The reality is that retirement living is not much different from non-retirement living. I have been writing Satisfying Retirement Blog for 15 months and have produced a rather extensive primer on most retirement subjects. If you are a new reader, or new to retirement, please take some time to look at the list of most popular posts, or hunt around in the archives for posts that might help you.
I think you will come to the conclusion that living a retirement lifestyle that is happy and fulfilling takes some planning, some adjustments, and some creativity on your part. But, doesn't life before retirement require the same stuff? Too many web sites, blogs, and magazines attempt to tell you this part of your life is fraught with troubles and pitfalls. You are facing a daunting journey that only the strong survive. The message is almost: Retirement, only the beginning of your problems.
Let me give you a few glimpses of what retirement is really like. I've been on this journey for over 10 years so I have probably faced several of the questions and issues that concern you. I have gone through the death of a parent. I have survived the collapse of my business. I have downsized, then downsized again. I am being screwed on a regular basis by our health care system to the tune of 33% of my yearly income going to insurance companies, labs, doctors, and big pharma.
Yet, even with all that, this phase of my life has been the most fulfilling, exciting, growth-filled, and satisfying of any part of my 62 years on earth so far. I have freedoms I could have only dreamed about while working and traveling 100,000 miles a year. My creative life has caught fire. I have written two books and host this blog. I have a marriage that is so much better than before I retired. I am financially weathering everything the world can throw at me, and still jetting off to Hawaii for a three week vacation at the end of the month.
To cap it all off, the October issue of Money Magazine is profiling my retirement in as someone who is leading a satisfying retirement in spite of all the doom and gloom that bombards us every single day.
Retirement is not what it was for your parents or grandparents. That is absolutely true. The world and how it operates have likely changed forever. But, the exciting news is that so have we. I don't know a single retirement age man or woman who wants to spend 5 hours a day, every day, on a golf course, or sitting in an easy chair watching TV. I don't know anyone anticipating retirement who believe that their welfare is so secured by their former employer or the government that they will have zero financial worries in the future.
Retirement is an outdated word that can't possibly capture all of the opportunities and options you face. It implies you will no longer work. That is probably not true. Many of us want to keep working in some form. Retirement implies your active days are over. Not true, unless you choose to live like that. I contend your most active days, both physically and mentally, can lie ahead.
Retirement implies you will slowly fade away or become a burden to others. That can happen, and it does to too many of us. But, for most, that isn't necessarily your fate. Even if it is, that is years in the future. Why wouldn't you push yourself to live fully until you can't? Why worry about what may happen in the future, or let that worry confine you now? Plan for your future needs and try to lessen the impact on your loved ones. But, for heavens sake, don't let it paralyze you now.
My health is better today than it was 10 years ago. I weigh less and have more energy. I've dropped a few inches in waist size. I Look forward to the gym instead of fear it.
My relationships are much better. The stress my lifestyle imposed on my family when I was traveling continuously for almost 20 years should have been enough to tear my family apart. Due to the patience and forgiveness my wife possessed we made it through that phase. Now, things are so much better because we have time for each other. Sure there are arguments. There are days when each of us would rather the other person took a long walk off a short pier. But, rather than linger and fester like during my working days, we blow up, figure it out, patch it up, and move on. That can't happen when one partner is gone 200 days a year.
I found my passion. I was a man with no hobbies and no real interests outside of my work. I dabbled in things, but mainly to fill the time. Retirement has given me the time and opportunities to try different things. The pieces finally fell into place about 5 years ago. Writing and volunteering with a prison ministry organization give me what I have been lacking: a passion and a real purpose. The day isn't long enough for all I want to accomplish. I never felt that way (in a positive sense) while working.
Retirement is very much what you make it. Of course your finances, family situation, health, and other factors will impact you. But, again I stress, they affected you before retirement, too. This is your time. This is your opportunity. This is your life. Build it and live it full throttle.