January 2, 2019

Radical Retirement

Retirement usually comes with certain "rules" and expectations. To leave work voluntarily requires planning, financial sacrifices for years beforehand, an idea of how time will be managed, and the ability to adjust to life's changes.

This subject has been my blogging topic for over eight years. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that each journey is unique. One size doesn't come close to fitting everyone. There is no "correct" way to retire. So, what is a radical retirement? What does that mean?

I am proposing that every single retirement is radical in some way or another. Why? For the reason I noted above: each one is unique. It comes from how your life has unfolded, where it is at this moment, and where you want it to go.

If I tried to follow your path I would mess it up because our life experiences, goals, relationships, spiritual foundations, and  personalities are different. To me, some of your choices would be radical, even dangerous.

Likewise, follow everything I have done and every choice I have made and you will not be satisfied. As legal sites make clear, consult (yourself) before making any decisions. I offer ideas and general knowledge collected during 17 years of my personalized journey. Your mileage may differ. 

So, I'd like you to think of your retirement, or what you hope it to be in the future, in terms of being very special, very radical. Accepting the uniqueness of it gives you the absolute freedom to not judge your path as a success or failure compared to others. What they have done can be interesting and may be encouraging, but cannot be used to judge yours.

Sure, you may be dissatisfied with some of the choices you have made or opportunities missed, but you are still living a radical retirement compared to everyone else in the world. Isn't that empowering? When you stop placing your life on a scale designed to measure others, all sorts of stress and disappointment disappear.

All that said, where do you look for ideas, or things to consider? What is something that could become part of the fabric of your existence? We all search for ways to improve our lot in life; that is part of being human. We look at what others have done, hence the reason you read this blog, and then decide if any it might work for you. What might you add to your radical retirement?

Let me present some examples of what I mean. These folks and their choices don't fit my life exactly. Their life journey and particulars are not mine.  Even so, some of their choices resonate with me. 

I am inspired by the example of Brett and Laura Hawks, the Occasional Nomads. After selling most their possessions, they left their home on Kauai to travel the world for a year. Where they will live when their adventure is over has yet to be decided. 

I first became aware of Sonia Marsh when she guest-posted on this blog several years ago. She and her family had left their protected, privileged life in Southern California to experience life in Belize. Upon returning to the states, Sonia endured the end of her marriage and a search for what her life's passion would be. She found it as safari guide to Africa for groups of women. She is truly a gutsy person.

Linda Myers, along with husband, Art, have found a life-altering passion: volunteering at refugee camps in Greece. Some 6,000 miles from their Seattle home, they have found a way to add a special facet to their life journey. She and Art make me want to be a better person.

Barbara Hammond is a loud voice of liberalism. She minces few words in her analysis of the disfunction that consumes Washington. What has inspired me has been her life story: one filled with serious abuse and disappointment. I had the chance to read an advance copy of her soon-to-be-published book. I had to keep reminding myself this was not a work of fiction; it was the true story of someone who endured more than I can even imagine.

Debbie and Michael Campbell, The Senior Nomads, are another couple that left everything behind 5 years ago to travel the world. They are still at it: hundreds of Airbnbs and more than 50 countries later. Their home? Wherever they stop next.

Good friend, Galen Pearl, has had a life that sounds like a Hollywood movie: salmon-fishing in Alaska, several years living in Indonesia, solo backpacking travels to South America, being a law professor, and raising several foster children, including two with special needs. She is one of the most intellectually stimulating people I know. Time spent with her is a fresh reminder of the power of the mind and the power of love.

I have written about friend, RJ Walters, before. He certainly belongs in an example of radical retirement. Besides producing a fresh blog post seemingly every few hours (!) he has spent the last several decades without hearing. In a world that makes any disability a hassle, he has figured out how to live a full and satisfying life. His deafness is not a disability, it is simply part of his life that he deals with.

Here is a good place to add my wife, Betty. She has had a laundry list of physical problems for the last thirty-some years. Most resist medications or pills that she can tolerate. Some days she is so fatigued from the pain that she must nap every few hours. Ye, through it all, she stays actively involved with volunteer work at church and making our adult daughters and grandkids' lives overflowing with crafts and fun and love. After 42 years of marriage I am constantly amazed at her fortitude and good graces. She could have retreated into a shell years ago, but refuses. That makes her radical.

