Lynda Dickens had worked 43 years for the State of Florida. But she wasn’t ready to retire until a fateful trip changed her mind. And a new hobby she picked up soon after her retirement convinced her to never go back to work. In fact, she says it’s become an addiction.
Now she’s more active than ever with lunches out with friends, card games, and all sorts of hobbies. We talk about her secrets to a happy retirement, as well as…
A unexpected place to make new friends after you retire
How her parent’s unexpected passing impacted her retirement plans
The little-known sport that’s perfect for senior citizens
The #1 strategy that will prepare you financially for retirement
John Curry: Hey folks, John Curry here with another episode of The Secure Retirement Podcast. I'm sitting here with my friend Lynda Dickens and Jay Wolfe over here. We had a nice visit during lunch leading up to this podcast. And Lynda, first of all, thank you for being here. Welcome.
Lynda Dickens: You're welcome.
John Curry: Glad to have you. All of us are going to face something in all likely, that is the passing of our parents, and hopefully retirement someday, and then activities in retirement. And today, Lynda's going to share with us some things that I've been impressed with over the years that I've known her. And then we're going to talk a little bit about post retirement years. But Lynda, would you take a moment and just tell our listeners who you are? I know you work with DOT until you retired, but would you just kind of share your background about who you are just so they kind of get a feeling of who the real Lynda Dickens is?
Lynda Dickens: Well, I was a programmer analyst with the state for 43 years. I didn't really want to retire, but after I did, I took a trip with one of my sons abroad and decided there was more to retirement. More to ... Yeah, more in retirement than ... Or better things than work. So I decided to stay retired.
John Curry: What does retirement mean to you?
Lynda Dickens: Being able to do what I want, when I want. Don't have to get up if I don't want to.
John Curry: Very good. Very good. In my work, 44 plus years now, I find that people who are happiest in this thing called retirement are busy doing something. They have activities. The people that just sit in front of a television all day, they don't seem to be as happy. Would you tend to agree with that or would you disagree?
Lynda Dickens: Oh, 100%.
John Curry: Okay, because when we circle back around about some of the things you're doing in your retirement, I think that would come out loud and clear. You said 43 years in state government. When did you retire?
Lynda Dickens: End of 2011.
John Curry: And you had told me before your parents died the same year.
Lynda Dickens: Right.
John Curry: Would you walk us through a little bit of that? That had to be stressful. You already got your own life changing event coming up called retirement and you lose your mom and your dad in the same year.
Lynda Dickens: Yeah, it was really difficult and particularly because my mother was my best friend all my life and it was so totally unexpected. And I thought when I retired, which I knew was coming up six months later, that I was going to be spending a lot of time with them, especially as they got older, eventually taking care of them. But that didn't come about. I guess that's a good and bad thing you could look at, but I'd rather have him here and taking care of them if I have to.
John Curry: Did their passing change your view about going into retirement? About the importance of doing the things you want to do now because of life being so short?
Lynda Dickens: Well, I guess it gave me a different perspective because like I said, I expect to be spending a lot of time with my parents and I was going to have all kinds of time to do that. And after I retired I had nothing, so I didn't know what I was going to do.
John Curry: Let's touch on that for a minute. So you told Jay and me earlier that for about the first three years of retirement you didn't do very much.
Lynda Dickens: Right.
John Curry: What did you do? What was your daily routine once you retired?
Lynda Dickens: A couch potato, that was probably most of it. Going to lunch with friends whenever I could get anybody to go. But that was about it.
John Curry: Okay. What changed?
Lynda Dickens: A friend of mine asked me one day if I wanted to go see what pickleball was like, and I didn't have any idea of what it was. I said, "Sure." So we went to the senior center on Monroe Street and I learned about pickleball and I even got to learn how to play. And after falling flat on my face, I've got up and kept playing. And it's been over four years and it is my addiction. I play four times a week and I love it.
John Curry: Tell us what pickleball is, because some of us, when you first told me I had no idea what pickleball was, so I promise you there are some people listening to this, they don't have a clue, so walk us through the basics.
Lynda Dickens: Whenever I mentioned pickleball people go, "What?" I think it's the name that really throws it.
John Curry: We're going to throw a pickle at each other, right?
Lynda Dickens: That's right. Supposedly it came about in 1965. It was created by a man for elderly people and he named it pickleball after his dog pickles. Now it's supposed to be a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong, but I usually tell people it's like 99% tennis only on a smaller court, and the best part to me is that we play indoors. They are creating more and more places where we can play outdoors, but I have no desire to do that. It's just like a tennis court. Only smaller. I happened to read one day that is actually the size of a badminton court. It's got a net across and a line down the middle and we play two people on each side. You play with a paddle rather than a racket, but it's bigger than a ping pong paddle and a whiffle ball, the plastic ball with holes in it.
A lot of tennis players who come and learn pickleball usually have two complaints. One, the ball doesn't bounce as much as a tennis ball, and two, the paddle isn't as long as the racket. And a lot of them still call the paddle a racket, which I keep correcting them. But it's loads of fun and you can go to the Talgov website and get a schedule for indoor and outdoor pickleball. And any age person can play. I've heard that they're across the country, they are actually teaching it in grade schools.
John Curry: What are the benefits of playing pickleball?
Lynda Dickens: Exercise for one, which I was desperately needing. And my goodness, I have met so many wonderful people and gain new friends that I do things with other than pickleball.
John Curry: So there's the social aspect of it also.
Lynda Dickens: Absolutely. The first year I was playing pickleball, it actually lowered my blood pressure and blood sugar, which thrilled my doctor of course.
John Curry: How long is a match?
Lynda Dickens: Nobody's ever really timed it. I would guess maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Normally a game is 11 points, but if we have six or more people waiting to play, we only played to nine so that we have faster turnaround.
John Curry: So is the concept the same as in tennis or badminton from the standpoint of scoring? Same idea?
Lynda Dickens: Actually, I've never really played tennis, so that's hard for me to say. Well, you have to be, your team has to be serving in order to win a point and both players on one side will get to serve during their turn while they have the control of the ball. You have to serve underhanded, but the rest of the game ... And when you serve it, it has to go diagonally across. It has to bounce in the quadrant over there before they return it. When it comes back to you, you have to let it bounce. So it has to bounce once on each side before the rest of the play. And you can hit it overhand, underhand, whatever, except on the serve.
John Curry: Interesting. So let's go back to a falling on your face. So you were telling us about this, so that was the very first time you went and you said you happened to be wearing tennis shoes and you were invited to come out and learn how to play. So tell us what happened and what motivated you to get the heck up and keep going?
Lynda Dickens: Well I was going to get the ball towards the net and I guess I reached out too far and lost my balance and just fell face first. I didn't actually hit my face and I landed probably most of my weight went on my left knee, but I was laying there face down for a minute, kind of startled. And when I realized I really wasn't hurt, I got back up and continued to play. And I've actually fallen three or four times in the past four years, but I've gotten back up every time.
John Curry: I'm just visualizing the game. That's got to be good for your hand and eye coordination. So I'm just wondering what impact it has physically, not just on the exercise but also developing the brain from the standpoint has been proven over and over that people who are still active in retirement and they're using their brain, whether it be doing what you're doing with pickleball or dance lessons, which I do ballroom dancing and it's amazing how those things, the more you have to do it, you learn and it gets you out of your rut both mentally and physically. But I'm just visualizing, I used to play racquetball and I can imagine it's got to be something similar, not coming at you as fast I guess. Although it could be, but you have to work on the hand eye coordination. It's back to what you and I were talking about earlier, Jay, about kickboxing too, and they're the same thing. Same thing.
Why do you continue doing it? Okay, so you got involved, you got hooked enough to where you play four times a week. What keeps you going? To take some time, you have to overcome it or get up and get off the couch, go to the senior center, join your friends. So when you talk about it, you're always passionate about it. It's always your eyes, like right now, you're beaming, laughing about it, thinking about it. So what keeps you going?
Lynda Dickens: The camaraderie probably the most. And just the love of the game. Certainly not the exercise, but if you've got to exercise, there's nothing like being able to do it and have fun at the same time.
John Curry: True. Very true. In fact, I heard, I forget the guy's name now, one of the speakers at a conference said if you could find something you enjoy doing, whether it be basketball, baseball, softball for a church league or something, anything that keeps you moving and you're enjoying it, now it's not exercise.
Lynda Dickens: That's right.
John Curry: But if you're dreading getting up, going to the gym every day, well maybe the gym's not where you should be. Maybe it should be something else that you enjoy doing.
Lynda Dickens: That's right.
