February 17, 2014

I Survived Week One of Retirement

A regular reader sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago. It was a recap of the first week of full retirement for her and her husband. I thought it captured the excitement, fear, joy, dread, anticipation, sense of freedom and change so well, I asked if I could use it here. Other than removing the names and a few minor adjustments, it is a real-life glimpse into the first blush of the phase of life I call a satisfying retirement:
WHEW! It is NOTHING like I thought it  would be. The party is over.
Key to business was handed over to next (young!!) guy. 
Feels WEIRD!!
 But-- first of all, it's only a week!  I am finding that hubby and I are processing retirement completely differently! (We worked together so retired on the same day.)
I am DONE. FINI! Can't even bear to TALK ABOUT the industry that has BURNED ME OUT TO A CRISP!
Hubby...still nostalgic, going through his scrapbooks and thank you letters from the clients. Still wants to talk about all the good times.
ME: Anxious to buy the RV.

Hubby--taking his time with research.
Hubby : Needs a lot of time alone to process this, for now!
ME: Thought I would want to immediately jump into some "FUN"  part time work/hobby, but I DO NOT! I can't BELIEVE this feeling of relief and freedom! I am not going to work any time soon!! This is a true surprise to me, this feeling of wanting to NOT WORK AT ALL.  Ready to PLAY,read,NAP,hike,travel.
Hubby: Still thinking he may want at some future date, to work part time... he is leaving it open ended.
I am also having dreams/not quite nightmares, but INTENSE dreams related to the work I was doing that aggravated me so much-- like my SOUL is throwing it all off, night by night.  Till I am "cleansed!" 
hmmm..this retirement stuff is not for wimps is it?
Also--I have days I feel really "safe" and secure, and a couple of days when I am saying to myself "WHAT WERE WE THINKING WE MAY NOT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO LAST TILL WE ARE 100..we may become bag people!! LOL!!!" 
Well,it's just week one.

I am sure this journey gets.. a bit easier, right?? right??

If I could have written an e-mail that perfectly describes the rush of emotions and thoughts in the first seven days of retirement, it would have looked very much like this. I had forgotten about the dreams and almost a sense of "flushing" the old from your system, but she has it absolutely right. That happened to me in just the same way.

I assured her she and hubby were exactly on track. All of these emotions and the sorting things out will take weeks, maybe months before a more settled mindset begins to assert itself.

But, then, one day, husband and wife will turn to each other and wonder" why did we wait so long? Life is meant to be lived on our terms.

Viva retirement!"


  1. Like all major life changes, there are some mixed emotions. It does get easier as time goes on and you settle into a new routine. Going through the process at the same time as your partner creates an added challenge. I am now 10 months into my retirement. The first 1-2mos were filled with the relief of not going to work, like being on vacation. There was also business to take care of, settling the paperwork of retirement and insurance coverage. There were the social engagements associated with retiring. I now trust that the monthly pension check is being deposited into my bank account. People in my circle know I'm retired and I'm getting used to describing my "new" retired state. I gave myself 6 months to settle into this new lifestyle, then I would re-evaluate. Upon evaluation, I don't need to return to paid employment unless I want to. Yes, there's less money but there's enough and there's still 24hrs in a day with the freedom to manage it that is priceless. Time and financial management is an issue whether employed or retired. "All things are difficult before they are easy. Difficulties are meant to arouse, not discourage."

    1. "Difficulties are meant to arouse, not discourage" is an excellent attitude to adopt. Problems exist all our life, but to seem to increase as we age. The key to a truly satisfying retirement is how we react to those events. Do we feel them as limitations or as opportunities to grow, maybe in a totally different way.

      Thanks, Mona. You have added an important time line for the letter writer to understand.

  2. Since I never had a typical career path I can't relate or respond to this directly. My husband had 35 yrs. with one company, which ended up screwing him out of almost 1/2 his pension. He had a brief 2nd career that he enjoyed very much, but when he was done he was done. Our adjustment has been being together much more than ever before. We're doing better than I anticipated!
    As for me, I will never stop doing what I love. Art, writing and other creative endeavors are what I was born to do. There's no retiring from that!

    1. Just so you know I haven't been shopping at that unnamed national chain that messed over your husband ever since you first shared the story.

      I bet the couple in this letter will find their happy balance quicker than most.

  3. I really enjoyed reading about her and her husband’s experience (so far) with retirement. My husband has been retired for almost two years, and I will be joining him soon. I’m not 100% sure what to expect, but I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to retire at a relatively young age. I have a lot of plans, but I will also keep an open mind for unexpected possibilities.

    1. Rest easy, Janis. No one is 100% sure what to expect, and you will be surprised anyway, regardless of any plans and projections. That is one of the beauties of retirement: it is a work in progress that you guide!

  4. Great post! My only reaction is ... give it some time.

  5. How well I remember my own first week of retirement. The writer captured it!

    1. Yes, she did. I'm glad she mentioned the dreams. I had forgotten about those, but certainly experienced them.

  6. Very humorous... It's interesting that everyone seems to process retirement much differently even though we all know (or ought to know) it will happen one day. Keep at it and keep busy, I'm sure you will both come out on top. Cheers...