Barb Bomberger has faced and defeated some serious challenges in her life. She has crafted (an intended pun based on her artistic side) a life that is full, satisfying, and richly rewarding to her. I find her story uplifting.

Barbara Torris and husband, Earl, have gone from blogging contacts to real friends over the last several years. They helped inspire Betty and me to try the RV lifestyle for awhile. As snowbirds who live part of the year in Tucson and the rest near Portland, their experiences living in different locations has been the source of several blog posts and helped me see options I had not considered before.

Not restricting my retirement examples just to folks I know, there are countless stories of fellow retirees who take a hobby and turn it into a business, those who decide that this is the perfect time to get a college degree, or volunteer with the Peace Corps or SCORE. Raising a grandchild and being there for an adult child who needs you because of illness, personal crisis, or financial mishaps certainly can qualify as plotting one's own retirement path.

Of course, there are countless blogs and websites for those who view retirement as something that should be accomplished as soon as possible, often within just a dozen years or so of becoming employed. Radical? Yes. Dedicated to a goal? Absolutely. The long term effect of being done with work for 50 years? Who knows. I guess they will find out.

Making a serious effort to cut one's carbon footprint to minimize the impact on a fragile environment, cutting back on possessions and housing, trying to go for a period without buying anything beyond essentials. Radical? To most of us, yes. 

What else makes an individualized, radical retirement?

* volunteering at a place that makes you feel good and helps others.
* taking an online course to get a degree or or satisfy your curiosity.
* caring for foster pets.
* taking part in a book club at the library.
* becoming an expert on British mystery TV shows on Netflix or Britbox.

My point is that any approach to a retirement life, from traveling nonstop for years, to starting a business, volunteering at the library, reading every book by a certain author, becoming an expert on Cary Grant movies, to writing out your family history to share with relatives, is radical. It is radical because only one person in the entire world could pull it off in exactly the way you do.

Let's start 2019 as radicals, dedicated to and celebrating our uniqueness. Retirement is crafted, one day, one decision at a time. And, only you can do it in your own special way.

Celebrate the radical that is you. 


  1. Happy new year 2019, Bob. Thanks for the excellence of your work. Lynn

    1. I appreciate that, Lynn. The very best to you, too in this new year. Even though not much is different from 3 days ago, it always feels as if we all get a fresh start.

  2. Bob,
    Happy New Year from one of your resident lurkers. Best wishes to you and Betty in 2019.

    1. Thanks, John. You started out 2019 by not being just a lurker! Glad for your support.

  3. Happy New Year Bob! Another great post that reminds us all that we are all unique. Sure we can learn from each other but ultimately the choices we make must fit our personalities, our preferences, our particular needs and our finances. As I think you know I call that "rightsizing" exactly because it reminds me that each of us is different--but hopefully we take the time to figure out what works for us and then follow that for all it's worth. I love the idea of starting 2019 by fully embracing our "radicalness!" Oh, and thanks for the introductions to other great blogs! ~Kathy

    1. I should give you and your blog credit for introducing me to the concept of "right-sizing" which is a more positive way of saying down-sizing.

    2. No worries! I just see it everywhere these days (no surprise what's on my mind right?) Here's to a radical new year of rightsizing! ~Kathy

  4. Such an engaging and food-for-thought post. Thank you for so many of these thought-provoking posts. Perfect timing.
    A Blessed New Year to you and yours!

    1. Thank you, Charlene. I hope you have a tremendous 2019.

  5. I was enjoying reading down the list, and whoa! There I was! I'm honored to be in such fun and impressive company. And I'm lucky that you and Betty have become such good friends. Looking forward to the adventures of 2019.

    1. Well, now that I fixed the spelling of your first name, all's right with the world. How you have lived your life and the number of people you have impacted certainly qualifies you as a "radical" retiree!

  6. Thanks for this blog, Bob! It's one of my favorites, and you have also introduced me to some of my favorite bloggers along the way. Here's hoping 2019 is a great year for all of us!

    1. Amen to that. Let's resolve to live in a positive, constructive, life-affirming way, that treats others as valuable and us as unique and irreplaceable.

  7. This is an important point that each one of us is different and can accomplish retirement in an individualized way. There is not just one right way or even just one better way. Moreover, for many of us, our priorities will change through different phases of retirement.

    All the best in 2019.


    1. Thanks for the well wishes, Jude. You are right: our priorities do change over time. We have to not fight them but embrace them to stay happy.