John Curry: So let's talk a little bit about a pickleball and how that ties into having a more productive retirement. So think back, if you'd not gotten involved in pickleball for the past four years, what do you think retirement would have looked like if you had just continued being as you, what'd you call yourself? The couch potato?
Lynda Dickens: Yeah.
John Curry: So compare what you think the difference would have been versus of what it is now.
Lynda Dickens: Oh, I'd hate to think of how big I would be.
John Curry: Well there's some honesty. Okay.
Lynda Dickens: Oh, I don't know. It'd be an awfully boring life, that's for sure. I really don't know.
John Curry: From a financial standpoint, you don't have to work. You're retired, ready to stay retired. Do you ever have any regrets about retiring? Do you ever wish you were still working some or even part-time, or are you happy you've got out?
Lynda Dickens: I sure did in those few years before pickleball, but now absolutely not. Love pickleball. Everybody who learns it gets addicted right away. And the senior center is not the only place I play, by the way.
John Curry: Tell us about the others.
Lynda Dickens: Oh, well there's any number of places. I also play at Jack McLean over by the fairgrounds and sometimes it's Sue McCollum at Lafayette Park. You can play at Walker Ford and Dave Street.
John Curry: Wow. A lot of places.
Lynda Dickens: All kinds of places. Yeah. Not to mention the outside places, which I'm not sure where they are. But I heard that they are actually starting to build a couple of pickleball courts at Tom Brown Park, and I think that's why they have cleared the land at Southwood down by tram, but I'm not 100% sure about that.
John Curry: Well, I keep saying I'm going to go with you and observe.
Lynda Dickens: Yeah. Yeah. Sure.
John Curry: But it has to be on a Friday because of work schedule myself. So, unless Jay will let me retire.
Jay Wolf: Nope.
John Curry: No, thank you, buddy. I appreciate that. Let's talk a little bit more about getting involved and doing things. What advice would you have for people listening to this that are close to retirement or maybe they've been retired for a year or two? What advice would you offer them regarding finding something to do in retirement to keep them mentally and physically active? For you it was pickleball, but just walk through whatever's in your head. If you could just sit there and tell people, "Here's what I think you might want to consider," what would it be?
Lynda Dickens: Well, unless you enjoy doing things by yourself, I would say find some friends who are active and join them and make sure you do social activities as well. Not just exercise, but the exercise part has to be fun or you probably won't do it.
John Curry: You mentioned something earlier too. I know you used to get together with friends you worked with and have lunch occasionally. Talk about that a little bit, because so many people retire and they just sever all relationship. They just disappear. Talk about that. Why do you think you and your friends have maintained that contact and what does it mean to you to have that?
Lynda Dickens: Oh, I think it's interesting because you can keep up with what's going on at work, even though I don't want to be there to work. And it's nice to see people and hear what's going on in their lives. A lot of people who retired before me never even came back to visit. I used to go back and visit all the time because I wanted to keep in touch with the people that I worked with. I enjoyed the people and I wanted to see how they were doing and what was going on.
John Curry: What I've been impressed with you over the years, Lynda, you didn't retire to get away because you hated the job or the people, you retired because you truly anticipated doing other things.
Lynda Dickens: Right.
John Curry: Now that changed some when your parents died, but instead of just collapsing and doing nothing, you found other avenues of things to do.
Lynda Dickens: Thank goodness.
John Curry: How many of you get together from the standpoint of friends from work and have lunch? You told me one time.
Lynda Dickens: Actually, I have two different groups. One are the ... Well was my supervisor and four guys that I worked with on my team. We are still getting together, although my supervisor passed away over a year ago, and one of the guys moved out of town, but he comes back periodically for our lunch. We get together quarterly.
John Curry: Quarterly, nice.
Lynda Dickens: The other is a couple of women that I used to work with and we try to get together. There's also a guy that I worked with in this little group, and we get together at least the month of somebody's birthday, if not extra times. Plus I'm good friends with both of those women and see them at other times as well. Like my husband and I will go play cards, have dinner and play cards with the two other couples. That's one of my passions too is cards. I've been playing cards since I was a kid.
John Curry: What do you play?
