April 19, 2023

Your Retirement Stories

Following up on a reader's suggestion a few weeks ago, I posed some questions about retirement from your perspective. Several insightful responses later, I would like to give you a glimpse of what a few folks said.

If you didn't have the time to read the comments that were left on the original post, I urge you to click the link above to take a look at what was shared. In addition to tackling several of the questions I asked, CJM ended her comment with this candid look back:

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have pursued a career in graphic design. I also would have never married in my 20s, and I would have rented my own apartment in a top fashion metropolitan city (Paris, Milan, or NYC)."

Reader Jack, besides winning significant points for giving his wife the titles of crucial inspiration and mentor, noted after all was said and done:

"Yes, my career was satisfying and fulfilling. I would pick the same career path. I was fortunate it came along at a time when certifications were all which is necessary."

A few shared their answers by email. For this post, I invite you to read part of what Ellen had to say:

Q: If you are fully retired, what would you have done differently in your last five years of work (part or full-time)?

No change in my final 5 years. My first year of retirement however? I’d have fulfilled all my plans for 2020 that were covid-canceled:   3 trips, including a 40th anniversary trip hubster had planned, and 4 concerts here in the valley! Three did not reschedule, and I couldn’t attend the 4th as it was right before a knee replacement, and I didn’t want to risk a covid infection even though I was vacc’d and masks were required.

Q: If your parents have passed, what role did you take in their last few years?

My parents were fully independent until near life-end. Dad died first in ’94 after a 4-month battle with lung cancer. Mom was just 71 and fully able. As long as he was independent for personal care, they got along fine (I visited every weekend along w/lil sis). When he was unable, I set up hospice visits and, when that wasn’t enough, we had in-home 24h care. That was only 10 days until his final breath. He wanted to be home, and I’m so grateful it could happen.

 Thirteen years later, Mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She ignored complaints, resulting in a soccer ball size tumor, and her death came in 7 short weeks. I told (yes TOLD) her Dr what I wanted and that we would be leaving the hospital in 5.5 hours (he knew he neglected her, and he was lucky Mom made me promise not to sue him).

 Lil sis and I cared for her at home with 2 short breaks from out-of-state sisters.Our hospice RN was awesome. Sis worked 2d/week (her business is slow in Nov/Dec) and I worked 3d/week (I’m an OR RN and we’re slammed end-of-year). I did weekends as she had 2 young children. Mom was surprised and immensely grateful to be home, and she thanked us each and every day until she became nonverbal.

Q: Who was the greatest inspiration/mentor in your life?

My parents were inspiring. Dad had a 4th-grade education and was a long-haul truck driver in Europe, then a dairyman in the US. Mom was an accountant for a small store after WW2 until they married; Dad wanted her to quit. They are very intelligent people, well-read, and raised 6 kids, 5 of whom graduated college and one entrepreneur who has done very well for himself. We could accomplish anything we wanted and ya just don’t quit!

By no means were they perfect, nor was my childhood spoiled or idyllic, but I was given sound values/morals/a roof/food/clothing, so a great toolkit for adulthood. I had some great professional mentors as well in healthcare. Great support from surgeons as I built a business for them and directed it for an amazing 8y run. Best time of my professional life!

Q: What were you taught about money and finances in your youth? How has that advice changed as you got older?

Mom said save half. I wasn’t very good at that after turning 18 and the first 7y of marriage with in-law influence, but we pulled out. I was, however, grateful to have $1500 when we got married. That was equal to 38 weeks of full-time work back then. Dad was great at math, and I spent much of my childhood sitting at his business table, doing math for transactions and listening in general.

Best advice ever? “The dollars spend themselves; it’s the pennies you have to watch. Don’t forget that”. I borrowed money once and paid off the note to him 15 months early. And he was sooooo right! The house payment, utilities, cars….those were a no-brainer. But saving the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters instead of saying, “But it’s only $2”, THAT made the difference in our world after the 1987 wake-up call.

By 2010 we were debt free, including a small 2nd home in the mountains. To this day, we watch the pennies and make conscious decisions. And we have no qualms about dropping $10k into a vacation. We earned it, we saved/invested in it, and we’re enjoying it.

For the next post in this series, I will share the rest of Ellen's answers and those from reader Marian.

Finally, in the third round, I will answer the same questions from my point of view. No, I don't get to hide!

Thanks so much to all who passed along parts of your experiences. After nearly 22 years of retirement, your answers and insight continue to educate me.


  1. These personal experiences are inspiring and poignant. They reflect moral character, hard work, and determination. Hoping these folks are passing their ethics along. Our future generations may be "progressing" faster but some good foundational principles are still needed.
    I’m really looking forward to reading more and reflecting on my own seventy-plus years.

    1. I think you'd agree with me that the basis for a satisfying life is often determined by how it begins. A loving, supportive parent or two, access to an education, a secure environment, and encouragement to take one's own path are the foundations.

      Of course, there are those who grow up with few, if any, of those supports and are still are able to build a meaningful life. Their fortitude is inspiring.

    2. I agree with your summation. It’s also interesting to think how historical events impact a life. In my case, my family's experience in the WWII Japanese-American Relocation camps. My parents were teenagers, living with their parents, in different camps. They would meet after WWII ended. My story began in 1949.
      Charlene H. (Forgot to sign off on the above comment)

    3. Agree Charlene. (I am the Elle above). My parents were in Rotterdam and adults during WW2. When they married, they had nothing except a few wedding gifts received. Dad drove truck 6d/week arriving home Saturday for dinner and leaving Monday before kids went to school. We immigrated with $500 value in cash, some toys and clothes and a trunk of household belongings, 7 of us. Dad and Mom made a life out of nothing. I have always been in awe of their story and that we all made it on our own as well! (I was given 1year of college which was huge to me!).

      My husband has an Uncle who was interred in the Idaho camp. He always amazed me as he had no anger or angst about it, at least that he expressed to family. Then again, the Japanese are not particularly verbose. I cannot imagine the pain. Likely as awful as it was in Rotterdam for my parents.

      So many experiences in our world. I hope the stories continue to be told!!!!

    4. Elle…thank you! Your parents' story is absolutely remarkable.
      Yes…looking forward to reading more of the Boomers' stories!

  2. The huge changes in lifestyle that retirement brings can spark questions about our purpose and how we should focus our time and energy. That’s why nourishing our spiritual and physical health is so important to retire happy.