May 30, 2023

More of Your Retirement Stories --- Part Four


In what has become a series of posts that I am glad I pursued, here are the answers to some of the retirement questions from long-time reader, David D.

Who was the greatest inspiration/mentor in your life?

I have to say none come to mind.  My father was relatively uninterested in raising me and critical of most things I did. I think he felt that it was to “toughen me up”.  Probably a good thing in his mind as I think for him life was a tough go. It didn’t work of course, and it mostly taught me to keep my head down and don’t make waves. 

At school I found that the “keep your head down and don’t make waves” kept the teachers off my back too whether I did my work or not-- it’s easy to ignore the quiet kid in the back. With my mother everything I accomplished, or didn’t, was fine with her which I think she did to sort of compensate for my father’s approach, but it wasn’t exactly motivating. I felt that in my father’s eyes everything I did was wrong and in my mother’s eyes everything I did was right. 

The greatest inspiration or mentor in my life? I can't think of anyone. I dropped out of school at 16 and about 10 years later after lots of night school classes while completing an apprenticeship and holding down a full-time job in the trades I went to university and paid my own way. No one inspired me or mentored me to do that, I just figured it was something I wanted to do so I did it.

What were you taught about money and finances in your youth? How has that advice changed as you got older?

I wasn’t really taught about money, but I had two opposing role models. Both my mother and father were raised in the depression, but each seemed to take different lessons. My father watched every penny his entire life, he was cheap with himself and others. “Money is hard to make and easy to lose” was his motto. 

That sounds good I suppose but it was really hard to get anything out of him unless he wanted it. He had my mother on a very strict budget for groceries and really everything, it was tough.  

On the other hand, my mother, who had her own job since I was in grade 2, was a free spender so maybe she needed to be on a tight budget, it did mean there was little to go around. I do recall that when department store credit cards first came out my mother had me hide her credit card bill when I got home from school so my father wouldn’t see them.  

One day I forgot or was late home, I don’t remember which, but I do remember the big blow-up in our house and my mother coming to me and asking me why I didn’t hide the bill like she’d asked.  

In any case I developed a sense that it’s a good idea to avoid going into debt and save what you can. When I was older, in my 30s, I bought a daily business newspaper and read it everyday cover to cover. At first, I had no idea what they were writing about but after a year or so I started to get it. 

I also read a book, The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton which is a classic about saving and investing and that got me going. I still think it’s the first book everyone should read about finances.

What did you think about old age as a youth, and how do you feel about it now?

I remember about a year after I quit school, I guess I was 17, I was with my mother and grandmother. I don’t quite remember the conversation, but it was about working or maybe my grandmother was thinking about retiring and I said something along the lines of “Well I guess working is my life from now until I retire when I can do what I want again”. 

They laughed and laughed that this 17-year-old was already looking forward to the day he could retire. I didn’t know what they found so amusing, as far as I could see it was a true statement. I’d have to be doing whatever my employer told me to do for the next 45-50 years before I would have a pension that would allow me to do whatever I wanted. 

Looking back, I can see they knew I still had my whole life ahead of me so why was I even thinking of retirement, but it seemed to me that that was how it was, I was just stating the obvious. 

Interestingly when I did announce my retirement at my last workplace I was talking to one of my coworkers about my upcoming retirement and he said “I think the only reason you ever worked was so you could retire.”  Thinking back to that day when I was 17 maybe he was right. But I did have a long and rewarding career too so that helped.    

What wisdom has come to you in your advancing years?

People are the most important thing. It’s not work, it’s not money, it’s not power, people are the most important thing. As I have aged, I find that more and more true.  

The government isn’t there to amass and project power or to make a good environment for business, it’s to see that the people are able to live happy and productive lives. Is there anything else that really matters?

What do you miss about your career?

Not a single thing. Zero. Nada. In my opinion my career was a job not a life. My career was something I always saw as a deal with my employer where I traded my intelligence, time, and skills for money. I did well at it too, ending up in a senior management position, but I never considered work to be my “real life”.

Companies don’t care about you. As long as you are making them money it’s good and when you are not, whether due to you or external conditions, they will get rid of you as quickly as they hired you. 

Your family and friends are the ones that care about you, your career does not. One thing I know for sure is that a year after you leave a workplace only a very few will remember that you ever worked there.


Did you have a career that was very satisfying and fulfilling? If you could do it all over again would you pick a different career path?

