September 9, 2020

9 Signs You Have a Satisfying Retirement

Satisfying Retirement is the name of this blog, as well as my goal to enlighten and engage the fine folks who stop by to read what I have to say. Defining a retirement as satisfying or pleasing is a decision unique to you.

What a friend of mine thinks is the perfect approach to retirement would drive me bonkers. He and I have very different goals and expectations. We are not the same in how we treat physical health. Financially, he is more of the "I saved it; therefore, I am spending it" school. He is much more a believer in "traditional religion" than I. We differ politically.

Even so, I see his retirement to be very satisfying and fulfilling to him. So, there must be some critical benchmarks that all of us, any of us, can use to help judge how our journey is unfolding. Does our unique approach share any traits in common?

Yes, I believe it does. Here are nine possibilities: 

*You control your schedule, not the other way around. Not all the time, of course. There are times when life calls the shots, and you must respond. But, compare your schedule today with what it was when you worked full time. Who makes the bulk of the time choices now?


*You don't worry as much about what others are doing, own, or think about you. As a general rule, a satisfying retirement means you have stopped obsessing about your image, your standing against other people, and how much your possessions define you. If someone doesn't like you or how you live, that is their problem. You are comfortable with the choices you make.

*You may not like exercise and eating right, but you do it anyway. Why? Simply to live longer with a body that works as well as it can for as long as it can. A burger and fries every once in a while is just fine. But, every day for lunch? Nope. As much as we hate to admit it, our bodies can't do what they did even 15 years ago. So, we take steps to preserve what we have. 


*You are rarely bored. There is so much to do that is fun or stimulating. You have grandkids to play with, a blog to write, yarn to knit, a new dish to cook, a painting to finish. Are there dull spots in your life every now and then? Sure. But, with a little effort, you find something to get you off the couch.

*You have goals that stretch well into the future. You want to visit every state or see all the National Parks you can. That art studio can become a reality now. You want to see your grandkids grow up and prosper. Become a foster parent for children, or dogs, or cats? Start a charity to help with homelessness? 

*You remember the past but don't live there. The memories from my childhood, days in radio, raising two daughters, all the places we have lived, our vacations...are important to me. I may not remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but my long term memory bank is stable. 

Even so, I don't spend much time there. New experiences, new ways of thinking about things, ways to engage in a world that needs every bit of my passion and commitment are where I reside during this stage of life. I hope  I never am caught saying, "in the good old days," or "why can't things be the way they were." 


*You try to live by the Golden Rule. Even if there isn't a religious or spiritual bone in your body, I am pretty sure you understand it makes sense to treat others the way you'd like to be treated: with respect and courtesy. What goes around, comes around. 

*You think of yourself as much younger than you really are. Most of us have a visual image of ourselves as anywhere from ten to fifteen years younger than our actual chronological age. I think that perception is vital to a satisfying retirement. We believe we are fully capable of adventures, tasks, completing projects, and fulfilling dreams. After all, we are still a person in the prime of his or her life!

*You sometimes wonder why you waited so long to retire. I believe this is true even if you were forced to retire earlier than you planned. Once the options and freedom become apparent, the routine of taking care of problems is set, and you relax into your new lifestyle, there is that "what took me so long" feeling. 

30 comments:

  1. For me, Bob, you hit the nail on the head right out of the starting gate. Gaining control of my schedule has had a profound impact on my quality of life. Prior to escaping from the workforce, I worked in the business office of a school district. Although I didn't run payroll myself, I was involved in part of the process - and, understandably, payroll always had to go through. Whether it meant interrupting family time on a holiday weekend or getting in to work on a snow day when the rest of the district was closed, my job impacted my personal life more often than I liked. I admit that one of the running jokes around our house is that Alan or I will often say, "I can't wait until I retire!" But it's (usually) said with a smile because we know we could easily cut back on the activities that occasionally overwhelm us. While I agree with all of your other points, as well, the fact that we're able to drive our own schedules is one of the greatest and most satisfying blessings of retirement.

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    1. I agree, Mary. Like you, my work days involved lots of other people (clients) determining where and when I had to be someplace. In my case, that meant flying all over the country, spending too many nights in hotel rooms, and using weekends to catch up on all the stuff it takes to run a business.

      For the past 19+ years, the bulk of my time is mine to spend as I see fit. It has given my life the flexibility and pleasure that was missing before.

