February 14, 2021

Accept This and Your Retirement Will Be Much More Satisfying

Just a quick review of the titles of some of the top-selling books about retirement paint a picture of ease and contentment. If you were just starting to think about retirement, here is what you might find available:

*You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think
*Victory Lap Retirement
*Purposeful Retirement
*The Power of Positive Aging
*Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Aging
*Living a Satisfying Retirement ( a classic !)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these books. I have read all of them, and written one of them. They contain valuable information and practical information about this transformational time of your life.

Unfortunately, there is one part of this stage of living that most retirement books tend to overlook or downplay: this is a journey without a reliable map.

As someone who spent most of his working life traveling around the United States, have been to Europe, Canada, and Mexico a few times, and traveled almost 19,000 miles in our RV, I depend on maps. Today it is more likely to be a GPS system on the dash rather than the folding type. But, I still prefer to do all my initial planning with paper maps.

Imagine my shock when I retired 19 years ago and realized that there were no easily accessible, easily transportable, easily understood maps for one of the most important trips of my life. I was about to embark on a journey without any idea how to get to where I wanted to be.



A few years later I finally understood why there are no maps for retirement: every trip is unique and no one really knows where he or she is headed. The journey has never been traveled before in exactly the way you will. Kind of scary? Yes. But, quite liberating when you understand that you can't really make a mistake.

A mistake requires a "correct" or acceptable way of doing something. If I slice the ball in golf, back my RV into a picnic table, or forget to pay the water bill I have made a mistake. If I spend all my retirement money in the first five years, I would suggest that is probably a mistake.

But, when you take a while to figure out what you want to do with your time, decide that naps in the hammock are one of God's gifts to mankind, go back to work because you want to, or enjoy a 10-mile hike at 4 in the morning,  then you can't possibly make a mistake. There are no rules that you are breaking, no normal ways of behavior that you have bypassed.

OK, there is one "mistake" you can make in retirement: allow others to tell you how to live your life. They are in no position to suggest what you should do or how you should act, for the simple reason they are not you. Even the most well-meaning advice-giver can't give you the best road map for you.

So, the one thing that they should tell us about retirement is this: collect all the information you can, talk with anyone with something to offer, read some good books, and then strike out on your own, unique path. The only "mistake" you can make is following someone else's path.

Knowing this is tremendously freeing.


P.S. Today is not only Valentine's Day but also my wife's birthday. She is certainly the primary reason my retirement is much more satisfying!

25 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Betty! And Happy Valentine's Day to both of you!

    When you think about it, from the day we're born almost until the day we retire, someone else has held the road map and called out the directions to us every step of the way. First, it was our parents, then educators, then employers. It's no wonder that we retirees can get a little lost when we head out on the road of retirement without a map of our own to follow. With luck and determination, we'll figure out that there's more than one road that leads to happiness and we don't all need to use the same mode of travel to get there. Alan and I made a lot of non-traditional choices during our life together, and I believe those choices positively influenced our transition into retirement. Since we already had experience on the road less traveled, we eased into retirement on the coattails of our own plans and dreams.

    One of the advantages of traveling without a road map is that your wanderings can lead to some incredibly fascinating discoveries - if you embrace the adventure.

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    1. Mary, I agree with you 100% and there's little I could add. I would say we didn't make any particularly "non-traditional choices" but I still say retirement is the best job I've ever had and we slid straight into retirement with no issues. The freedom of retirement is truly a gift, to be able to live your life exactly as you want.

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    2. For both Mary and David, I agree that as we grow we must navigate several stages of life where our path is rather restricted. Until actually having the freedom that domes from retirement, it is hard to explain what a difference there is between this part of life and everything that came before.

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  2. Happy birthday to Betty! Thank you for the post, even when you plan for your retirement, it's okay to go off course and know that we all most likely will. I get excited to know that I can do whatever I want, within financial and health limits, but it is freeing and gives me joy. I also get ideas from reading your blogs and all the comments. Have a great Valentine's Day!

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    1. As Mary said above, sometimes it is the off-course, or off-road times that teach us the most and make life so much richer.