Lynda Dickens: Mainly Phase 10 with these other couples. It's a rummy game, but it's got its own deck of cards. In my family, we used to play a game called Liverpool Rummy, which turns out is like 99% the same as Phase 10, but you just used regular cards for that. My family also had a game called Pitch. Don't know how to describe it, but that was what we considered our family game. We also played like Crazy Eight. And there was another one, but I can't think of what it's called. Anyhow, I've been playing cards all my life. Never betting. I'm not a better, I'm not a gambler at all.
John Curry: So we're not going to see you at Vegas playing blackjack?
Lynda Dickens: I actually did. Back in 1976, my mother and I did, stopped in Vegas for a night or two and she won $75 playing roulette.
John Curry: I just, I didn't know about the cards. I knew you told me over the years about playing cards occasionally with people, but did not realize that playing cards was that much ingrained in you from a kid.
Lynda Dickens: Oh yeah. I played since I was a kid.
John Curry: What are the other things on the horizon for Lynda Dickens to consider doing?
Lynda Dickens: That's a good question. More pickleball.
John Curry: When you say more, do you see yourself becoming more competitive with it? Because you first started, you didn't have near the competitive drive that I see in you now.
Lynda Dickens: Well I've been very competitive all my life, but pickleball is the first game I've ever played, sport, whatever, that I don't care whether I win or lose. And I really don't understand it. I'm thrilled because I'm ashamed to say I am a poor sport. So I don't have that problem with pickleball, thank goodness.
John Curry: Are you saying that because you don't like losing you mean?
Lynda Dickens: Right.
John Curry: Okay.
Lynda Dickens: But pickleball, it doesn't seem to matter.
John Curry: I think most of us don't like losing.
Lynda Dickens: Sure.
John Curry: Some of us are good sports about it. Some of us are not. So do you throw your paddle?
Lynda Dickens: No, no, no, no.
John Curry: Are you like, what was the guy's, the tennis player? McEnroe?
Lynda Dickens: I have seen people do that though. Yeah, someone even threw theirs and broke it. That's pretty sad.
John Curry: You lose your temper and it usually costs you money to ... You're breaking stuff. You break your stuff.
Lynda Dickens: Yeah, paddles aren't cheap.
John Curry: How many people would you say are playing pickleball at the senior center? Is it like real busy? You have to wait awhile.
Lynda Dickens: Well, it's not even the same people every time. That's usually where new people go, because we have a lesson on Wednesdays from 11:30 to 12:00. We will have anywhere from probably 12 to 30 people, and we only have room for two courts. At all of the community centers, we have three courts. So it's more people are playing at one time. Let's see.
John Curry: If someone said to you, "That sounds good. That sounds like it's for the old folks to be doing." How would you respond to that?
Lynda Dickens: Well that's true, but it doesn't have to be, it's a fun game that anybody of any age can learn and enjoy.
John Curry: You said that earlier. That's why I wanted to really emphasize that.
Lynda Dickens: Yeah, there is ... I did find out that there's a minimum age at the senior center, but that kind of makes sense. It is for seniors after all, I think you have to be 17 or 18 or something.
John Curry: That's not very senior, is it? 17 or 18.
Lynda Dickens: No, no, no, no. But somebody brought their little nephew one time because they happened to be out of school. But I was told that there are around 500 people in Tallahassee playing pickleball now, and I bet I haven't met a hundred of them. Well, maybe a hundred but not kept in contact with a hundred.
John Curry: That's a lot of people.
Lynda Dickens: Yes it is and I don't know where they all are, but I'm glad they all don't all come to wherever I am. They keep trying to encourage more and more people to play pickleball and I keep telling them, "Would you quit? We have enough. We've got too many now."
John Curry: Be careful now. You're going to be guilty of, "I've got mine, but you can't have it." Okay?
Lynda Dickens: Well, the more people you've got, the less frequent you get to play.
John Curry: True. True. You made a comment about somebody bringing their nephew. Do you see this as being a sport that families can play?
Lynda Dickens: Absolutely.
John Curry: From the standpoint of like, I'm thinking about my grandson, he's 13.
Lynda Dickens: Sure.
John Curry: Doing stuff like that.
Lynda Dickens: Can't families play tennis?
John Curry: Absolutely.
Lynda Dickens: It's just like tennis.
John Curry: Badminton, volleyball. Interesting. I like that. Got to learn more and learn more about it. So tell us again, if somebody wants to learn more, where should they go, and if they want to go to the senior center to learn more, tell us about that, what days. Is it every day?
