July 11, 2016

What I Don't Do All Day in Retirement

Posts that detail what folks do with their time each day are among the most popular on this blog. Even for those of us who have been retired for quite some time, finding out what others do is interesting and often inspirational.

This time around, I want to take a different approach: here is a short list of six things I do not do as part of my satisfying retirement journey. 

1) Check my financial investments and the stock market daily. I can't think of a quicker way to drive myself crazy than watching the constant gyrations of the financial markets. There are folks who do that for a living. I use one of them to watch my money and let her try to make sense of a rather confusing system to protect me and my family's long term future. To my untrained eye, everything seems to run on emotion, rumor, or events in a place so distant I am lucky to find it on a map. What looks like good news to me sends the Dow Jones into a tailspin.

Once a month I add the various totals from my accounts to a spreadsheet. Even then, if there has been a slight dip I don't panic and place a call to the advisor. Over three or fourth months of downward dips, then things would begin to get my attention and prompt a few questions. But, even during the nasty times of 2008-2010 I didn't sell much or worry. I trusted the long term strength of the economy and her skills. It has paid off.

2) Regret something I did years ago. What would be the point? I can't change it, I can't relive it and do something differently. To regret it in a way that it remains bouncing around in my mind on a regular basis doesn't happen. I try to fix whatever happened as I move forward  and learn from that bad choice to avoid making it again.

3) Forget that the clock is ticking. I turned 67 two months ago. I am not a spring chicken. According to the life expectancy for the year I was born, 69 years on earth was what I should expect. Now that I have passed 65, that same chart gives me another 17 years. Based on family history and my overall health I plan on beating that. 

Even so, nearly 80% of my life is in the rear view mirror. It is my absolute intention to make that last 20% full of happiness, productivity, and doing things beneficial to others. We hear that life goes by so quickly. Yes, it does. I hear that clock ticking but I am not allowing it to terrify me or hold me back. 

4) Take my important relationships for granted. My wife, Betty, and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. That is just as hard to grasp as having 80% of my life behind me. She has been part of my life, a part of me for so long, my years before her almost don't seem real. We complete each other in ways that are too numerous to list. We help each other grow and change in positive ways, ways that would be impossible without each other.

My grown daughters have developed into tremendous adults. Each is comfortable in her own skin. Each has built a life that is satisfying for them. Having them close by is a blessing that shows itself every day. Adding grandkids to the mix is almost too much good news. 

5) Believe I can have a chili dog and onion rings for lunch and not pay a price. See point #3 above! What I eat, how I use my body, and the attention I pay to what it is telling me are mostly within my control. Shame on me if I trade my future for instant gratification today. My cardiac episode of last year was a powerful reminder.

6) Allow my mind to petrify. To stop learning new things, to stop listening to new music, to stop having conversations with people I disagree with, to stop engaging in the world, is to stop living. Frankly, it is easier at our age to let our thinking sort of calcify, to harden around what we know, to stick with what makes us happy and comfortable. It is hard work to push back against a mind that wants to just rest. It is also the way to slowly fade away. 


There are six things I try not to do as part of my satisfying retirement, if I can help it. Just so you know, I fail to live up to one or more of these points more often than I'd like to admit, even in a blog.



26 comments:

  1. These are so good! I love this post. And I agree with every one of your 6 things, except that my perspective on #2 may be a wee bit different. I think it's healthy to pull out those potential regrets-from-the-past items and give them one more going over. Spread them out, poke through them, forgive yourself for being young and not knowing any better, reassure yourself you did the very best you were able to do at the time, recognize the parts other people played in the scenario at the time, and so on. Talk them through with your spouse or a friend, if possible. THEN put them to bed forever. I agree it's unproductive to think about them now, but I prefer to sort of clean them up and release all the bad energy before completely letting go. Works for me, anyway!

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    1. Good point, Kathleen. Putting whatever it is in context, doing what is still required to put it firmly behind you, and then relegating it to the dustbin makes sense. I do something like that but your explanation was fuller than my point #2.

      Thanks.

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  2. Your "What I don't do all day in retirement" post is really an eye opener for me, especially #2, #3, and #4. I fall victim to these off and on, in particular #2 and #3. In fact #3 scares me, but just think we are going to have a new President of the US, regardless of who wins, who isn't a spring chicken. Where did the years go??

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    1. Years? Where did last week, or last month vanish to? Time doesn't speed up as we get older but it certainly seems to do so.

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  3. Number six resonates with me, too. I think when we give up on trying to learn new things or expand our horizons we are fading away.
    I try to remember #5, since I had a little scare last summer, too. But, sometimes you just have to treat yourself.
    b

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    1. We just returned from a week at the beach in San Diego (think 70 degrees instead of 112). I gained 6 pounds. Now, I will spend the next two or three weeks trying to get rid of it. Even so, it was worth every extra ounce.

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  4. This post was a real eye opener for me and right on point. Items # 2 and #3 really resonate with me. In fact, # 3 scares me--can't believe the sand is running out of the hour glassuld like to know how others handle #3.

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    1. Remove all clocks from your house! Seriously, we can't really ignore the passage of time, but we can adopt the attitude that time is the most important resource we possess, and treat it as such.

      Spending 3 hours binge-watching Netflix takes on a new meaning when one accepts that our time is priceless and irreplaceable.

