September 8, 2013

Does Retirement Involve False Starts and Stops?


A reader who offers suggestions for blog posts (which I love and encourage from anyone), recently dropped me a note to ask about the path to a satisfying retirement. She and her husband have been moving toward that goal for a few years now but something always derails their plans. One partner gets cold feet and decides that working longer would be good for their long term financial health. Or, the decision to retire brings the realization that no firm plan to fill all that free time exists so retirement is put off.

Another "false start" involves one partner going back to school in order to try a new career. But, soon comes the realization that studying and sitting in class for hours at a time doesn't mesh well with the desire to volunteer, go to church more often, travel, or spend time cooking. Retirement and starting a new, full time career can't work together.

So, she wonders how many almost-retirees make a few false starts on their plans as they get ready to leave their old lives. The short answer is, "Many." Like any stage of life we rarely proceed smoothly from step A to step B. Unexpected problems arise or life goals are adjusted. Just being alive means you are in a state of constant change.

With something as life-altering as retirement, having second or third thoughts is only natural. Trying to figure out how to use all that free time can be daunting. Trying to balance the desire to learn something new with the eagerness to spend time doing what you already know you love is not easy.

The last twelve years of retirement have taught me to allow myself to change plans, direction, even lifestyle. In fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure there really is such a thing as a false start. Retirement starts when you are mentally, emotionally, and financially able to take that final step. Everything before that is just a test or a feeling out of various aspects of a life change.

So, for the person who wants to retire but can't quite cut his or her ties to work, then it is more likely you aren't quite ready. For the person who stops work and then realizes there are still motivations to have a job, whether full or part time, then there is no "failure" in satisfying that need.

For the person who is simply afraid of the unknown and needs encouragement to jump......Jump. Jump in with both feet, knowing that retirement is simply a part of your life's journey that you can adjust, change, or even revoke, if need be. Retirement is not an end, but really a new beginning.

False starts? Not really...just a different path.

___________________

Note: If you think my last few posts have seemed a little shorter than normal, you are right. Very observant of you! One of the decisions I made in returning from my Oregon trip was to keep these posts a few hundred words less than my typical post has been for the last 39 months. There are two primary reasons:

1) A post of 800-1,000 words is a bit too long for some readers to tackle in the limited amount of time they have to check up on all the blogs and web sites that interest them. Besides, I should be able to convey my thoughts in 500-700 words. My creative writing teacher in high school would probably say even that is too much. For a writer, he pounded into my head that effective communication is better served by much less rather than more.

2) I have several new projects in mind for the coming several months that will be taking up larger chunks of my time. That is one of the reasons I wanted to cut my social media involvement back to just the efficient core (bye bye Twitter!). Also, I simply have only so much time to write blog posts each day. A few hundred words makes a tremendous difference.

So, dear reader, I hope you don't feel cheated. There will be times when the message needs a longer post and then I give myself permission to inundate you with words. But, for the most part I want to save you and me time, be a bit more focused in my thoughts and writing, and bring my new ideas to full fruition.

Oh, and the irony that I just used 300 words to tell you I'd be writing less isn't lost on me!

22 comments:

  1. Nice post Bob. The only thing I might add is don't procrastinate your retirement away. It is an exciting time that needs its far share of your life. Don't put it off until it is too late. As you say just do it.

    On the length of your posts I think you are spot on in pulling them down some. My goal is to always be around 500 words. I treat my blog browsing as looking for snippets of wisdom to carry through the day. When the post becomes more I usually end up skipping to the final paragraph and hope that it is a concise recap of what the longer version is.

    Other projects? I have a few of those myself. Especially in the summer months. As my wife always says life is about balance. You can't eat too much of the same thing, get caught in the same rut, or spend you time on too few things. Our senior years deserve more than that.

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    1. I totally agree with your point, RJ. Retirement is too good to waste! WE can overthink our decisions sometimes. Then, we are locked in place by the inability to pull the trigger.

