April 17, 2014

A Slice of (Your) Retirement Life

A few weeks ago the post, What's Going On?, generated several comments that expressed an interest in reading about other retirees' experiences in all the areas that concern us: is retirement everything you hoped, and if not, why not? What keeps you up at night and what excites you every morning? How do you productively fill your time and balance commitments with freedom? How about travel...doing more or less than you thought you would?.....basically we are asking to hear some of each other's unique story.

Those types of interviews filled my last book. I found those answers and reactions fascinating. So, the idea of doing more of it on this blog is a winner. Soliciting stories and information about lifestyles and how retirement is working opens up endless possibilities and interesting insights. Even those 52 folks who took part in the book project have certainly learned something new or changed their direction since I solicited those opinions a couple of years ago, so they are encouraged to chime in, too.

Here is what I propose: I have listed a few questions below. In the comment section answer one or two of the questions that are most important to you. Your total response may be longer than a typical comment but that is fine. We are all looking for fresh ideas and support. Length isn't nearly as important as simply sharing what this journey looks like from your perspective.

My Questions (pick one or two to answer in the comment section):

1) Has retirement turned out the way you thought it would? Why or why not?

2) What has been your biggest surprise about being retired?

3) Do you worry about your financial situation? 

4) What new things have you discovered about yourself?

5)  If you had it do over again, would you keep working, retire sooner, or are content with how things worked out?

I am an anxious as anyone to read your answers. This should be a fun and instructive exercise for all of us.

I won't leave comments after each entry like I normally do. But, I will have a followup post or two in a few weeks that tries to draw some general conclusions from the answers left to my questions.


  1. What has been your biggest surprise about being retired?
    - That I have so much passion still inside of me about life in general! With the luxury of time to explore what makes me truly happy, I'm experiencing surge after surge of it. It occurs whenever I nudge my bar of what I think I'm capable of upward. And while I don't necessarily have the energy to do this on a daily basis, it does seem to be occurring pretty frequently on a weekly basis, giving me a sense that life can remain at a high point irregardless of my advancing age as long as I simply keep reaching. I love that!

    Do you worry about your financial situation?
    - Not anymore, again to my surprise. We entered retirement with a set budget, and I worried and fussed endlessly the first couple of years on whether it would be 'enough.' Turns out that it is, and then some, for a couple of reasons - 1) it's much easier to be efficient about your spending when you have the time to analyze each and every item in order to look for smarter ways to do the same thing, and 2) we spend so much time each day expending mental and physical energy that we have no remaining energy in which to even think about going out and spending money once we return home. I've actually gotten to a point where I intensely dislike consumer shopping, which is quite a change from my working years!

    And I just have to sneak in one more comment, which is that we retired at exactly the right point. We both enjoyed our jobs, until one day, to our surprise, we didn't, and that is when we moved into retirement. I can't imagine returning to the pressures and demands of being accountable to an employer for all the tea in China at this point.

  2. I will talk to item one; I am test driving "semi-retirement" now having come from a high travel , high pressure job to creating my own company that has done very well to slowing down to 3 hours a day work and I have to say I am bored. I realize I have no hobbies, love golf but it's a long winter, like to travel but you can't do that daily, struggle to find a volunteer organization I want to dive into full time, I guess I am simply not fully committed to retirement. On the plus side I really do not miss the commute, am going to the gym 4 times a week which I didn't have time for before, and enjoy the time slot 4-7 PM which was always my busiest including the commute. Bottom line is I need to fill 3-5 hours a day. This is my first winter in this situation. FYI.

  3. 1) Has retirement turned out the way you thought it would? Why or why not?

    2) What has been your biggest surprise about being retired? ...... The surprise for us is that we still feel like we are adjusting to the new normal. We have a routine, but there's always something new to keep us challenged. After years of getting to work at the specified hour, then coming home at the end of a day, it's do one thing today, and something completely different tomorrow. The calendar is full, to the point where an electronic calendar is essential to keep everybody on track. With luck, there will be many more surprises in the future.