Lynda Dickens: We only play at the senior center on Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesday from 11:30 to 4:00, and now on Fridays from 11:30 to 4:00. Fridays used to just be 1130 to 1:30 because there was a dance group that followed us, but that group disbanded, so we were given the extra time. So now we played to 4:30 ... I mean 4:00 on Fridays as well. But like I mentioned before, if you want to learn how to play, come on Wednesdays from 1130 to 12:00.
John Curry: Or find a good friend like Lynda Dickens to go teach you, right?
Lynda Dickens: I'm usually the teacher anyhow if Charles isn't there to do it for me.
John Curry: That's good. Well, let's circle back for just a minute and talk about retirement. And so that anybody who's listened to this can maybe pick up a couple tidbits from you. What did you do leading up to retirement to get you mentally and financially prepared for retirement?
Lynda Dickens: Well, I made sure that I was going to be okay financially, which with my retirement, I wasn't really too worried. My husband and I don't really spend much money anyhow unless we go on a trip. I don't know.
John Curry: I think you just said it. Basically what I got out of that is you've always been a good saver, you haven't spent money frivolously, you had more of a setting money aside for the future instead of instant gratification. Because the thing that we see with people is they don't save enough money. Most people have too much credit card debt. They have too big of a mortgage on homes because they frankly just over committed their financial resources.
And a lot of people in 2008 when the recession hit, they were in trouble. But the people who build up cash reserves, did a good job of saving money, they weathered that fine. And if you have good savings, you can let your investments come back when the market's down. So I think what you just said was it was big because you've never been big spenders. You plan those purchases if you want to go on trips or something. It's not, "Hey, let's just go put $10 thousand on a credit card." So I think comes back down to the discipline, because the time I've been around you, I feel like you've always had a lot of that. I think that you and your husband done a good job of managing the resources you have, but you also seek advice. You don't just say, "I'm going to do this because of something I heard from television."
Lynda Dickens: Right. Yep.
John Curry: All right, before we wrap up here, because I always like to end with is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners that we haven't talked about, whether it be about retirement, exercise, we talked about nutrition earlier. Anything at all, anything related to this thing called retirement.
Lynda Dickens: Well, you definitely ought to plan ahead for it, pretty much. Main thing being make sure you can afford it because there's no such thing as having too much money when you retire. Gain as many friends as you can so that you can do things and be around people because it does you a world of good to be around people, have more fun that way. You learn a lot. And do something active, whether it's pickleball or tennis or ping pong or whatever. And mainly have fun and keep smiling all the time.
John Curry: Well you're good at that. I'm just sitting here looking at your face. You've been smiling a whole lot during this interview and I just appreciate you taking the time to do this today. I know at one point you told me you weren't quite sure you wanted to do it. So thank you for sharing, because I think in just a brief 30 minutes here, we try to keep these around 30 minutes. So because people are busy, but you've shared I think some good thoughts from the standpoint of getting ready for retirement, how do you deal with life's uncertain events, unplanned events. But also you said something a moment ago that I've never heard anybody say in one of these and that is to have plenty of friends in retirement. I think too many people cut the cord. They retire, especially men because men are guilty more so than women, I think, of being so involved in work that their mindset is that's who they are, that's their self-worth. They have a harder time retiring because of that.
Lynda Dickens: But if you spend all your time by yourself, you're going to tend to be more sedentary and that is not good.
John Curry: And lonely.
Lynda Dickens: And lonely. And that's definitely not good.
John Curry: Yeah. A lot of things that I see in my study about longevity says that the more that you are around people doing things, playing cards, playing chess, playing pickleball, dancing, things like that, that those people, because they're involved with other people, they're happier, they're healthier, and they have better family relationships and friends.
Lynda Dickens: Right.
John Curry: Better than just being by yourself in front of a television, getting all the bad news all day.
Lynda Dickens: I don't watch news. I record everything I watch and scan through commercials. No commercials, no news for me.
John Curry: Well, Lynda, anything else you'd like to end with before we say goodbye?
Lynda Dickens: I don't think so, but I'm glad we finished.
John Curry: Well, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you.
Lynda Dickens: You're welcome.
John Curry: I hope you've enjoyed this and I hope you go learn about pickleball because the next Friday that I have in town, I'm going to go observe and see what pickleball's all about.
Lynda Dickens: I'll believe it when I see it.
John Curry: I understand, but I'm going to surprise you. Thanks, Lynda.
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