      Betty says, "Thank you."

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    1. She is reading your good wishes over my shoulder!

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  4. Happy Birthday Betty! The best (and only) reason to celebrate Feb 14. Yes, hubster and I are anti Hallmark holidays as we love and value each other every day.

    Ah, the road of retirement. The most common question? WHAT do you do? Well, whatever I want in the moment, by the moment, or nothing at all. Drives people nuts-even my retired older sister. I do look forward to traveling again. I had to cancel all 7 planned celebrations of my first year of retirement thanks to C-19 and eat plane tickets d/t 1 airline not caring that it wasn't safe to travel.

    Cheers to Betty :-)

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    1. Having her birthday on Valentine's Day does make it impossible to ever forget! One year I found a combination V Day/Birthday card...I have never made that mistake again. One for each event!

      I was just notified that one of the airlines that would only give us credit for future travel has decided to issue refunds. The wait time can be up to 3 months, but we will be quite happy to get that $800 back!

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  5. Happy Birthday, Betty! May we all have a much better year this year!

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    1. Thanks, Barb. We all agree with that sentiment.

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  6. Happy Valentine's Day Bob and Betty! And happy birthday Betty! Two big reasons to celebrate love today. And I so agree with your approach to retirement...it sounds exactly like rightsizing to me! ~Kathy

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  7. Happy birthday to Betty and Arizona! Always loved this day :)
    You have characterized retirement quite well.
    My life has always been a bit of "flying by the seat of my pants". Since I was born the few years after the first women's revolution, I was able to go off the map pretty early in life. No one knew what to expect from "us", so sky was the limit. Education, Travel, Children, Spouse, Work--they became part of my map, but I did not know it when I added them.
    I think the only forward "mapping" I have done has been in the last fifteen years- and that was the money that was to be the base for retirement. No real expectations or hard thoughts of what I was going to DO with that money, but goals for the minimum amount needed. Who knows if we will have enough or too much. The future is uncharted. It isn't worth losing sleep over any more!

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    1. Losing sleep over things we can't control is such a waste. Yes, thinking through the money side of retirement is important. But, it will work itself out or adjustments will be made to bring income in balance with outgo. We are pretty flexible creatures!

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  8. Happy Valentine's Day to you both and happy birthday Betty!

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    1. Thank you, Jean.

      I just read your post about the impeachment trial....the outcome was preordained, but at least it is over and President Biden can move forward. Now, if we could stop with Trump's name and photo everywhere, unless it is connection with a criminal trial or damages big enough to bankrupt the little man.

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  9. A very good article Bob and like your wife my son's birthday is also on Valentines. Small world. After doing a lot of research on retirement and writing two books on the subject what I know for sure is that everyone's retirement is unique to them. The key is to educate yourself about retirement, money and the nonfinancial challenges you will be facing before retiring and then figure out a retirement lifestyle that will work for you. You are in essence creating your own map and be prepared for making a wrong turn or two while on your travels because you will.

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    1. Haven't you found that the occasional wrong turns sometimes takes you in a direction or toward a decision that actually enriches your life? That is something that keeps us all wondering what's ahead.

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    2. Good point Bob I've taken more than a few wrong turns and they led to some beautiful experiences. That's the beauty of this "third act" finding out what lies around the next corner.

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    3. Only because I am a nerd a little tidbit about matching birthdays... In a room of just 23 people there's a 50-50 chance of at least two people having the same birthday. In a room of 75 there's a 99.9% chance of at least two people matching. This seems strange, counter-intuitive, and it is completely true. It has to do with the compounding power of exponents. It's surprising to us that it takes so few people for birthdays to match only because we expect probabilities to be linear — they aren't.

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  10. Your observations about no map for retirement might apply just as well to life in general. At least that is how it seems to me. Even so, like you, I love maps!

    And Betty, I hope you felt celebrated and adored on your birthday, because you are! By so many people!!

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    1. Yes, I think they do.

      Betty had a very nice, pandemic-restricted birthday: a steak dinner and good movie...all safely done at home.!

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