    3) Do you worry about your financial situation? ...... Here's another surprise. Even with a huge pile of money in the retirement account, and a pension check every month, and social security showing up each month, I still spend more time than I'd like trying to optimize the money. While working I spent a lot of time refining work processes, so perhaps this is becoming the new normal. Fortunately, there are plenty of books and blogs to read on the topic.

    4) What new things have you discovered about yourself?

    5) If you had it do over again, would you keep working, retire sooner, or are content with how things worked out? ........ Things worked out perfectly. The large corporation I worked for is tanking. That does provide lots of good discussion when I meet my still-working buddies for lunch!

  4. 1. What has been your biggest surprise about being retired? My biggest surprise is TIME. After having been a crazy, busy wife/mom/teacher/volunteer during most of my lifetime, suddenly, I had some time to stop the rushing about. Little did I know, but I soon discovered that I am one of those people who did not know myself. I thought I thrived on staying busy, but now I know that I'm heathier and happier when I take more time for myself--to just "be". Over the past few years, I've learned how to be quiet; to read for pure pleasure; to take strolls and really see and smell the fascinating details of nature around me; to bake and cook new foods in new ways; and to actually shut up (once in awhile) so I can listen to others. As I've entered this phase of life, there have been many difficulties, too. Both my mother and father have passed away, and there are always the highs and lows of parenting this bunch God gave us. Friends face illnesses and there are more funerals to attend. Interestingly enough, even though the hard times bring pain, they also bring wisdom. I hear that little voice whispering, "Make the most of the time you have...because you never know how long it will last!" I honestly love being retired and hope it continues to be so fulfilling.

  5. I retired 3 years before I had planned to because of a neuromuscular condition. However, my husband and I were debt and mortgage free and had been fully funding our 403b accounts and emergency fund for many years. So while I had planned on 3 more years of retirement savings, the financial side of leaving the workplace was in good condition. I really don't worry about our finances because I have always been the "finance person" in our family and know what our expenses are. We both waited until age 66 to start drawing Social Security and that with our 403b provides our income. Joe is considering an opportunity to work prn two days a week and that may or may not happen. Now the stock market and the banks and the economy may go belly up but I really don't worry about something I have no control over.

    I love retirement. In all honesty, this is about the happiest time of my life. I'm not worried about how the kids will turn out-- just fine. Not worried about having enough money to retire--we do. Not really worried about health--my neuromuscular condition is more an inconvenience than life-threatening--we are quite healthy.
    I guess the biggest surprise is just how happy I am. I worked at one job or another since I was 17 and wondered if I would be bored or lonely at home--I'm not. I have time to quilt and read and learn how to cook new things. I attend and participate in my church and book club and quilting guild.

    The two best things about retirement to me:
    1. Not having to leap out of bed, into the shower, and out the door. Waking up slowly is a daily pleasure to savor.
    2. Afternoon naps.

  6. Great idea for a post! I hope many will respond. It's interesting to read about other's journeys.

    1) It was hard for me to imagine what it would feel like to be retired. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to be free of the worries of my job. Surprise! It was better than I had hoped for! The absence of the stress from my job allowed me to really be myself; to relax, enjoy life, and appreciate a better relationship with my (already retired) husband. It freed me to pursue the very active lifestyle that I have always enjoyed, but now it is on my time, whenever I wish! I've been able to expand and pursue many physical activities that bring me great joy. The one caveat is the family responsibility I have for an elderly parent and a disabled brother. I have a little help from siblings, but they are all far away, still working, busier than me etc. So, I am currently working on managing my guilt, giving of time and resources without being resentful, and keeping a balanced life. I'm a giving person by nature. If the underlying relationships were of a better quality, I'm convinced this would be so much easier for me. We managed to escape the snow for two months, so I'm grateful that we were able to patch things together with outside help for family members while we were gone.

