October 11, 2018

The Worst Things About Retirement





For some of us the worst thing about retirement is that it didn't start sooner. After experiencing the freedom and opportunities that become available after work ends, we are happy that the employment stage of life is behind us.

For variety of reasons, others find the transition is less than ideal. Concerns like financial fears, health problems, or relational issues are not my focus this time. Instead, I'd like to look at some things that may be a little less obvious but still make us less than satisfied. Some of these may feel familiar to you. For some reason the pieces of retirement you thought would fit together nicely, don't.

In each segment I have included a link to a post that might help you find some answers.


* After awhile the freshness wears off. Then, every day seems like the one before. This happens when the honeymoon period ends and we realize what is in front of us: a schedule that is up to us to design. Forty hours (or more) every week is now ours to fill. Say what you will about an unpleasant job, at least it came with a structure that required little effort on our part to design. 

Is retirement like a permanent vacation?


* I don't like telling people I am retired. It makes me feel old and not useful. The lack of a clearly defined "role" bothers us. The "What do you do" question was easy to answer. Now, not so much.

Retirement does not mean not working

* I don't have many friends who have retired so I miss seeing people at work or during the day. This is actually two connected issues. If you retire earlier than others the natural tie you would share with retirees is not in place. You lose both your friends at work and can find yourself isolated in social situations. Those who are around during the day tend to be young mothers with their kids or business people rushing from one appointment to the next. Your contemporaries are not around. 

I often wonder about the growing trend of folks in their 30's who want to retire very young. After the initial period of exploration and freedom who will they have as friends? Virtually every one of their peers will have work for validation and friendship.

Finding Friends After Retirement


* I feel stagnant and drifting in place. Being retired can feel like an anchor has been pulled up: the anchor of knowing where to go and what to do each day. Without that structure, you can feel like your mind lacks stimulation and you have left a port with no destination in mind. You are just drifting through your days.

5 Things You Learn About Retirement - After Retirement


* I am the go-to person for babysitting or running errands. Sometimes it can seem as though you are the only person in your relatives' address books. Helping out is something you are happy to do, within limits. Why don't others understand I'm not being unkind or rude? It is just that I didn't retire to become an answer to other people's scheduling problems.

The 10 Commandments of Retirement


* I put on weight since I'm not as active as I was at work. I'm worried about my health. Yes, I know, I had a desk job. But, just the walking around the office, to and from the parking lot, and a quick bite for lunch kept me looking and feeling OK. 

Now, it is too easy to snack when I am bored or have no particular things to do on any type of schedule. I probably watch too much TV, too, which isn't helping. Since I am not interacting with other people as much, maybe I just don't care as much about my appearance or health.

The health concerns that keep us awake


* I just don't have enough to do to fill my days. Obviously, that is part of  several of my other complaints. But, I have never had a hobby and I get tired of reading. At least at work I had something to fill my time without me having to figure out what to do.

What Do Retired People Do All Day?


If you find some of the things on this list fit you, then you are not having the type of experience you expected. You know these are not just minor complaints but things you struggle with every day. 

If these dissatisfactions bother you let me assure you that you are not alone, and these are not frivolous problems. They are very real and important. 

After each item on the list I have put a link to an earlier post that might give you some answers or encouragement that you can turn things around. Please take the time to read the ones that might help.

If you would like a more personal response, I invite you to email me with specific questions and concerns. I would be happy to begin a dialogue with you. No promises that every issue of yours will be solved, but I would love to be able to help you cross at least one thing off your "worst things" list.

18 comments:

  1. I may be a little strange in this regard, Bob, but I honestly don't have an issue with retirement. Never had a problem entering it when I finally made the decision (except for a certain amount of needless worry about finances, which most of us have), and haven't had an issue actually living it for the last 4+ years. My days are mine, which include a reasonable number of chores along with various fun items, and I have no regrets except for a slightly lower bank balance than I would have had if I kept working.

    In summary, I can't say I have any of the experiences in your examples, but I certainly know many who do. I'll look forward to seeing others comments.

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    1. Over the last 17 years I have experienced, in varying degrees, most of the seven items listed above. Luckily, none has lasted terribly long. I think writing this blog has been a tremendous help since I (and readers) can tap into others' experiences.

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  2. We retired at 60 and hardly any of our baby boomer friends have.We are 65 now and Most fo them are still working. For a while it was hard to find social activities with people my age. I play cards with women who are 10 years older than me, they don’t “get” some of my references, they went to high school at entirely different era. But we do have other htings in common, like talking politics! And cooking,, and a love of theater and tghe artgs. So I enjoy them immensely. But I also have an art meet up group where there is a nice mix of ages and backgrounds, mostly women, who meet once a week and we make art, take classes in watercolor, share tips and fun outings. So that balance is nice. Sometmes I do remember how accomplished I felt when I had a great day as a Nurse,and also the achievement of managing Ken’s office, but I also remember how exhausted and frustrated I was at times..so, it feels natural to segue way into a time of life I Can relax more, play more, and explore parts of me I never had time to while working.

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    1. Talking politics while reading the morning paper together is a good way for Betty and me to get fired up in the morning. But, I refuse to read or watch anything like that within an hour or two of bedtime. Otherwise, it takes a full Ambien to fall asleep.

      I can relate the age difference situation. I retired at 52 and Betty at 47 so there was nobody retired within 15 years of our ages. It did make things feel a little strange. Now, we are the "oldsters."