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  2. As usual Bob you've hit on all the right things for a Satisfying Retirement. For someone approaching retirement pay close attention to this list and notice that not one of them is about money!

    Regarding... "You think of yourself as much younger than you really are"
    I have thought for decades now that mentally we age normally until we are 35 and then we stay there for the rest of our lives. Physically we see the passage of time but can't quite believe it's happening to us. In fact, I saw a survey once that said 80% of us think we look younger than our peers. And here I thought it was just me. (Astoundingly though, in our late 60s, neither my wife or I have grey hair yet.)

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    1. Very perceptive! Yep, money is rarely one of the factors that controls happiness once retired. While there are situations where a lack of financial resources causes problems, some even severe, the vast majority find other things to be more important in having a satisfying experience.

      The image staring back at me in the mirror is of an older male. But, what is in my mind is of someone with the mental functions of someone in their 40's or maybe early 50's...still firing on all cylinders. Self-delusion? Sure, to a degree. But, I continue to go about my days with few limitations on the belief that I can be productive and enjoy my life to the fullest.

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  3. Yes to all of the above. Now that we are "moved in" to our new place, there is a lot more freedom to make our schedule vs. selling/buying/moving. It's glorious. I had to laugh at thinking we're younger than we are...we're definitely guilty of that. At least until the latest tweak in some joint or muscle lets us know we're not as young as we think.

    And as much as Covid has put a crimp in life, like all life adjustments, I think we're somewhat adjusted to the new normal for now. We don't necessarily like it, but it's another twist in life's journey that we couldn't control so we might as well make the best of it and be grateful for what we have.

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    1. Like you, Covid has not made any critical changes in our lifestyle. I know that can't said for millions of others who have had their lives upended; I am both grateful and humbled by my good fortune in this regard.

      We will resume some of the public activities as they reopen and we feel safe in doing so. But, those will be icing on the cake to a very satisfying retirement lifestyle.

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  4. Reading some of your bullet pointed it finally dawned on me that although I've been officially retired for nearly 20 years I've never really stopped working a job...the first 12 1/2 years as a time-consuming family caregiver where my time was not my own. And since my husband died I've been in a continued process of disposing of his many collectibles which included stuff as big as his 1900s restored gas pumps to tiny coin-sized stuff by the hundreds. So I'm declaring my future move to a continuum care campus in 2021 as my official retirement date. I plan to indulge in quilting, painting, reading and socializing. I don't regret those 20 years. I did what I had to do for my soulmate but its time for me find my happy place.

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    1. I don't think I have ever run across someone who knew someone who collected and restored early 20th century gas pumps! I will admit some of them were real works of art. Don sounds like he was a fascinating man of many interests.

      Setting your entry into a CCRC as your "official" retirement date makes all the sense in the world. Then, nothing but "me" time to satisfy your creative and social soul. All the best in your downsizing and moving to your happy place, Jean.

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  5. Your list is spot on Bob. We are extremely fortunate to live in an age that has allowed us to retire in comfort. While there are issues to complain about I fully recognize that today is so much better than yesterday.

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    1. Thanks, Fred. With all the problems our country and world are facing at the moment, sometimes we need to stop and take a clear-eyed view of our reality. For many of us it is quite nice. And, no, I absolutely don't believe the "the good old days" were all that good. Many of the problems we are confronting today were simply ignored or buried back then.

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  6. Hi Bob! As I have mentioned before I am not yet fully retired. But I completely agree that a "satisfying retirement" will look completely different to all of us with some very common elements. Of course I call call that "rightsized" because our retirements will likely look different just like our entire lives do. But if we focus on what we share in common there is a good chance that we can get along and appreciate each other. Pretty important IMHO! ~Kathy

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    1. The pictures I have seen on your FB page of you and Thom strolling along the beach or you sitting on the porch of a cottage look pretty much like retirement to me!

      What we all share in common is the desire to live a life that has meaning and makes someone else's journey a little easier. Just think how much nicer the world would be with this approach.

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  7. Dear Bob and Friends, for now, working full-time works just fine. Besides the fact that retIrement isn't financially sensible at this time, i could almost become a hermit - not healthy, but more than that, not Biblical. So working works, because the only thing necessary at a job is doing it, and being a productive team member - and so, am around people.