    3) Finances: I've been retired for about a year now, so evaluation still in progress! But over all, the reassurance from our financial advisor goes a long way to help feel confident about our finances. After a year of easily staying under budget (even with some large unexpected home maintenance/repair issues), I'm feeling more secure about our financial future. We also have a "Plan B" if the market tanks. It's good to know you have options. So am I worried about our finances? I think the answer is no. However vigilance in budgeting is a surefire way to make sure we are on track. This alone lessens any worries.

  7. I enjoy your posts +Bob Lowry. You put a great slant on the normal parts of coming up on retired living. I will not impose, but I have been retired a long time and this is such a huge issue. It does need a lot more exploring. There is a tsunami coming of people "old enough" to retire---but the "way" is not very clear anymore. This might help more than a few people. You are onto a good subject.

    I have been "retired" since 1986 but I sorta/kinda cheated the whole retirement issue. I "quit" my dentisting professional career to chase a dream. And fortunately - it has "mostly" worked out. Like every "move" in life and living what we really get is experience and memories. Hopefully more good than bad.

    But I do have an opinion I now try to share all the time. The real issue is how to figure out "...a way" to retire. I bump into a lot of "doctors" who just keep on working and working, because they don't know how to do anything "but" work. And I think this is a huge issue. Retire--and do what...? A dentist friend of mine in Arizona has drilled teeth for 51 years. And that can't be a good thing. He just told me, "...Lew, I wouldn't know what else to do." What is that...?

  8. But so many "retire" and then try to figure it all out. I was a dentist for years and years and I just hated going to work. I did make a great living--but what I wanted most--was a life. Then I bumped into my whole new "hobby-world" and the more I played in that world--the better things got. The more I invested--the more I got back. It fired-up the entrepreneurial energy in me and nothing has been the same since. So... finding "something to do that turns a person on" is the whole struggle of dealing with life. And hopefully a person goes after that discovery long before they retire. It does take a little pursuit.

    A bunch of my good friends fix-up and restore old cars. We call it "...rust fever" and there is nothing to turn the passions on--like going back in your personal history and lighting up some great old memories. But most of us have even turned it into a little retirement business to help pay the running around bills. When you are having a good time doing whatever you really get into--it never feels like work. Never. And that is the big secret about a retirement thing.

    To me... the old adage fits really well about now. A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST... and that should be the retirement mantra. If a person retires to "do as little as possible" with the rest of their time---they are going to get really discouraged. NOTHING TO DO---IS NOT THE WAY TO GO. Taking on a new "challenge" is.

    The first little while all we really discover is just how "bad our work/work habits" really were. Just going through the motions for a paycheck for all of those years---really is a rut isn't it? And usually a deep one.

    Having total control of your "time" is a huge blessing that I think is worthy of all it takes to get to that point. But the biggest issue in all of life is "...self discovery" and figuring out perhaps what we should have done with our living years ago still remains.

  9. Continued)
    I think every person on earth has a "set of talents" that start out as little "...threads of interest" but if you can take those little "ah-ha moments" and nudge them with a little enthusiasm and then dig into some practice time---it is absolutely amazing what shows up. I hear it all the time. "I had no idea there was an artist in me." "I had no idea I could write a book or compose and play music." I have a friend who spent the last thirty years as a circuit court judge (yuk). That has to be eve worse than being a dentist.

    Recently, he discovered "oil painting" and in a short period has found that he is really quite good at it. Enough so... he has started selling some of his paintings. And man, I have never seen anyone more fired up now---about being retired. He can really lean into this new found passion and that "solves" the WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE REST OF MY LIFE retirement problem. Bingo.

    We all really do have "something" we could contribute but we are so anxious about trying "new things" when we shift these major gears. My counsel is... pick up whatever has interested you your whole life and go for it. Get into it more. You will be surprised at the "gold" you discover yet lying inside.