I think I did have a satisfying and fulfilling career. I liked what I did and was successful at it.  The 10 year diversion between dropping out of high school and going to university isn’t something that I’d advise anyone to do if they can at all avoid it. 

In the end it worked out for me, but I was always career hitting goals when I was about 10 years older than my peers. Such is life but for most of my career my managers were either my age or younger.  It wasn’t a problem for me, but it was something I noticed.


I can say that the last 5 years of my career were not good at all. The company was continually downsizing and centralizing. In fact, I had to switch to another corporate division at age 56 to either stay on or be packaged out of a job. 

My last role there was to outsource all the work and winnow down the local department to zero all while taking arrows in the back from local management. The money was good and at 56 I felt not quite ready to retire, had I been 59 I would have accepted the buyout but 56 was too early for me. 

When the final push came to implement the last program to fully close the department, I had had it and retired.  Let somebody else do it. It was the best decision I ever made.

I thoroughly enjoyed David's recounting of his path through life to this point. He managed to navigate several obstacles in his path while staying true to what was right for him. 

For those of you who are regular readers, you might recognize David as the fellow who reminds us all to enjoy the financial fruits of our work. After several decades of saving, his point is we deserve to enjoy at least some of that money when we have the time to do so. It is a difficult mental switch to make, but I have adopted some of his approaches.

The last in this series will be posted in a few weeks, with my answers to these questions. I am anxious to know what I am going to say!


May 25, 2023

Grumpy Old People


Originally written ten years ago, I noticed this post has over 18,000 views in that time. That tells me the topic remains relevant and probably worthy a fresh exposure. In the decade since this was added to the blog, I have learned enough about the subject to add a few fresh thoughts.

We are familiar with this personality type: the cranky old man. He is a stock character in movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  He seems to dislike everybody and everything. 

Step on his lawn or get in his way at the store and you will know it. Make the mistake of asking him about the government or taxes and your ears will burn for a week.  

British author Carol Wyer has a name for it: “irritable male syndrome." He is not living a very satisfying retirement.

While working on one of my books, a question was raised more than once that is worth thinking about. Here is how one contributor posed the question that gets to the heart of the issue:

"Why it does it seem like so many “old” people become bitter and negative, and then you have those “rare” old people who are enthusiastic about life, stay positive, and keep fit.


Is that something the positive-minded person has to really work hard at? Did they make a deliberate decision to not complain about their aches and pains and to see the world as a beautiful place? Or is this how they were all their life?"

Importantly, remember that this question was not asked by someone in his or her 20's or 30's. This came from someone in their late 50s and therefore I assume is a concern in his or her own life. 

Do we all end up inflexible and intolerant?  Does the prospect of losing the ability to drive, or to stay in one's home cause most of us to put a scowl on our face?

I am sure there are all sorts of research studies and physiological reasons why this "grumpy old man" attitude strikes. Medical reasons may include a steady decline in testosterone levels that can produce this bad mood effect.

Let me speculate on some other possible triggers. Retirement can send many a man over the edge. Normally with fewer friends than women, men have little social interaction after work and can become isolated and depressed. Certainly, the loss of a spouse could turn someone into a genuinely unhappy person. 

The loss of physical or mental capabilities has the potential to leave us bitter. We may remember the "good old days" as a time when the government seemed to work more smoothly, young people were more respectful, and doctors made house calls.

Or, as the question implies, is the crankiness due more to attitude than reality? Are unhappy seniors just an older version of how they were when younger? Can people make a conscious effort to not fall into the complaint trap as they age? If there is a medical cause, will that person seek some help?

My personal opinion is the cause is a combination of factors. The declining levels of testosterone after 60 are real. The effects are well documented. 

Overall, health and relationship issues must contribute to the potential for a less-than-sunny mood. The awareness of one's own mortality can be a rude awakening for someone.

At the same time, I believe attitude can be a major factor in preventing a full slippage into grumpiness. I don't mean the type of "everything is great, the glass is always at least half full" attitude. Denying what is happening in your life isn't the answer.

Maybe acceptance is a better word. No one gets out of here alive. Virtually all of us will suffer from some of the unpleasant realities of the aging process. 

To be grumpy and rude really says that a person is too self-absorbed. We all have aches and pains, we all lose family and friends, we all face the loss of our ability to drive. To make everyone around you uncomfortable or unhappy is really saying, "It is all about me. My problems are worse than yours and that gives me the right to lash out."