      In terms of the post length, size does matter. 500 words feels about right to me.

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  2. Great Post Bob, because a few weeks ago, I had anxiety about leaving work. But the feeling left me soon after that. I think it was the fact of not having a real paycheck since I have been working since I was 16.

    I am so inspired by your posts/blog/e-books, etc. and all the people who respond and contribute - I check them all out - the ones you recommend. I am always encouraged by so many people that my feelings are normal. I'm retiring in 21 days. I'm jumping off after 32 years for a utility and 8 1/2 years with county government. (I realized this week I have been sitting for 40 years - I'm no longer going to sit still). Going to Florida for the winter and will return to upstate NY to enjoy our beautiful summer weather my grandchildren and retired life!

    Best Wishes to you and your family.

    T

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    1. Sitting for 40 years....yes, you need to get moving! The goal is now so close.

      Thanks so much for the encouraging words. I am happy you are finding the encouragement and help you need here. That is what keeps me blogging day after day.

      I lived in Upstate New York for 6 years. While I don't miss the snow and cold in the winter, the rest of the year was green and pleasant.

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  3. Bob, you may recall that about a year ago I mentioned that I tried to retire at age 50 but that my family wasn’t ready to “let” me retire (my wife especially). We still had three kids at home (then 8, 12, and 14) and my spouse had not worked in paid employment during our long marriage. My fantasy was that I would share more of the domestic work to around a 50-50 point and then be free to pursue any direction I wanted with my newfound personal time. Instead, my wife decided what chores I would do (no negotiating allowed) and the children tried to turn me into a homework-doer, a valet, et cetera. In short, my family wasn’t ready to let me retire. I’ve always had a servant personality and so I tried to oblige them but after a while these new ”bosses” wore me out; and I admit it was difficult for me to go from being a senior executive to a go-fer.

    So, I decided to return to the “earning money enterprise “and built a business of my own. Ironically, and happily, I made more in the next 11 years than I had in the previous 32. Once the kids attained adulthood, I retired a second time just this year. With an empty nest, there are fewer external demands now and I’m finally enjoying retirement except for the fact that my wife is now disabled. Caretaker in chief, I am.

    I didn’t put all of the details in this but my story reinforces both what you told me last year and what rjscorner.net is saying now. Last year you observed that one of the lessons of my experience was that prospective retirees should communicate deeply with their spouses before retiring and make sure there was a meeting of the minds before the fact about what married, retired life would be like. And like rjscorner.net says, don’t put retirement off until it is too late. We had a little window back then that would have allowed some wonderful, mutual explorations of the retirement adventure together that are no longer physically possible now.

    We’re finding joy and blessings in our times together now, nonetheless. But perhaps this story will add to the database of your reader’s experience.

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    1. I do remember your story and your struggles to retire when you wanted to, followed by your return to the working world. I don't remember you recounting what a success it was, but obviously you are a very talented man. Congratulations on the business venture. And importantly, you didn't try to force the issue with your family when they weren't ready to hear the message.

      Yes, discussing the ramifications of retirement on a relationship well before the day arrives is important. Retirement is such a lifestyle change for everyone involved, it is only fair to work through feelings and expectations with as much lead time as possible. Sometimes that isn't possible so you learn as you go.

      Even though your present circumstances are not ideal, we play the cards as they are dealt with either good grace and thanksgiving or disappointment and resentment. Both for your sake, and your wife's, you have wisely chosen the former.

      I wish you a creative and joyful retirement. Stay in touch as you move forward. You have a lot to share.

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  4. Hello Bob,

    I'm Tracy Chopek, the college Writing Intern at Stage of Life. I read your blog and wanted to invite you to share one of your posts or a story from your life on the retirement section with our multi-generational blogging community on StageofLife.com

    Our goal is to create the world's largest database of personal stories about life, from teens to Baby Boomers. We'd love to have you participate in our educational initiative.

    Please let me know if you have questions - thanks!