  7. I just heard from the author of this letter. Here is her update:

    Bob, it's fun to see my first week on your blog! It's week 3 now. We're up in our new home. the BLISS of knowing we will soon be here full time and can wake up to the pine trees and deep quiet, is.. like a dream come true. No, it IS a dream come true.

    Hubby is still taking time with the RV research, I am feeling calmer and safer by the day, financially , (I just keep looking at the "numbers" and reminding myself we planned pretty decently..not perfect, but decent..)

    I can say that making a big change while we are still young enough to enjoy it-- this move.. is enlivening..I don't believe we would have been happy just continuing our suburban life, though I will enjoy visiting..

    I am going to be joining the local church here, there is a women's club that meets every Thursday night and hubby is joining up with the TRAIL CLEAN UP gang, who clean the hiking trails and help build and maintain them..

    It's been a topsy turvy year or two to get to this point, but WOW..once you DO GET HERE!AWESOME!

  8. Amazing how similar the thoughts were to what I recall of my early retirement days. Although we had planned carefully, I fretted about the money part of it for about two months. Then I realized our finances would be just fine and there was nothing but clear sailing ahead.

    1. It is comforting to be reminded we are not going through this experience alone.

  9. just keep encouraging me...I put the paperwork in this week and "graduate" September 1st....still nervous about all of this...hoping we got the finances solid, etc...and while at the dentist, a gentleman was hearing me tell the receptionist this when he told me not to worry about retiring..."Every day is Saturday morning, and every evening is Friday night...all full of anticipation and excitement and none of the let down when facing the Sunday night get ready for Monday morning work EVER again...boy did this make sense and sound delicious...

    1. My favorite night of the week is now Sunday. I look forward to a full week of doing what I want when I want (for the most part!). Mondays feel very, very different when you are retired.

  10. It's interesting to read/remember feeling this way after initially retiring. With three years now under our belts, I can share that we are increasingly go-go-go as we continue to build our involvement in activities that are meaningful to us.

    As an example, I've been up since 5:30 AM, and am now, at 9:30 AM, late to getting to the gym because I've been busily organizing our various activities. Just when I thought I was done, I got an email about an enticing mountaineering film that our hiking group will be attending, and that delayed me another 30 minutes as I gathered info, checked our calendar, and purchased tickets. Multiply that by about a dozen times a day, and you have a pretty good snapshot of what life over here on the other side is like once you get your feet wet.

    It's interesting to me that we now rarely worry/think about money. We have a budget, we track every dollar we spend, we are living well within our budget, but our spending is continuing to decline as we continue to identify and settle into the activities, many of which are low cost or entirely free, that create meaning in our lives. There is an abundance out there once you have the time to go find it!

    You'll do great mystery poster! (Whom I quickly recognized, but will refrain from revealing :-)

    1. Few retirees I know manage a schedule as active and varied as you and Mike maintain. But, it works for you, and that is the key. It wouldn't work for Betty and me, maybe because we are 10-14 years older! But, our pacing has settled into the grove that best matches our needs at this stage of life.

      "Mystery poster" will do just fine. She and I have exchanged e-mails for at least the last year as she and her husband worked toward the decision to retire. She is as well prepared as anyone to make it work

  11. I like hearing Tamara say she doesn't worry over money! Ken and I are good budgeters (learned how when we were self-pay students with a baby to support, for many years!!) When my husband and I sit down to plan our retirement "fun" we find that a LOT of what we love to do is..free! Or,almost! When we have more TIME we both enjoy cooking and eating at home.We love to hike and climb all the hills and mountains in our area. We enjoy watching TV shows we missed when they were "prime time" by watching them on netflix, we gave up cable TV years ago. We love the library.I am in personal heaven when I can spend a couple of hours in the library reading magazines, and discovering new books to read.. and just sitting quietly sometimes.

    I have enough craft supplies in my stash to last a few years! Ken enjoys sketching with pencils and tools he has had since college! On line music classes (thanks to Linda over at Bag Lady in Waiting..) are on the agenda..and volunteering will also fill in some time.

    We also love playing cards and board games!! I never learned CRIBBAGE! or MEXICAN TRAIN so that is on the agenda soon.

    It's funny,retirement isn't just about money, it's about time and freedom and using one's resources well.. not mindlessly-- Developing a well rounded personality and spirit means, to me, that it isn't just MATERIAL things and expensive events that feed the Soul!!

    A couple of investment items we have saved up for, for retirement : A pool table for Ken.. he is an avid player! And a small RV.. so we can enjoy the USA and maybe even never have to get on a plane again!! I feel those investments will serve us for many years ahead and also help us widen our social circle..

    I may never run a marathon like Tamara, but I do have some fitness goals I want to reach this year, as well..

    Life is good.

  12. Ah, Madeline I like your lifestyle. Remember the Eddie Cantor quote, "Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why."

  13. Judy, I am just now settling down from the OVER exuberance of this freedom feeling! Realizing I have TIME TIME TIME and luckily, the health and energy to enjoy it! I had a week of a few too many activities bunched up-- looking forward to the upcoming week filled with reading, long hikes in the woods, and some solitude!