What I Look Forward To Most In Retirement

As someone on the cusp of retirement, I occasionally pause to picture life ahead when I will take my first steps toward senior citizen status. After surviving the working world and being fortunate enough to set aside what I hope is a sufficient nest egg to fund retirement, I have big hopes for the next 20 years. There are so many things I enjoy doing, and retirement is by definition the perfect opportunity to pursue my interests and feed my passions.

A reader of my retirement blog has an excellent perspective: “I’m retired (and yes past the honeymoon period) and I’m loving it! Each day opens up new possibilities. I find myself becoming more able to insist on things I want, rather than satisfying other’s expectations. I don’t necessarily need excitement, just newness. Don’t do the same old stuff you always did! Try something new each day.”

Where should I start? I feel like a kid in a candy shop with so many options that it is almost overwhelming – but in a good way. Since I am in control of my days, I plan to revel in the freedom to try a little of this and taste some of that, ever sampling and experimenting with new things. As I think about what excites me most about beginning this next chapter, I am looking forward to the following:

No longer on the clock. After a career spent with every minute of every day tightly scheduled and carefully planned, I appreciate the virtues of a blank calendar. I dreamily imagine starting my day with nothing that I must do. It is invigorating to realize I need not worry about being late to the next engagement, but rather I am free to savor the moment. The only clock I have to adhere to is the one I manage.

Picture this: You start a project that keeps you entertained for a while. Then, even though not yet finished, you change course and start something entirely different. In retirement, Carouselyou can do just that. No more deadlines, no rules or regulations from on high, no more last-minute fire drills. You control how you spend the hours in your day. You are off the clock and how sweet it is.

Freedom to choose. How I spend my retired day will be entirely up to me. It is hard to fathom this incredible freedom of choice. There may be days when I am high-energy and want to get out there and rock the world. On the other hand, there may be days when I am happy sipping my java seated in the backyard with a good book in hand. What I choose to do is solely up to me and not dictated by others. I am free to change my mind as often as I like. I am the decider, and that freedom of choice is something I plan to savor.

Time to nurture the creative me. Although I do not consider myself a particularly artistic person, I do have interests that allow for creative expression. I love writing. Blogging and books are excellent vehicles to put into words my feelings and thoughts. And the fact that some people might enjoy and even benefit from my efforts is pretty cool. When I was a youngster, I took a good many years of piano lessons. As is often the case, I did little to sustain my skills through teen years and raising a family. But now that I have the time, I love to sidle up to the piano and jingle the old keys. Many retirees have a creative side that may have been smothered during a demanding career. The good news is retirement can be the perfect time to rejuvenate your artistic side and express yourself through whatever means you find most rewarding.

Refocus on good health. While we are stuck on the job, perhaps traveling too frequently and typically maintaining a hectic pace, it can be difficult to sustain healthy habits. When it comes to diet and exercise, too often the lifestyle we are forced to live does not remotely resemble how we should be living. Since this state of affairs is largely due to lack of time, retirement can be just what the doctor ordered – literally. Instead of being forced to squeeze in a quick workout in a limited time slot, you can exercise when you feel like it. With the luxury to take all the time you want, your options become more interesting. You also have time to prepare better, more nutritious meals rather than succumb to fast food.

Revisit my relationship with my wife. We have been together for years, and during that time have become best friends. The demands of family and job have sometimes come between us, but only for a moment. We find strength and love and fun in the time we spend together. Once we both retire, we will have more quality time to share. I look forward to traveling and exploring and sharing time focused exclusively on us. My wife deserves to be spoiled, and I look forward to putting to good use my free time as a retiree doing just that.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to when you retire?

From my blog on US News & World

Permission to Retire

We all seek approval in life. A project successfully completed does not feel quite done until recognized and commended by the powers on high.  We selflessly toil for hours at our kid’s fall festival seeking nothing more in return than a brief tip of the cap for a job well done. And we happily slow to let the car ahead merge into our lane – happily that is as long as we get “the wave” of appreciation from the recipient of our good deed. Most of us just want to be recognized for our efforts to know we did the right thing and are appreciated.

It should be no surprise if when it comes to our decision to retire we also look for approval of our chosen course. Retiring is a big deal impacting the rest of our life. Who doesn’t want to feel we are doing the right thing that it is the right time and we are not making a mistake. We want to get this one right from the get go.

There are so many potential gottchas when it comes to retiring it sometimes amazes me any of us take the plunge. Do we have enough money saved to pay the bills for the next 20 years? What if we live longer than we have budgeted for? Will we quickly become bored with a day that is 100 percent under our control? What if we have health issues that undermine the quality of our retired lifestyle? What if we just don’t like being retired?

As we navigate our retirement journey, there is no guarantee we are on the right track. There is no absolute promise of a bright future. Before we take the leap, we want to be as sure as possible we are doing the right thing.

Some look for approval from co-workers. These people we have spent the majority of our days with often for many years likely know us as well as anyone. Their tacit approval encourages us and helps reinforce our decision. Likewise a disparaging remark may undercut our commitment and cause us to doubt the wisdom of our ways. If the people I work with – all intelligent folks who I respect – think my retiring is a bad idea, maybe they are right.

If you turn to family members, count on more input than you ever asked for. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone will gladly spew advice like the steady stream of water from a newly opened gate on a filled to the brim dam. And there will be no shortage of doubts. Are you sure you have enough saved? Do you really want to quit your job in times like this? Maybe you should wait another five years? Our family wants what is best for us but they don’t always know exactly what is right for our individual situation.

What if you are so bold as to choose to retire early? Now you’re opening a whole new can of worms. Opinions may vary from excitement for your situation to concern about whether you are prepared to jealousy that you are able to make the move while others must continue their work grind. Some cannot imagine leaving work before they are forced out. Others cannot dream of working all the years required to reach 65. What is right for others may not be precisely what you need or want for your second act.

As you search for that comforting permission to retire you often try to factor in the collective wisdom of retirement pundits. These experts in their field collect and decipher mountains of data and statistics to come to the recommendations they hold sacred. The problem I find is so much data and so many studies and so many moving parts become overwhelming. Who do you believe? Who is most qualified? And just when you think you have a clear path a new study pops up that has you rethinking your strategy.

All the best intentions of friends and family and co-workers, all the information you read and gather on the news, in fact all third party insight falls short when it comes to one important consideration. Even if they truly want what is best for you, no one knows exactly what is in your heart. No one but you has lived the life you have. Only you have negotiated and survived the many challenges to become the person you are today. You are the sum total of 65 (or thereabouts) years of living a unique life that no one else has or will ever live. In the end there is no one more qualified to make the decision to retire than you. When you decide the situation and timing is right, it is up to you to give yourself permission to do so.

There is nothing wrong with advice so long as you recognize it for the imperfect information it is. It is smart to weigh the options and consider all the possibilities before making any important life decision. Then, when you have the facts and have applied them to the unique individual you are, you can feel secure in the decision you make – whatever that decision is.