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    1. Hi, Tracy. Contact my email (satisfyingretirement@gmail.com) and we can discuss. Thanks for the interest.

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  5. The best part of retirement is the ability to re-boot. After 18 months, I'm doing it again; SO glad I have the option.

    Ah yes, the wordiness. When I started working, I was reminded (many times!) I was NOT writing the Great American novel (!) Being naturally verbose, I still edit EVERYTHING written to clean it up. I like your posts, longer or shorter; but it helps me get on with my day if they are shorter...I'm a junk reader, I'll read all day unless I set limits.

    Thanks for posting!

    pam

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    1. Thanks, Pam. I am pleased that there is support for shorter posts. A good writer is in a constant search for excess words and wandering thoughts. Cutting 200-300 words from each post forces me to toe the line.

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  6. "With something as life-altering as retirement, having second or third thoughts is only natural. Trying to figure out how to use all that free time can be daunting. Trying to balance the desire to learn something new with the eagerness to spend time doing what you already know you love is not easy." This is exactly the conversation my husband and I had in the car together on the way to work this morning. He is 6 weeks away from retirement and I am 13 weeks away. We're starting to get cold feet but are committed.

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    1. Keep telling yourself - this is the right decision and right time!

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  7. Oh, and I follow so many blogs, I appreciate the shorter posts. To be honest, I don't usually make it through to the end of very long ones. :)

    Nita
    www.nitadances.com

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  8. It may take you longer to edit your posts down to 500 words than just writing out your points :)

    My husband was never particularly interested in retiring but at a few months shy of turning 67 he is now. I think the rainbird condo has something to do with that and the birth of our first grandchild. We are still sweating over the details of my health insurance though.

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    1. I'm finding the 5-600 word range to be rather comfortable. It isn't so short that I can't make my points, but I don't end up repeating myself just to fill out 800 words.

      Grandkids can change a mind pretty quickly! And, let him know we are all sweating over health insurance.

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  9. I retired in June from 33 years of teaching. Honestly, I worried about many things, but a big one was...Will I miss it? I was afraid I'd made one big mistake. However, school has started again. Substitutes are always needed, so I decided to try that. I can say now after several sub jobs: I DON'T MISS IT! At all. Any of it. Oh, substituting isn't horrible, but now I KNOW I made the right decision. Of course, I did the math for financial security before I retired, and we're really blessed with a good position moneywise. I've decided to pull back from subbing for a few days. As our youth minister says, "Praisealuia!" I don't HAVE to work!
    Jeff in OK

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    1. That is interesting: subbing and finding the old fire is gone. Not many people have the option of going back to their old field to see if they will miss some aspects of it.

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    2. After 18 months of retirement, I had an opportunity to work a temp job in my field (an accountant) at the same pay I previously had made (highly unusual for temp work). I decided to do it because of the high health care costs (we have several yrs till Medicare) and also my daughter announced she was getting married. I worked for a little over four months. I too had wondered if I made the right decision to retire. I found out that I had absolutly no desire to work anymore!! The first couple of weeks, I wondered how I had been able to sit hunched over a computer for 40 yrs!! The money was nice, and it did help us out - but more importantly I no longer wonder. After that, I finally moved into the retirement mindset and allowed myself to just be.

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    3. I worked part time as a tour guide for few years after retirement. It gave me the chance to work with my daughters and gave them the chance to be my "boss" for a few hours each week. But, I decided the pay and the hours weren't worth giving up my retirement freedom so I stopped and don't miss it at all.

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  10. Cari in North TexasFri Sep 13, 09:04:00 AM MST

    Just wanted to drop in and give you another positive vote for shortening your post length. Not that you rambled on unnecessarily before :-) I was a professional technical writer for many years, and our goal was to tell the user clearly and succinctly how to do something. So I find myself even today editing myself - I tend to write a lot in the first draft and then cut it down or break it into multiple pieces.

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    1. The shorter posts seem to be working well for everyone. They do force me to be more economical with my words and more focused on my thoughts.

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