One decade, 10 years, is a long time. Were you living where you live now ten years ago? Did you work for the same company? Did you have a major change in your relationships: marriage, birth, death, divorce? Are you now fully retired? Are you the same person? Have things gotten better, or worse for you?
I have been without a job for a full decade. I wouldn't have chosen to retire in 2001 but circumstances made it clear to me that I needed to make a major life change. For me, the first few years afterward were a bit of a struggle. I puttered around the house, watched too much TV, read too much just to fill the time, and lacked a reason to bounce out of bed each morning. About five years ago I began to find a direction and a balance. I began to understand how retirement forced me to make adjustments, both major and minor, in how I thought and what I did.
Now, 10 years later, what adjustments to my thinking have occurred? How is my life different from the first, stumbling steps into my retirement? What has happened that I didn't expect or plan for? Here are a few answers from a post I originally wrote 6 months ago, updated with my current thinking.
Financially Much More Relaxed. There were several ups and downs in the economy and my investments, even before the Great Recession of the past few years. At first I was constantly worried that I had miscalculated or forgotten some major expense. At least once a week I'd use a retirement calculator to re-check my financial plans. Each time, the numbers confirmed we should be OK. I did not expect health insurance costs to go up so rapidly, year after year. I actually forgot about having to buy new cars. But, overall, the financial plans my wife and I made have held up. Today, I am much less likely to stress over every up and down. We'll be OK.
Part of the reason is we have scaled back our expectations. Right after retirement we thought our life would be filled with cruises, month-long vacations in some exotic locale, and motoring around America in a 26 foot RV. Not much of that has happened. Now we know what makes us happiest is found much closer to home in family, friends, and our simplified lifestyle. That realization took substantial pressure off our investments to fund a more lavish lifestyle.
Much More Aware of The Passage of Time. When you first retire, the time horizon does seem rather far away. That is an illusion caused by the sudden end to daily job responsibilities. Days of the week suddenly become much less meaningful. Monday is every bit as good at Saturday. There is no rush. About five years into this journey, however, there was a shift. I became more aware of the passage of time. I understood that each day seems long, but goes by quickly and will never be repeated. Anything not done today will never get done today. By leaving it until tomorrow that will push something else into the next day. Time isn't as elastic as it seemed at first.
Both Betty and I have found activities and passions that excite us. While our to-do lists are much too long, we are getting better at setting priorities. The things that are important to us get more of our attention and time. While we don't get to everything each day, usually we feel the irreplaceable time that day has been spent well.
More Open to New Ideas. The first few years are spent finding your rhythm and becoming comfortable with the decisions you have made. There are a lot of adjustments as you move through the stages of retirement. I did not have the inclination to take on additional challenges in my life. But, then I felt the need to begin to grow and to take on new projects. I was comfortable in thinking about how my life was being lived in new ways. I have shed some old convictions and approaches. In this 10th year I feel like a kid in a candy store. My brain is full of new things I want to try. I am moving full speed ahead to create a satisfying retirement lifestyle.
The post of a week ago is a good example of being open to new things. Working with inmates in area prisons as well as those just released has been extremely gratifying. I would never have guessed that would be an important part of my life.
Much Less Interested in What is Going On in My Old Industry. I spent 35 years in my field. I knew a lot of people. I had a lot of former clients that I wished the best for. I was interested in staying in the loop. About five years ago, I began to lose interest. I no longer felt I had to check on the latest developments or stay in touch with people I knew who were still working. In this 10th year I have no interest whatsoever. That was a former life. It was a good one and allowed me to live this one. But, I've moved on. What is going on in the broadcasting industry is no longer relevant to me.
Learning to shed that old skin for a new one is all part of the growth process that is so much a part of retirement. What was important then just isn't now. I don't regret any of what I did, but I am not interested in having any of it as part of who I am now.
There are actually several audio clips floating around the Internet of some of my radio shows from over 40 years ago. Every so often I will listen to my 20 year old self and remember what it was like. There are great memories of people and places and experiences. It is somewhat surreal to hear myself so young and know those tapes of me will probably exist well after I do. But, after a quick trip to my youth, I click off the Internet and have no feeling I want any of that back.
Much Better at Saying "No." When someone first retires there is often a rush of requests for that person's time. Volunteering for this or that, heading a committee, helping with the Boy Scout meeting..... the lack of a full time job must mean you are constantly available to help others. But, as the years pass by the ability to filter out the things you don't want to do becomes greater. The ability to say "No" to everything comes more easily. You find the strength to say "Yes" to the things that are meaningful to you and most helpful to others.
Surprisingly, this adjustment has been as difficult as any. Saying "no" is not part of our nature. We all want to be needed, liked, appreciated, and desired. The more things you are asked to help with the more you are validated. To turn someone down is to risk being seen as standoffish or aloof or selfish.
But, just as an awareness of the passage of time grows as you age, so does the understanding of protecting yourself. Spread too thin, saying "yes" too many times, and you will drown in all that validation. By becoming more selective you will do a better job at whatever you do agree to do, and be happier in the process.
I have absolutely no idea if I'll still be blogging in another decade. But, if so I would guess the changes from now until then will be every bit as life- changing.