    I find that most people have some silly little "dream" that they have kept tucked away for their entire lives. But because of all the busy-ness of life and living everything else just gets in the way. I have seen it in my circle of friends now. Some of them are opening up such amazing doors of potential by pursuing these little "threads."

    A younger friend of mine (just 50 can you imagine) has discovered a serious talent for wood carving. He just finished an incredible walnut (handcarved) fireplace mantel for a magnificent new home in San Diego and he got $70,000 for doing this piece of "artwork." The patron was so thrilled he gave Craig a $2500 tip. That solves the being bored with retirement problem--big time.

    I visit with people about the "front-end" question about ...WHEN IS IT FINALLY TIME TO RETIRE. I think most people "wait and wait" too long and are way to unsure about all the retirement issues. What you are "doing" with your retirement Bob is amazing. Maybe you are "helping a bunch of others" even more than you realize. This very subject is fast becoming the biggest issue for our generation.

    Keep doing what you "love doing" because that is the whole secret of living the good life on out. I have a "motto" that was the moment when I finally decided to "quit doing dentistry" and step over into my whole new "risky" hobby world.

    I was in Lake Tahoe on vacation with my family and the whole time I was trying to figure out if I was just being crazy even thinking about quitting. I had a super busy practice---my own clinic---I was all set. All I had to do was coast on out. But I had to hurt thirty people a day to make that living. What I wanted was a life.

    I was literally up really early walking along Emerald Bay trail at the edge of that magnificent lake--and sorta/kinda even praying for some kind of a sign. I was really struggling with the decision. Then all of a sudden this guy ran by me with something embroidered on his t-shirt. I only caught part of it so I literally chased him down and asked if I could read it all.

    This is the moment that shifted every gear in my world. And I gladly share it with everyone I ever cross paths with. It is never too soon to get this figured out. HAVING A GOOD TIME - IS MY JOB

  10. (and finally)
    And that was all the "sign" I have needed ever since. If I am enjoying my life (which I do enthusiastically) and then I keep doing whatever I find interesting and exciting. Learning anything new is such a gift. But, whenever I find myself waling back into work/work---I start reworking my schedule. Controlling our own time---is as rich as it ever gets.

    Sorry, I tend to "over-do" this subject. I hope this is sorta/kinda what you are hunting for Bob.

    1. Lew's original comment was left on my Google+ page but I wanted to include it here, also. Google sets a limit on the length of comments so I broke Lew's thoughts into 4 separate comments.

      He spent much too much time and thought on this for me to artificially shorten or edit it.

  11. Bob, I'm not retired yet, so I don't have personal answers to your questions, but I wanted to thank you for asking the questions. For the close-to-retirement person like me (anticipating retirement in six years), hearing about others experiences is so valuable!

  12. I actually retired several years before my husband. It was kind of unintended and I found I was a bit lonely. But he's been retired with me now for four years and we are really having a good time. We were always frugal and were doing fine, even with travel, on our budget. But we got an unexpected extra pension last year and now we feel absolutely rich. We buy the brand name facial tissue for the first time in 30 years. :) We were fine and now we're even better. It helps that we are both "goers". We come back from one trip and start immediately planning our next one.

    It hasn't been great with all our adult children though, and that has been difficult to live with. However, we have two grandkids we adore and see them frequently, even take them on our travels.

    Bob, I have one separate comment. When you hit the "comments" button on your blog, you are taken to the very bottom and then have to slowly scroll back up to the top to start reading them. Yours is the only blog I know that does this. Is it possible for you to fix this?

    1. If I change the way the comments appear then my response (like this one) would not appear directly after the original comment but in chronological order based strictly on time. You would be reading this answer to your question under Madeline's comment...two comments down.

      While I would like to be able to set things up so you didn't have to scroll all the way to the top to read them all, I think it is much more helpful if my reply follows immediately after the original entry.

  13. Gosh, I'm always the only commenter on this blog who had a hard time adjusting. I retired (by choice to join my husband in his retirement). Developed insomnia (still a problem), felt at loose ends, worried my replacement was not handling things well at work (and he wasn't) , picked silly arguments with my poor husband, felt isolated, missed my young, funny, techie co-workers (nobody spoke my language), the pace suddenly seemed so slow I thought I would scream. Took awhile for me to hit the reset button. It's all good now, but it was an adjustment and it was unexpected. I was just too wrapped up in my job and had not developed enough other interests and set enough new goals prior to retirement. I had planned well financially, but neglected other areas. If you hate your job, the adjustment is probably easy. But if your job still provides satisfaction on many levels, it is harder to replace that. Having said that... I now think retirement is great and I wish I had done it in sooner (ideally in our fifties), but we were not ready financially then.

    1. Judy, I struggled for a few years to adjust. I pretty much just filled my time with too many naps and too much TV. I was worried about money alot. I had much work to do on my marriage.

      So, no, you weren't alone.

  14. Biggest surprise:Well, it's only 3 months now, but I am totally shocked at how easily my husband has slipped into happiness,BLISS,even,after a year and half struggle to get "OK" with retiring a couple of years earlier than we had planned! MOST of our fears were unfounded, and indeed, we have found that after we finally sold the business our courage MULTIPLIED and we made a big move to another town, a bit sooner than originally planned.

    Next surprise:That no matter how "well" you "plan.." a whole lotta serendipity starts happening once you just pull the trigger and stop working.I am loving the sense of possibility...

  15. Well,I hate to be the downer here, but you asked. The good news: yes financially I'm fine, and don't worry about it. The bad news:10 years into an early retirement (50s) I found myself divorced within two years, most of the "married friends" gone, most of the other friends still working so we drifted apart, so now I live alone in a house to big for one. Soon, 10 years later, I'm about to start a new life, in a new place and hopefully I can write back and say "Retirement is great" like the rest of the people who have written. I do find hope in your blog and am so glad I found it.

  16. I'll take on #4
    I have always been a "go getter". Most of my nights were filled with lesson planning, classes and correcting papers. My summers were busy with learning more things to teach the next school year, helping to write testing for the state or develop a new way of presenting materials. These things defined me as a person in many ways. I was more defined by my job then my husband ever was.

    I have finally found the word "no" in my vocabulary. Never thought it would happen!

    "No" gives me permission for the "downtime" . Just looking out the window and reflecting on the love of the Lord gives me a thrill. Watching my husband do what he loves to do makes me appreciate what a good person he is. Chatting three (or more) times a day with my daughter is a delight.

    Saying "no" also gives me permission to say, "yes". A wedding shower in a different town? Sure. A couple of kids who need to be caught up in one subject? Sounds interesting. Reading a youth fiction in tandem with a historical biography? Love it.

    There are thoughts of writing a novel or painting, but it has taken me three full years to decompress.
    Ahhhh. What I learned? I am just a small part of the eternal puzzle, I now have the time and the will to enjoy the pieces at my disposal.

    The other thing I learned about me? Travel is all about the people I am with and no longer about the sights to see. I checked off my bucket list in my 30's and 40's. No need anymore.

  17. I'm glad I retired when I did (13 months ago now) after 34 yrs of FT employment and with a full pension. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Yes, there's less monthly income but the freedom is priceless and worth the reduced income. I have more than enough for what I need and even for what I want. There's enough for local travel and entertainment and I can tighten my belt and do more when I really want to. I'm still managing a mortgage for a little while and when that's done there will be no belt tightening necessary at all. A federal pension will start then as well. I'm <60yrs old and have the ability to seek employment if necessary but it's not necessary and I don't want to surrender this delicious freedom. If I do choose to seek employment it will not be in the field from which I retired. I didn't know that I would relish this freedom so much. I'm much more social because I'm not worried about having time to myself, to get the chores done, to be rested enough to get up and go to work. I have more time for my extended family and for volunteer activities. I'm reading more and have joined a book club. I'm exercising more and I'm ~20lbs less than when I retired because of it. I eat when I'm hungry, not because it's time or my coworkers are eating. I'm saying yes more often. I LOVE RETIREMENT!

