June 25, 2010

Satisfying Retirement : The Three Stages Involved

My retirement journey has lead me to identify three distinct stages I have passed through.  I'm not writing as an expert who claims this is the way, the only way. but simply someone who has lived through these phases. It is possible to stop working and have a different path? Certainly. If your experiences differ I urge you to share your thoughts so all of us can benefit.

In future posts I will deal with all three stages of active retirement I believe occur. I will discuss some of the more critical decisions a recently retired person must address through retirement planning. I will attempt to explore some of the questions and concerns that face someone who hasn't retired from work yet, but is giving that step serious consideration. Importantly, I will address questions and comments raised by you. Please use the comments section at the bottom of each post to allow our community to ponder your thoughts. If you prefer to communicate with me privately, use the e-mail link in the About Me Section.

Why I stopped Working

When I stopped working in June 2001 little did I know that just a few months later the events of September 11 would make what I had done for a living very difficult. While air travel had become increasingly unpleasant over the previous decade, 9/11 made that unpleasantness close to unbearable. Those of us who flew for a living were suddenly faced with tremendous time and logistics hurdles that made conducting business a major hassle. So, when I decided to stop propping up a failing business the additional burdens created after the terrorist attacks had yet to happen. It is quite possible that the first stage of retirement life might have been quite different.

What Happened Next?

But, as it was, my first stage was of an incredible sense of freedom. The fear of making a wrong choice, or wondering about how I would fill my days lay in the future. Waking up knowing I didn't have to pack a bag and go to the airport was exhilarating. Waking up knowing I didn't have to leave my family for several days or a week at a time was a blessing. As far as I could see into the future all I perceived was endless enjoyment stretching out as far as I could see. Coffee on the back patio with the morning paper, tending my garden, going to a movie in the middle of the day, spending more time reading and listening to music......I had the world on a string. My lifestyle had altered for the better, immediately.

Did I miss the contact with clients? Not really. As I have noted in earlier posts my client roster had been diminishing for the previous 4-5 years at a rather steady clip. And, as anyone who is in contact with customers knows, some of my clients were not my favorite people. I dealt with them because they supported me and my family. But, not having to deal with the abrasive or arrogant personalities was like a breath of fresh air.

It is very possible that your experience in this regard was very different. If you had a work environment that included co-workers you enjoyed, clients or customers who were a pleasure to deal with, even a boss who treated you well and rewarded you fairly, missing that human interaction might be a large part of your first stage of a satisfying retirement.

I encourage you to leave a comment about your experience. Why did you decide to stop working? What were the first few months like? Any immediate regrets?