Redefining Retirement with the Retiree Rebels

Carol Larson and Mary Helen Conroy are redefining retirement and talking about the difficult transition that no one seems to address. They've developed a "one-of-a-kind" podcast to help those who are newly retired and may be struggling with the change in lifestyle.

Thursday, February 18, 2015 --- 9:30 p.m.

Madison, Wis. --- Do you ever wish life came with an instruction manual? Let's face it, we've all been there at one point or another. Some spend their time wishing for the carefree days of retirement, but some are finding these "Golden Years" are more of a struggle than one might think.

In a quick Google search of retirement, there are too many links to count that tell you how to save and plan. However, there's nothing about how to live out your retirement. For many, making that transition is the hardest. That's where two Madison area women come into play.

Once a month Carol Larson and Mary Helen Conroy pull up a chair to Carol's kitchen table. They sip their coffee and chat about the latest book they've read, restaurants they've visited, and their plans for the weekend; but this "Girl Talk" only begins to scratch the surface of what their conversations are really about.

"Ok, we're rolling," said Larson.

Larson and Conroy host their own podcast called "Retiree Rebels." Thanks to a microphone and laptop, their breaking barriers explaining what retirement is really like.

"I was going to be a writer," said Larson. "And two/three months into it, I'm having panic attacks, I'm not sure what to do with myself during the day. I wasn't ready for the very dramatic change in structure."
Conway chimed in, "One of the biggest problems is we spend so much time on financial planning for retirement and not about our lives. It's all about our lives."

In chatting, Larson reveled that stats show nearly 10,000 people reach retirement age everyday. With so many people making the transition, Larson and Conroy knew something had to be done.
So about a year ago, Conway (a retired teacher) and Larson (a retired news reporter) traded their rocking chairs for laptops to put their golden years to good use.

Conroy described how it all happened over a cup of coffee one day. "I always suggest for people to have 50 cups of coffee to know what they want to do with their lives," she laughed.

Their podcast launched last fall. So far, they've had more than 600 downloads from the iTunes store.

While their target audience may not know the difference between and MP3 and a PDF, Larson said, "It's basically radio."

Larson and Conroy have streamed-lined the process for those who may not be comfortable with technology. To listen to their words of wisdom, you just have to be able to get to a website - Once there, click on the topic you want to listen to. One of their latest podcasts features Conroy who's taking about what it's like to find friends over the age of 50.

"Retirement is a time of transition to an entirely new stage of life and it's not what people tell you," said Larson. "It's not immediate bliss and it's not this freedom and ease. You have 10, 20, 30 years of life left. What are you going to do with them?"

In some cases, Larson said it can take up to three years to adjust to all the changes retirement brings. "It's not just financial, it's personal."
Among their listeners is Lois Corwin of Janesville. After having a long successful career - in sales and marketing, business administration, event planning, start-ups, and non-profit development - retirement left her searching for a purpose. "I've got all this time now that I didn't have before," said Corwin. "It's more relaxed time and can choose what I want to do with my time, but what is my choice? Where do I go from here?"

She too had a number of plans for retirement - sleep late, read a number of books, clean out that back closet. Corwin said that all gets old quickly. After years of structure in her life, she said it's great knowing that people have been their before her and that she's not alone in this retirement transition. "When I get to the point of too scary to do it any more, I just turn on my podcast," said Corwin.

As members of the baby boomer generation, Larson and Conroy have done everything to break the status quo. Even as they hit retirement, they continue to blaze a new trail.