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  3. As newly retired (4 months - my husband retired a couple months after me) we have not been bored yet! We have taken a longer "retirement trip" and have a few other smaller trips planned over the next few months, primarily to see family and friends that we could not spend much time with due to our limited vacation time while working. I have worked on a few projects around the house, enjoyed picking up sewing again, and have enjoyed spending time with our daughter and granddaughter. We are involved in our faith community and have many friends there. We have found that once we are not in on the day-to-day happenings at our former jobs, we don't have so much in common with work friends any more. So for now, we are loving retirement! I realize we are still in the "honeymoon' period, but hope that we will keep ourselves busy and engaged so that we don't end up sitting on the porch all day! (Although every now and then, that might not be a bad thing!)

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    1. Four months into retirement is very definitely still the honeymoon phase. But, you seem to have a good awareness of what works and doesn't work for you and hubby, so the moving into another period of retirement will probably cause you few problems.

      And, yes, sitting on the porch for extended periods is one of the true blessings of this time of life.

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  4. I am starting to relate to some of these issues. I have been retired for 5 years, with the first years taken up with health issues. Now I am starting to feel a little at loose ends. This fall I am starting to schedule a few things, but find that I can't get carried away as then I am overtired and sleeping is impossible. Thanks for your posts. I have been reading your blog for awhile and find it very informative. Thanks for the good work.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am happy you find some answers and support here.

      Retirement is really about finding a balance so you do what you want without overextending yourself. Trust me, it is something that I, even after 17 years, still have to be aware of.

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  5. Funny you should mention this. I've never felt any of these, until recently I've experienced a little bit of "feeling stagnant and drifting in place." So thanks for the reminder that I'm not the only one -- it's a common problem -- and also for the link to your article with some helpful tips.

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    1. Feeling stagnant is part of the human condition, I guess. I became stagnant in my career and find the same problem comes up now and again in retirement. We are hard-wired for movement and when it doesn't happen for awhile we get antsy (a great word!).

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  6. I just passed my one year retired anniversary. Maybe I'm still in that honeymoon stage, but I haven't really experienced these concerns to a great degree, though there may be hints every once in a while.

    I am still in touch with some of my friends from work, but obviously not really plugged in to what is going on there. I do find when I see them or talk to them that I still experience a bit of guilt when discussing my retirement, especially since they tell me working there really isn't much fun anymore. I know they are pleased for me, but they are up front about being jealous too. Fortunately they don't have too long to go - the next one to go will retire in March.

    I do find that I have days where I feel a bit lost. I know there are things that should or could be done, but sometimes can't find the motivation on that particular day. The great thing is that none of them are that pressing, and tomorrow is generally another new possibility. I will be getting some new structure in my life soon with a new semi-volunteer gig, so maybe that will change a bit.

    And I also get the part about every day being the same. My wife and I were just chatting about how Wednesdays were "hump days" when we were working, and we have chosen to still refer to them that way. Since we no longer really have weekends to look forward to, we now look forward to Wednesdays, when we indulge in an adult beverage or two and some snacks while relaxing after our weekly badminton match.

    All in all, still no complaints!

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    1. I have a post coming up in November about feelings of guilt in retirement, which is more common than we may think. I hope you will find it helpful.

      Today is a day that has started about an hour later than "normal," so I am kicking myself for sitting down to answer blog comments this late in the morning. Then, I remind myself that schedule was imposed by me and is completely artificial, and ultimately flexible.

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  7. I did miss my friends at work, as I knew I would. There are friendships that endure, and those that are situational -- they rely on a bond created by a shared experience or activity, like work. For many years, my work friends were my most consistent adult contact since I was a single parent. I still have plenty of friends, but interacting takes some initiation on someone's part, which is not necessary at work.

    A similar thing happened when I lived overseas. There were friends who were unique to a particular place, so that when I left that country the friendship naturally faded, and those who remained friends across time and distance.

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    1. I guess friendship is something that undergoes a natural ebb and flow, based on a mix of proximity, where one is in life's journey, changes in needs and similar world views.

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  8. Another excellent thought provoking post, Bob! I struggle with the word "retired" and found that I prefer the phrase "escaped from the workforce." It sounds much more fun and mischievous! Because Alan and I both left the workforce in our late 50's and have spent the time since managing our rental properties, shepherding our younger child through her late teens and planning more RV travel than usual, the word "retired" doesn't feel like it fits. Aside from that, my transition to retirement was an easy one and I've been fortunate in that I haven't had to deal with any of the other items you mentioned. I do believe that part of it has to do with our perspective - we always felt like we would retire "to" something of our own making, rather than "from" something we didn't like. When the time came, I took the leap and never looked back, but it's a huge change in lifestyle and I can see how the transition might be an extremely difficult one for some.

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    1. "Escaped from the workforce" probably provokes smiles and laughs...I like it!

      You have identified one of the keys to a satisfying retirement - retiring to something rather than from something. That approach helps to see this as just another phase of life, not the end of something.

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  9. Before I retired, I was worried about most of the “worst things” that you describe happening to me. But I am 17 months into it now, and still extremely happy about being retired. I do feel a little odd sometimes that many of my retired peer group are older than I am (I am 62), but I have also made some friends among early retirees. Mind you, I am still keep my hand in with a little work....

    Jude

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    1. Just think how Betty and I felt. I was 52 and she was 47 when we quit working. Other retirees were 15 years older! WE didn't really fit in with those still working and retirees.

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