There has been so many scary articles and blog posts written about having a satisfying retirement I am kind of surprised it is even a topic anyone reads about
anymore. After all, if the brightest and best experts say we will all work until we are 80, or that the majority will never be able to retire, then why read the thoughts of someone like me who is apparently swimming upstream against the current of history?
The answer is simple: the "experts" have been consistently wrong for quite awhile. Let's start with the dot.com bust. Companies with no profits, no marketing, and hardly any employees were worth more than the GNP of most countries. Wrong. How about that huge Y2K scare? Did the computer age come to an end? Hardly. Or, how about the investment gurus who claimed housing and stock prices were on a perpetual upward trend with the Dow hitting 30,000 soon. Not so much.
I could cite many more obvious examples when the common wisdom and the expert opinions were dead wrong. I can also apply the last eleven years of retirement, 31 months of experience in writing this blog, almost 7,000 comments and well over 420,000 views to the same question and get a very different answer.
About 16 months ago I wrote Retirement living: What is the real truth that attempted to dispel some of the myths and half-truths surrounding retirement. Since then, some things have changed enough to revisit that post and see if I need to freshen some of the ideas.
...If you believe all that is written 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.
- Still the message we get too often. And, still not true.
Let me give you a few glimpses of what retirement is really like. I've been on this journey for over 11 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 63 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. 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.
- Insurance up 17% again for 2013 but we are still in good shape. We took that Hawaii trip and the Money Magazine article appeared as promised.
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.
- If I could come up with a word to accurately replace 'retirement' I would. That word continues to carry negative connotations too often. This phase of life is not about fading away, it is about expanding and growing.
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 don't look forward to the gym. Honestly, I make excuses why I can't go much too often. But, the rest of it is still quite true.
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.
- Still very true. Add to that a strengthening of my spiritual life and filling my day productively is no problem.
The ending I wrote in September 2011 still applies: 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.