August 15, 2010

My Highest Highs and Lowest Lows Since Retiring - Part 2

Last week I listed some of the highlights of my retirement journey so far. That article generated the most comments of any single post I have written. As I hoped, sharing a more personal side of my experiences seemed to trigger a strong response. I did promise to look at the other side of the ledger. Certainly the past decade since I retired has had its share of low points. Here are a few for your review. As with the previous post, I hope you'll add a comment to share your reactions or your experiences. We all benefit from that exchange.

Lowest Lows

Periods of Self Doubt. This is what I have referred to in earlier posts as the Second Stage. This is when the initial thrill of not working every day has worn off. The joy of no alarm clock, having a second cup of coffee with the newspaper, 36 holes of golf three times a week, or whatever has filled your days is suddenly replaced with a sense of fear and dread. You have no idea why you quit or didn't look for another job. You know for sure your money will run out before you do. You didn't realize the adjustment required when you are home all day, everyday, with no one to fill your day but you.

I experienced all of that. Because my office had been in my home for almost twenty years  I didn't miss the water cooler chatter or feel lonely. But I wasn't flying several times a week anymore, either. Clients weren't calling. There were no more checks in the mailbox. All my projections for our finances were obviously a fantasy. I had blown it. I had no hobbies and you can only read so many books without going nuts.

This stage of retirement lasted close to two years for me. I wasn't immobilized, I wasn't out of control with worry. But, things certainly looked bleaker than they had when I took the plunge.

Struggles to find a new passion. For almost 30 years, my work had been my life. I had started as an on-air DJ playing rock and roll for teenagers who were not much younger than I.  A  radio research and consulting company I began had developed nicely, though it keep me on the road for close to 200 days a year. When I was home the time was spent answering mail and working on client needs. In a nutshell, I had little life outside my job.

It took longer than I had anticipated to develop interests that would cause me to be excited about each day. I tried several hobbies and activities that were fun and forced me to learn something new. But, each new endeavor eventually failed to satisfy. The activity was filling time but not filling me. Eventually I found a combination of activities and commitments that did spark lasting passion. But, there was a lot of trial and error involved, both with my activities and working on my relationships.

Watching the decline of my parents. I have two brothers who live in other parts of the country. Since I live in the same city as my parents I became the caregiver. Watching the inevitable decline in both physical and mental abilities has been tough. Being retired, I can make the time for frequent visits, managing their investments, paying some bills, and doing all the things involved in this type of situation. But, that level of involvement and the freedom that comes with not working means I will be involved in all emergencies or problems they face. It isn't easy, but it comes with being an adult child of aging parents. Thank goodness my wife takes on a large part of the load caring for her in-laws. But, it is not a fun part of this stage of my life.   

Watching financial status take a hit. This is not unique to virtually anyone over the last few years. My home value has shrunk nearly 50%. For a period of time my nest egg became more like a grape. It has since recovered to a medium size egg, but my plans had me in a better position than I find myself at the moment. Being retired, I am pretty much dependent on what I invested to carry me forward. I can't count on a long lost aunt leaving me a pile of gold. I must trust that things will recover over time. But, when you are not working there is a lack of control over what you can do about it. Yes, I could try to go back to work. But, the market for a 61 year old guy is rather poor. We are going to be fine. Things are slowly returning to normal for us. But, this has been a low low that I didn't anticipate (who did?).

I must end on a positive. I am an optimist. I am not worried about my future. I am excited by all the possibilities I can choose from. I know there will be more low periods. But, I have figured out what works for me and I know I will come out OK.

What about you? I deeply appreciate your comments, your experiences, and your feedback about the struggles you have faced, or fear are still to come.  I am also  open to every idea you care to share.


  1. Retirement, is like the old fishing line, "A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work". Sure, you look at the stock market and other investing and it can look bleak. ButI remember an old Twilight Zone episode. This guy wakes up dead and this spirit shows all the great things that are there. This guy has it all, everything goes his way. He wants something it appears, he takes a pool shot and all the balls go in. Can't miss. But that's the problem, there are no doubts. Everything goes perfect all the time. He realizes he's not where he thinks he is.

  2. Great recall on the Twilight Zone episode, Glinka. And your point is a solid one. Without down times the up times become meaningless. Life is the journey, not the destination.

    Thanks for sharing. You've summarized things very well.

  3. Sounds like you are doing great. Life happens but you are doing what you want. I am wondering about the commercial activity for your book. Are you marketing it? It seems that you might have another blog ready to go to release another passion and boost the market for your knowledge. Or maybe as an old (pardon the expression) marketing guy you are already all over this.

  4. Thanks, Ralph. I feel very comfortable where I am now. I'm enjoying blogging tremendously and the rest of the stuff (finances, etc) will work itself out.

    The book is something I'm not sure what to do with. But, it might be a future e-book project. I'm just happy I could finish it and get it bound.

  5. It sounds like your experiences are things that are shared by many retired folks. That does not make it any easier. The fact that you have been able to verbalize these feelings may help you focus better and identify possible solutions. Some things are out of our control - like the stock market - and if you dwell on them, the negative aspect could dominate your natural positive attitude. I figure that if you cannot fix it, worrying is not going to help. But easy to say so and a lot harder to live so. Keep writing your blog - you enjoy it and WE enjoy it!

  6. Dave, Thanks for your feedback. Writing about a problem or dilemma does help focus one's thinking about the issue. I have found the blog writing to be enjoyable and instructional.

    By the way, I noticed a reference to Ernie Zelinski's book on your blog. A while ago I posted a brief comment about his earlier book, "The Joy of Not Working." Like you, I enjoy his style and directness.

  7. I love being at home full time. Unfortunately, I got here through widowhood and being forced out of my job at forty something, so I'm still looking for a part time business to put to work. Overall though, being able to do what I want when I want has no equal.

    Interesting about the book-have you thought about taking it any furthere? Ive been considering a germany style day trips book for years.

  8. First, let me congratulate you on your Frugal Texas Gal blog. I've been getting your feeds for several weeks.

    Sorry to learn of the reasons for your retirement, but it sounds as though you have a handle on how to keep yourself on an even keel.

    There have been enough comments about my travel book that I'm giving serious though to starting another blog built around the book and its premise: to avoid the touristy places in Arizona and write about and show photos of some of the more out-of-the-way or lesser known destinations.

    It was a lot of fun and allowed that creative part of me to be expressed. I'd urge you to follow through on the Germany book you are thinking about.

  9. The link to your “Second Stage” post is no longer valid. Is it still available?

    1. I am afraid that link is no longer working. The post seems to be missing in action.

      Here is a more recent post that does talk a bit about the second stage. Just copy and paste the link below. This post was published on January 5th of this year: