June 7, 2016

You’re Doing Nothing Wrong In Your Retirement


For lots of reasons retirement seems to bring out the critics in us and in others. Too often, we are convinced we are doing it all wrong. We didn't plan well financially. Our kids live a thousand miles away and we only see them twice a year, but we love our home, too. We haven't found a passion that has us so excited we bounce out of bed at 5 in the morning to get started. We do a little volunteering but not nearly as much as others seem to. We binge-watch shows on Netflix instead of taking art classes or going to plays. In short, we are messing up our retirement.

Stop. Rewind. Reboot. Reject your internal judge. A satisfying retirement is an individually-designed unique path. Since unique means there is nothing else like it in the universe, you can't be doing things wrong....there is nothing to compare your retirement to. There is no way to judge unique as either right or wrong. That's the beauty of living a unique life.

Isn't that an empowering thought? You don't have to compare anything you are doing to what another is doing. Whatever books, the Internet, or your friends say may be well-intentioned and designed to be helpful. There are good ideas, or new concepts to consider. Hints and tips from others may be worth adopting. But, you can't be wrong, you can only determine you need to make a change.

Now, this doesn't mean you can't make mistakes. It doesn't mean you could have done something differently that might have been more satisfying for you. It doesn't mean you won't make adjustments to your retirement lifestyle. 

But, those things are not wrong. They represented your best decision at the time. The choices were what you believed best suited you at that moment. If some of those choices proved to not work well for you, then you adjust them. You find something that fits your needs, your wants, your comfort zone. Your retirement evolves as you do. 

Would I live the same lifestyle now that I did when I was in my 20's, playing rock music on the radio, even if I could? Not for a second. Would I want to repeat my 30's as a new dad. No. Would I have wanted to live in my 40's the way I am living now? Of course not. 

Every decade of my life has involved changes in attitudes and decisions. What I have done along the way did not always have the best results. So, I adjusted or replaced what had been parts of my life with something more in tune with the essential me, and those changes happen over and over again, especially in retirement because I have the freedom to make those changes.

I've done nothing "wrong" in my retirement, and neither have you. It is just not possible.  




27 comments:

  1. You have described a way to move forward in life with a positive attitude. The assumption is that we have done the best we could, given life circumstances. Getting caught up in negativity, rehashing the past, only makes for an unsettling life.

    I see my elderly mother struggle a bit with this as she tries to make sense of a hurtful relationship. She is convinced that something she did in the past caused the breakdown. I wish I could help her to move forward. The damage to her psyche from all of the angst is not good at this stage in her life.

    I like your advice to reject your internal judge. Wise words.

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    1. Thanks, Carole. The worst critic is yourself. It is tough to ignore that constant voice in your ear.

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  2. Thank you for a very interesting blog, always something positive and refreshing to say.

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  3. Reading this post made me feel so good, I read it again. Those of us who tend to replay our lives and dwell on what we should have, could have, or would have done, just make ourselves miserable. I'm trying to learn to live in the moment. Old habits are hard to break, but it is possible. I love your admonition to "reject your internal judge." I needed that!

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    1. What a nice comment. I write for two reasons: I "have" to, and I hope to ease at least one person's pain or problem. It all comes together when I receive comments like yours.

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  4. I would imagine most of us know when a day has been well spent, vs when it has not. What others might do differently in retirement only resonates if I'm not 100% good with my own time usage decisions, otherwise it's simply 'vive la difference!'

    I likewise find the ability to evolve our retirement to be one of the best things about it. Many of the decisions we made on how to structure our retirement lives in year one were right for year one, but are no longer right for now, some five years later. And I'm sure the decisions we'll be making five years from now will be different yet again.

    One thing I don't do, though, is to ruminate over what might have been. It's simply a waste of my finite life energy. Instead, I focus on practicing either acceptance or change. Those two words really are my mantra.