Actually, it doesn't.

As a fresh addition to the original post, frankly, I am experiencing less of the grumpy old person stereotype than I once did. Maybe it is simply where I live and when I interact with others, but the perpetually angry senior (either man or woman) is not someone I cross paths with. Considering the prevalence of guns in this country, I find that a good thing for many reasons!

With the economic turmoil of the last year or two, the pandemic damage to lives and plans, and the never-ending political clown show that plays on and on, I am surprised that we aren't all more grumpy. 

Maybe we have simply lowered our expectations; we are used to a lifestyle that has become much more unpredictable and unsettled. Maybe more of us see life as a series of ups and downs. How we react, how we handle the bad times, and the good determine whether we turn sour.

Personally, as I have gotten older, I seemed to have found myself much more at peace. Situations that once sent me into a tizzy are more likely to be noticed and then released. 

Maybe it is my use of meditation and a sense of the interconnectedness of all humans. Maybe I clearly grasp that time is too short to waste any of it stewing about something I can't control.

Being grumpy or not is more under our control than I once believed.

May 21, 2023

What Time Do You Start Your Day?

One of the questions I am asked on a fairly regular basis is what a typical day of my life looks like. I guess after nearly 22 years of retirement, I surely must have the perfect schedule figured out.

The email answer I usually give is there are no typical days. Except for beginning each morning with breakfast and the newspaper, checking for new blog comments and e-mails, there is no set routine. I have made a determined effort over the last several  years to not have my calendar look like it did when I was working.

 True, I have a to-do list of things I must or want to accomplish each day: things like empting the trash and rolling out the can, refilling a prescription, finishing a post, a reminder about an upcoming haircut, time to water the pots...the basic stuff of a day. I have been a list maker all my life. Retirement didn't change that.  But my prompts don't say when I must some of these things. That happens when it happens. 

I have tried a more structured approach:  painting from 10-10:30, take out trash at 1:00 and so forth. However, I'd rarely follow the times listed. 

Eventually, I realized there was no reason for the tasks to be completed at a certain time of the day so I just dropped that silliness completely.

There is one area, though, that I can't quite get a comfortable feel for: when to get up in the morning. I guess it is part of my personality but I have always believed that the "early bird gets the worm." 

Over the years, both before and after retirement, I have tried getting up at various times. My body quickly tells me it isn't happy with some of my choices. For a while the alarm went off at 5:00 am. By mid morning I was ready for a nap, which kind of defeated the purpose. I experimented with 5:30 and 6:00 am with similar results. 

I had always heard that older folks need less sleep. I have an acquaintance who wakes up at 4:00 in the morning and spends a few hours on the computer or reading. Another fellow can't sleep past 5:00. 

I, on the other hand, am finding I am sleeping later. Being awakened by the alarm before 6 O'clock seems like the middle of the night. Recently, Betty and I have been getting up sometime between 6:45 and 7:00 if there is no morning appointment. 

We are waking up quite naturally  - no alarm needed.. At this time of the year the sky gets light by 5, but good curtains do their job.

I am very much aware of the ticking clock (poor pun) of my mortality. By going to bed shortly after 10 and staying comfortably under the covers until almost 7, am I turning into a sludge? Am I missing valuable time each day because I am not up with the sun?  Should I follow the old bromide that I can sleep when I'm dead?

Steve Pavlina is a superb blogger, writer, and self development teacher. Among his thousands of interesting articles are several on becoming an early riser. Clearly he is of the "get up before the sun" contingent. He links success in life with being an early riser. 

Two posts of his that I have re-read several times over the years are How to Become an Early Riser Part 1 and How to Become an Early Riser Part 2He provides specific steps that anyone can take to gain control over the time one's day begins. 

I read these, feel guilty, and try again to adjust the start of my day. Each time I cannot pull it off. As he suggests, I go to bed when I am tired but can't master the getting up early part. 

So, my question to you is simple: when do you wake up on a normal morning? Are you the  type that hits the ground running even before the birds are awake? 

Or, do you enjoy a slow start that puts a premium on lingering in bed as long as you dare? Have you found a way to adjust your schedule that works for you? 

Even if every single comment is from someone who has checked the Internet, jogged 5 miles, and read three chapters of War and Peace before the sun comes up, I am not likely to try the early bird route again. All of us have a unique way to make the most of our days. 

Even so, I love to read how others use their time and make the most of their retirement journey.

So, tell us!