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    1. Retiring when you are ready should have been the first thing listed above. To retire while still enjoying the job, the people, and the financial boost it brings is usually a mistake.

      Enjoy your life now, and that will make retirement even sweeter when the time is right for you.

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  8. Great synopsis of retirement! I retired a a nurse manager, in 2014-I was 65 years old, then went back to work, in a year, because I could not figure out my direction, so to speak. Honestly, it was strange not to go out to a building to work. So I went back to work, Part Time, a year later, for another year. At 66 yo and 9 months, I retired from it all. Now as I approach 71 years old, I am wondering what took me so long to retire! My husband and I survive without a pension plan, but then again, we saved for retirement and paid off our debt. My advice: Do not wait to retire. You can do this new event in Life!

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    1. Double Yeah's with your summary: you can do this. Do not wait if you are mentally and financially able.

      My wife and I have no pension plan either. But, retirement savings, IRAs, Social Security, and a portion of my parent's estate has made it all very doable.

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    2. Dear Bob, yep, having parents who obviously cared enough about their children to leave them atleast something, helps. i know there's a Scripture somewhere in the OT about that. All's i know is i'm doggone determined to leave assets.

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  9. I fit all your listed retirement requirements except one. I absolutely despise exercise that is not part of having a good time. I have never, in my life, been inside of a gym, and have not done a jumping jack or a sit up since high school gym class.

    I really am not bragging, I know my muscles would be stronger if I just did this stuff, but for me it is mind bogglingly boring. I know, I know, I should wear ear phones and listen to stuff. Sigh. Can I be a 90% perfect retiree? :D :D :D

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    1. I will give you an A- or a silver star for your retirement adherence. I like the increased energy level I have once I get home, but the gym experience itself does nothing for me.

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  10. Check on all of those except future goals. I'm content to just take things as they come these days. No bucket list, no goals, just contentment.

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    1. Contentment should be #10. After all, isn't that the ultimate goal for everyone?

      Stay safe from the terrible wildfire not that far from you. The West Coast is burning up right before our eyes.

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  11. Thanks for writing and posting this! As a recent "retiree" (age 71), this provided additional assurance and support about my pathway to a "satifying"retirement!

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    1. Welcome to this exciting stage of life, David.

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  12. The points that are especially true for me are that I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about me, I’m never ever bored, I’m remarkably youthful for my age (ha!), and while I realize why I didn’t retire earlier, am sooooo glad I retired early at age 60.

    Jude

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  13. Great post Bob! At this stage of my life (38) I'm always surprised at how much less I value materialism. I think because the more and more I understand myself and what's important to me, I let go of owning things that the majority of the population perceives as objects of success and status. I own things that make sense to my lifestyle and add comfort. This honesty makes me happy and I even feel more like myself around others - which is weird to say but I think a lot of the times people in general are acting out what they think is their best impression of themselves. The more true we are to ourselves, the more true and meaningful we can be with others.

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  14. "The best impression of themselves" is an excellent way to express the need too many have to live in a way that seems to make for a good fit with the norms of our society. It is not easy to find what truly makes us happy; it is almost never money or "things."

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  15. I think this is a great list, but I'm going to push back against the "you think of yourself as much younger than you really are" item. The underlying assumption here seems to be that younger is good and older is bad, a set of stereotypes about age and aging that are at the heart of ageism. So, no, I don't think I'm just the same as I was at age 35 (thank God!). Thirty-five was a huge transition point in my life, and I think of it as the age at which I started to truly mature. At 70+, I am much smarter, wiser, more thoughtful, more complex, and happier than I was at thirty-five (or 40, or 50, or 60). I'm looking forward to continuing to grow older and wiser.

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    1. Actually, I have no interest in being younger than I am. Maturity and self-knowledge are wonderful developments. By thinking of ourselves as younger I am referring to the scientifically proven research that shows many of us think of ourselves as 15 years younger than our actual chronological age.

      The problem with that view is it "tells" us we have a lot more time to correct mistakes, mend fences, get ourselves in better physical shape, and figure out what is next. It gives us an unrealistic sense of our future.

      I guess, on the plus side, it tricks us into thinking we have more energy and mental acuity than society might suggest for someone of our real age. We tell ourselves we can continue to accomplish this or that because we aren't "old" (whatever that means) yet.

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