  18. #2 the biggest surprise---that even retired I don't have enough time to do everything I want to do. That is the ONLY downside to an otherwise awesomely satisfying retirement. I'm gradually learning to pare down my choices, but I have to watch myself. If I relax my attention on time management, I am suddenly scheduled 3 places at once----& I made the schedule!

    Ironically, & this particular blog is a perfect example---this periodic overbusyness means that I read something I want to comment on, but I don't slow down long enough to write a comment (or, as happened this time, I wrote the comment & was in such a hurry to send it, I hit DELETE, not SEND. That was irritating!)

    That being said, I absolutely LOVE this part of my life! I also thoroughly enjoyed my job & I admit I felt more prepared for retirement because I'd been reading this blog before I actually left. I think that made the transition easier. My retirement date was moved forward by health issues, so it was comforting to have information & "virtual" friends who had gone before & who had shared their experiences.

    This was a great question (revisited!) & the answers are fascinating!


  19. I'm just a few weeks away from retiring. The first few months are fairly planned as I still have 2 kids at home to raise, but when they return to school in the fall...eek! I thank every one of the commenters for the time they took to share; so much wonderful content! I hope hope hope more readers will add comments.

  20. I am a recently relocated spouse of a wonderful man who accepted a promotional challenge to Texas. I quit my former employer and relocated/downsized to continue anticipated life journeys with my Honey. We are four months into this readjustment and discovery period of relocation, and I find myself still competing for reemployment in this new location. I have had only 2 interviews and no prospects despite 4-6 submissions weekly. My mindset does not want to believe those naysayers who indicate it might well be my age, keeping me from a continued professional career.

    So my comment may well pertain to What surprises me most about "retirement"? It may well be that although I will most likely continue to seek a full time office job, I am also most happy and soooo stress free to continue in my present non-working state. I feel that my husband and I are "conditioned" to keep working until an acceptable timeframe before collecting our years of savings and living below our means. I no longer want to accept that belief! I love being stress free and now wish to discover who I really am without my job defining me.

    I am 50 and I am redefining who I am. I don't believe there should be an "age" of acceptable retirement. I also enjoyed these comments on such a wonderful discussion of change and each of your personal options to it! Thank you : - )

  21. Thanks to everyone who have added personal experiences, insights, thoughts, and concerns. This type of freely shared information is so helpful to everyone.

    If you just stumbled across this post, it is never too late to add your comment to the mix!

  22. I've been retired now for 7 years. I think the biggest surprise of retirement - actually, of aging - is the impact of physical health. Although I've had no major crises, there are factors (arthritis) which limit what I can do. Along with this is the amount of time spent in maintenance. It takes a daily, regular commitment to maintenance just to keep going.

    My biggest retirement struggle has been finding the right balance between over and under scheduling. I don't enjoy being too busy, but in the first couple of years, I was preoccupied with staying "productive." I have since pulled back, but it is still a balancing act to find the right amount of activities.

    I'm a researcher by nature & I approached retirement as a major life change, worthy of study & preparation. I did the financial planning, read books on retirement living, and kept a file on things to do when I retired. If I saw an article or something of interest, I'd put it in the file for later retirement exploration.

    1. It is hard to be in a group of seniors and not have the conversation turn towards health and medical topics .I have always wondered if that is an American thing. Do seniors in other countries discuss body part issues and operations with such frequency?

      The future file of ideas is an excellent one. I do something similar but rather inconsistently.


Inappropriate comments will be deleted