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    1. I think we are in agreement! An evolving retirement (or life before retirement) is the only sane way to approach any time in our lives. This political season is a strong reminder that some folks are resistant to this basic fact, wanting to go back to the way things were. That is just a waste of time, whether in political circles or life in general.

      I just wrote an article for a book coming out next year about what I will be doing when I turn 80. My premise is simple: something very different from what I am doing today.

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  5. I'm thinking of a song recorded by Patty Loveless (How Can I Help You Say Goodbye written by Burton Banks Collins & Karen Good Taylor) - "Life's about changin', nothing ever stays the same." And we evolve. I like what Tamara said about practicing acceptance or change. As with so many things in life, there is no right or wrong, just different.

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    1. No right or wrong, just different....exactly.

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  6. I say, welcome the changes! Doing everything the same all the time is so boring and inhibits growth. Yes, I believe we continue to grow and learn right to the end. Grab all the gusto!
    b

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    1. Grab all the gusto...wasn't that a beer slogan from a few years ago?

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  7. Lots of wisdom in this post, Bob. We each should feel free to seek and find our own way to successful living in retirement. And it also is good to be flexible enough to make changes as we go.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Dick. And, it reminded me I have meant to add a link to your blog for some time. When Google gets around to it, look for gabby geezer on the sidebar.

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  8. What a needed article! Social media constantly exhorts retirees to live exciting lives that are beyond my physical capabilities or else risk moldering in their armchairs. Some of us introverts have been longing for the time that comes after work and child-rearing duties have forced us to live in an extrovert world. I might turn my piano book to a new piece and discover a composer whose name I didn't know. Four hours later, I look up from my computer after researching the composer, his or her milieu, his or her illness, and any number of directions that thread of interest has taken me. I might help a granddaughter with analytic geometry and then decide to renew my memory by taking a Khan Academy course. On a bad day dealing with chronic illness, I might watch a string of foreign movies, comparing the way the plot is developed in each. And, I have plenty of time to contemplate and come to terms with the trajectory of my life. Extroverts worry about people like me, but a friend just brought over lunch, a thoughtful gesture after my recent brain surgery. I was surrounded in the hospital by siblings and my husband and daughters. One grandchild sent me a card, pleading with me not to die, while all five also immediately pleaded for pictures of the staples in my head when it was clear I had survived. I am loved, and I see plenty of people, but it's now my choice who I see. My sister thinks I have a sad life, but, to me, it's the most exciting my life has ever been!

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    1. What a great perspective you bring to the comments, Linda. Things don't often go as we planned, but it is how we react to events that makes all the difference. I'd say you have that part figured out.

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  9. We get to decide. And we get to keep doing what we're doing, or move on. Aren't we lucky?

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  10. Great post, thank you! I plan to retire in early 2017 and your posts have been extremely helpful in preparing for all the aspects of retirement.

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    1. I am happy you have found some guidance here, Dan. Retirement is a great adventure that is of our own making.

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  11. As you know, this is a very relevant post for me and Ken.I wish like anything I could have "known" EXACTLY how we were gonna want to do it (retirement!) But we had to experiment.And we did, and we had to revise.Now, I am feeling much more centered in knowing more and more what we want to do and be in retirement (at least for now!!) We're enjoying life day by day and planning travels, volunteering, and other activities as it suits us NOW.. and that's good! Great post!

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    1. You two are great examples of a couple that made a lifestyle decision, reversed course, landed on your feet and are happy. That is a satisfying retirement.

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  12. What an important message this is! Retirement, like life, is a process, not a product. -Jean

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  13. Here I am less than year from retirement, and I have plenty of doubts. All the "experts" say I'll be okay, yet I still can't stop but think about all that could go wrong. I'm sure the first few years will be telling.

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    1. Thinking about future problems is very normal. I worried for close to two years that I would run out of money, I had made a terrible mistake, etc. Then, I got with the flow and have never looked back.

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