bunch.  It's true that most of my classes have primarily younger students, however there are obviously older students on campus (more during the evening).

I don't see how any one can work full time AND go to school full time for any period. Those people who do because they have no choice have my greatest respect. I'm convinced that while "paying as you go" is a nice idea in theory, the reality is much different. To say I'm grateful for the financial aid I'm getting would be an understatement.

That leads naturally to my second thought, which is that I cannot see myself supporting three income streams and working.  To that end for now I am putting the errand business on hold, except for as a Christmas/Holiday business, turning the book business primarily over to my son, and concentrating fully on school, and my quilting business.  Without some small amount of financial aid, this would not be possible.

I'm sacrificing a tiny bit of that spur of the moment lifestyle I love.  While I can still take weekend trips (go to school Mon-Thur), flying off for a week will be much more difficult.  Traveling to Denver will require missing classes over Thanksgiving.  This means I probably will not go to school year around, as many do.

As a low to medium energy gal who thinks the word organization should be banned, I need to find a tad more structure.  In other words, homework itself phases me not a bit.  Remembering to do said homework and making time?  That's a separate issue.

School for school's sake is a worthwhile investment on all levels, including financial. This is true even if there is no salary, or larger salary.  Whether it be at a community college, continuing education program, the local rec center or otherwise, the advantages ofcontinuing to learn cannot (in my opinion) be stressed enough.

While I don't think this current generation of kids is coddled per se, some certainly are.  When the professor explains that cutting and pasting from an online document onto a term paper without giving credit is plagiarism, the common response is....."really???"!

While I appreciate the technological advantages of life, I'm happy to see that they are not always in the classroom. With one small exception, phones as well as laptops are banned from classes themselves (E-Readers are allowed-apparently you can get textbooks via WI FI these days-who knew).

I'm glad I've chosen a field of study that I like and care about, even if it's not necessarily a money maker.  While it's doubtful I'll ever work full time, I'm more interested in enjoying my work than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  With degrees in both German and Non-Profit Administration, there will be plenty of part time and volunteer jobs out there.  I'll also have plenty of brain food, and if I ever do retire to Germany, I'll have it made.

Note:  I'm receiving both grants and a couple small loans. Some have suggested that I'm obligated to work because of that financial aid.  I would simply say that it may be questionable whether any one is willing to hire me at an entry level at sixty something, I'd also say that a job is not the only way to contribute to society.  Lastly, while I've my husband and I have certainly paid into the system long eough that I believe I've earned a bit of temporary assistance. While my goal is obviously at least part time work in a field I love (say, part time translation or transcription), the folks who gave me this money knew my age. Not only that, but at 65 they would give me free tuition, able to work or not.
The freshman twenty issue has not "left the building". While the cafeteria and dining hall may be more healthy (I bring my own lunch), there are machines on every corner with soda, candy, chips and Gatorade.  The temptation to grasp a candy bar and a drink rather than stop for real food must be immense.

Lastly, the cost of textbooks is still usury.  The idea that we need a new German, Literature, or History textbook every year is insane, and frankly I'm not sure the math and science change THAT quickly either.

I've deliberately planned this school experiment to give me a fair amount of time off. this means that I go all day on Monday and Wednesdays, half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays and leave the long weekend to myself. Although we've only entered the first week I can see it working well. I still hope to have time to volunteer, three days to travel and enough time for reading, quilting, and the occasional nap on the patio.  We'll see..............


  1. College rapes you for books and final year we had to wait on 2 textbooks that were rquired - we had to show we had purchased them - though one wasn't available until over halfway through the semester. The other was available the 2nd week - and guess what?! one of the 3 authors was the professor. This was back in 1989/90. All sorts of fees. I sure don't think history or language changes that often. The jr college I started with required books be bought at their bookstore. If word leaked out which textbooks would be used(only available right before classes started)t hey would change the titles. they finally quit doing this but they set the prices they wanted and were guaranteed to get them. They also changed textbooks every 2 years on average - I mean how can a literature and history book change that quickly?

    anyways hope you enjoy your classes and find time for your other stuff. I'm eager to follow along - I've debated trying for a master's degree but I work a rotating shift so would be hard plus I've gotten so lazy...


  2. I think it is great that you have returned to school and given how you describe your financial situation and your relatively young age highly suggest you focus on leveraging your degree to get a job. I'm also concerned about your description of your low energy level - have you had a medical work up to see what could be the cause? It may simply be that you have not been pushing yourself to operate at a higher energy level which being more organized could help. Please take these comments as coming from a place of concern and not criticism.

  3. If you go to school completely on grants- I hope you do not choose to move to Germany. The grants are in place to enhance the US- to give students who intend to use their skills to make the US stronger. They are not for leisure activity or enhancing other countries.

    Anyway- we would miss you!

  4. susannah, my german textbook was 174 bucks............that one gave me a heart attack! HOnestly I fI had not had financial aid I would have read it in the library. It is crazy

  5. Juhli, thanks for your thoughts. My comments on my low energy level are mainly meant to be humerous. That said, I have neer geen a go, go, go person all day long and don't think that means there is any thing necessarily wrong with me-I just want and need a slower pace.

    As for the job, while I certainly am taking an education path that could land me a carrer, the chances of my being allowed to begin a new career in the work force at sixty something is extremely slim. I imagine I would use the non profit degree for an agency, but I could always translate german and do other things culturally on an as needed basis.

  6. Anon-Im not sure what the grants are for. there is an aeighty year old guy in a class on grants-im sure his education is for enjoyment, not for employment. My education is for both. Frankly, Ive been a taxpayer for over fourty years and educated two kids, so if my grants dont lead to employment, Im not going to feel terrible. If I mvoe to germany it would be to teach german and work on german/american cultural issues, so i see not to big a problem,

  7. "School for school's sake is a worthwhile investment on all levels."

    I agree completely with that statement. While one can become educated in other ways, there is something magical about the atmosphere on a school campus that can invigorate and stimulate even us older folks.

    I took a class in marine biology once that was fascinating. I am not scientific-minded, not do I want to dissect sea life. But, the boost to my brain cells and study habits was worth all the work for a C+.

    Just being on a campus is a rush for me. Best of luck to you, Barb. And yes, the cost of textbooks is one of great hidden crimes in America today.


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