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  5. All really good points. I'd like to add something I don't do. I try not to allow decisions I made in my childhood to influence how I act now. I have been given a time to reboot. When I see something in my life, like a bad attitude toward something, I dig into it, try to figure out how I want my life to be and challenge myself to start afresh and better. I've been able to work through several of my foibles and continue to seek out more. Life just keeps getting better.

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    1. What you describe is often hard work. Good for you. And, I like the use of the word, foible.

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  6. Gary, I agree. My husband and I were very compliant kids living in strict ridged families. Now in our 60s, we've learned to live for ourselves and not what was expected of us. Sooooo wish we would have done this sooner. We're still responsible adults, but have made many changes in our lives. Life is good!

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    1. The last two comments help emphasize how important our parents are in our development and the adults we become. Whether we stick with all we have been taught is up to us.

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  7. Love this list, especially #6. When I was teaching 18-22 year-old college students, I used to try to keep them from getting so obsessed with filling requirements that they lost their capacity for intellectual curiosity by advising them to take at least one course per year that didn't fill a requirement but that was something they were interested in learning about. "Don't squander this opportunity," I would tell them,"You'll never have another time in your life when you can devote your energies to learning for the sake of learning." Turns out I was wrong about that; retirement is just such a time, and what a delight it has been to discover that!
    I think I have a different perspective on #3 because, at age 50, I was diagnosed with a form of cancer that had only a 20% 5-year survival rate. So, each of the 13 years that I've lived past 55 has been pure gravy, and each new year feels like an unexpected gift. -Jean

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    1. I have always felt that I'd love to redo my 4 years at Syracuse because I did not take advantage of all the opportunities a college environment offers. At that point I was already so focused on my career in radio that I did just the minimum to pass classes but didn't really learn to think. Now, as you point out, I am making up for those missed opportunities by the way I work at staying mentally alert and growing.

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  8. I have a colleague who has an interesting practice. Each year on her birthday, she starts one new thing and she also stops doing one thing. I think it is easy to start new things, but how often do we consciously decide to stop doing things? It is a way to live more mindfully. Your list of six things that you do not do (or try not to do) reminded me of this.

    Jude

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    1. I like that idea. It should be doable with a little effort and perseverance. My birthday was 2 months ago but I am going to try this starting this week!

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  9. Totally agree with this list. I think good retirement habits should be cultivated starting well before retirement. Otherwise, trying to suddenly change a lifetime of thoughts and actions when we hit 65 would be difficult. When I was in college, my father encouraged me to take a bunch of classes outside my major in order to widen my perspective. Glad I (somewhat) listened.

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    1. That was good advice from your dad. When I was in college I had already committed myself to a career in broadcasting but didn't want to make that my major. instead, I choose a degree in International Relations because of the broadening aspects of that course of study. It has served me well.

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  10. Like the list, Bob. I would add to that list:
    Weigh myself/ count calories - that doesn't mean that I live life with abandon when it comes to my health. I know what a healthy diet is and balance that with activity. I'm a firm believer in "everything in moderation", including moderation.
    Watch/listen to/read the news - I refuse to engage in the negativity.
    Get on the roller coaster of life - I refuse to engage in busy-ness for the sake of doing. I like the merry-go-round of life a lot more in that I seek joy & gratitude. I also like the teeter totter, seeking balance.
    I don't worry about something as inevitable as ageing. I strive to age well and hope to die well when that time comes.

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    1. I like the roller coaster analogy, Mona.

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  11. Hi Bob, Sounds funny, but when I wake up in the morning, I'm thankful for another day feeling the morning sun and hearing the birds chirping in the yard. A very nice sound track to enjoy that first cup of coffee. I indulged this morning and went to my favorite donut shop for a maple bar. It really hits the spot with that first cup!

    The days come and go, so I make an effort to do some of the "responsible things" like house chores, car repair appointments, etc. and then I do something fun like riding my motorcycle or bicycle or taking our dog for a walk and just enjoy the moments, saying hi to neighbors and enjoying the sights and sounds of being alive and engaged in life.

    The "other things" like checking my portfolios or dwelling on the negative I try not to let it intrude into my thoughts. The time we have is fleeting these days, so we should find that "balance" whatever that is and enjoy each moment we have with our kids and grandkids.

    That is the" Satisfying Retirement Journey " each one of us is discovering, Thanks for the post.

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    1. The mix of things we like to do and the stuff we must do doesn't change all that much in retirement as opposed to our former life, except the things we like to do can be done first! If the weeding isn't finished today, there is always tomorrow. That flexibility is one of the true blessings of this stage of life.

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  12. Fly from Charleston, SC to Seattle, WA. Go up to the beginning Ferry Boat starting point to Vancouver. Get on board and stop and visit every isle between here and there! My wife and I see us doing this next year but with the extra $3K we can do it now.
    Great fun just thinking about it! Thanks!

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    1. Now that sounds like a whole lot of fun. In fact, that makes me reconsider my personal chef idea. Maybe, a first class train trip across Canada...that would be a dream trip for me.

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  13. Very interesting read, Bob! And we certainly agree with those six things you listed. Thank you for sharing this! Also, we have included this in our Weekly Digest to share with our readers. You can check it here: http://www.altcp.org/blog/weekly-digest-balance-and-contentment-during-retirement.

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    1. Thanks, Samantha, for the kind words and the link.

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