What Do You Want From Retirement?

If you retire at or around age 65 it is a reasonable hope to live a second act that stretches out for multiple decades. So long as you have saved enough, planned as best you can for various contingencies and are of general good health what you choose to do during that time will be for the most part up to you. It can be quite satisfying to realize you have made it this far and are now free to embark on an entirely new chapter, one that you control.  After all the effort it took to get here it would be a shame to waste a single day.

It is not unheard of to arrive at the doorstep of retirement without having dedicated sufficient time to figuring out exactly what you will do to make the most of your days. Some spend more time planning for a two week vacation than they do for two decades of retired living. Without that insight, new retirees risk quickly finding themselves confused and disillusioned. We have waited for so long – now what?

One of the beauties of retirement is it can be different things to different people. Each of us has the opportunity to create a retirement best tailored to our personal tastes and likes. A little customization goes a long way to start us down the right path and can assist in our successful navigating the retirement jungle.

What do you want in your retirement?

Make up for lost time

Some are forced to neglect passions and interests they could not make time for during busy work lives. Now that you control 24/7 of your day you have the opportunity to take another shot at those illusive past pleasures. For example, if you have always dreamed of travel this is your chance. Not only do you have time to look for the best deals perhaps taking advantage of last minute specials as they pop up you also have time to research in depth where you are going. Understanding a little something about the history and culture of a destination can make your trip that much more memorable.

Whatever the dream put on hold retirement gives you a second chance. Discover the artist inside, release the musician denied, loose the architect or landscaper or gardener previously held at bay, or free the creative quilter locked away. Whatever you may desire, here is your chance to make up for lost time.

Build a better you

Living in retirement affords us time to think, to contemplate who we are and consider our place in the world. Without the rush and stress of a job, we can better control the pace of our day. Not all days are the same. Some we feel ready to tackle the world head on. Others we prefer a slower more gradual immersion. In retirement we have more control to live each day in a way that best mirrors our personal mindset.

As you spend more time with your own thoughts it is conceivable you may discover small quirks and imperfections in the person you are. A bad habit here an undesirable tendency there – none of us is perfect. With this knowledge in hand and empowered by a new control of your time you can now take steps toward self-improvement.

Stride travel2

Spend time with people you want

For me, one of the least desirable aspects of the working world was spending time locked away in “strategic” meetings. Typically these meetings included one or two particularly verbose people who felt it their duty to monopolize the discussion preventing those captive from doing meaningful work elsewhere. If I wanted to keep my job I had no choice but to grin and bear it, patiently waiting for the blessed end. These days I choose who I spend my time with. A couple of our kids just left after spending the weekend with my wife and I. We had an awesome time alternating cooking of tasty meals, hiking Point Lobos, playing dominoes and just hanging out. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. We caught up on life and just enjoyed being together. It is this type of moment I want to foster. And now that I am retired that is exactly what I plan to do.

Make a difference

The world if filled with people and organizations and causes that can use help. Retirees have the luxury of free time and so the fit is a natural. Many find satisfaction putting their time to productive use as a volunteer. Some prefer being part of an organized entity. Others possess skills and passions to share including experience gleaned from careers or helping those whose life challenges in some way mirror their own. The level of help you offer need not be deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. A little goes a long way. The important thing is you can make a difference if you choose to.

Go along for the ride

It is possible the specifics of your retirement-to-be remain a bit nebulous. Perhaps you are just fine with taking each day as it comes, going with the flow. Maybe you achieved all you needed during the life leading up to retirement. With no impetus to strive for additional notches on your belt you find yourself happy without adhering to a detailed plan. It could be the simple act of escaping from day to day career life is in itself rewarding.

This “along for the ride” mentality can work. I happily follow this motivation part of the time, letting each day evolve as it may. But I find it equally important to try new things and find some meaning in the hours lived. The ride is ours to choose – the right combination of excitement and relaxation can be just the ticket.

Whatever your personal preference, retirement offers a variety of ways to find satisfaction, fulfillment, excitement and meaning. It is all about the journey. Good luck finding your way and enjoy.


Retirement Is No Time To Be Bored

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you just don’t want to get out of bed? For whatever reason staying tucked under those warm blankets just sounds better than any other option. There is nothing you must do – the calendar is clean. And if you are lucky enough to be retired you are free to stay right you are for as long as you choose. That is one of the great things about retirement – you get to do what you want when you want.

One of the not so great things is finding yourself in the situation where you can’t think of a good reason to get up. There is nothing that lights your fire enough to inspire you to exit your bed. Whether bored or unchallenged or maybe a little down in the mouth, some of those retired days you worked so long and hard to achieve can be a bit blah.

It’s not that every day in retirement should be action packed filled with excitement. A little downtime is an important part of the mix. But finding meaning in your day, experiencing new things and making the most of your second act requires more than sitting back and watching the world go by.

Most retirees experience the mixed blessing of no longer having to go to work. I say “mixed” because there are two aspects. The first is you no longer have to deal with the stress and worry of maintaining a job. On the other hand you may find yourself disconnected from people and surroundings that have been such a big part of your life their absence leaves an emptiness. Who will you share life experiences with now that you no longer have co-workers in your day? What will you do to fill your day? How will you avoid the curse of boredom that often dogs retired folks? Since most of us can hope to enjoy retirement for 20 or more years, answers to these questions is pretty important.

I have learned the secret to a happy retirement is often found in the little things. Experiencing meaning and joy do not require some momentous event. Each of us can hope to live a worthwhile retirement. Here are a few areas to look for inspiration.

Getting a task done

Whether I am pruning the roses or painting the garage, vacuuming the house or getting in a hike that inches me nearer my goal of 10,000 steps a day, completing the task in front of me gives a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. It probably has to do with setting goals throughout my career. Without a goal how do you know where you are going? Now I take pleasure in completing the little projects that come along. Best of all I get to decide what those projects will be.

Witnessing the incredible strength of others

Last week I went in for my annual checkup. While waiting my turn a myriad of people made their way to the counter to check in. Some were older, moving slowly often with the support of a loved one at their side. Others were not so old. The common factor was no one appeared over joyed to be here. I could not help but wonder about each individual – what was their story? Were they here to see the doctor to learn of lab results, anxiously hoping for the best? Were they taking the first steps in what would be a long course of painful treatments aimed to make them better? Few if any knew exactly what to expect, no doubt scared of the unknown.

Three Old Ladies

Yet despite their trepidation and uncertainty all tried to maintain a positive front. Whether a smile from the scarfed woman hiding wispy remains of lost hair or the sarcastic comment from a hunched elderly man as he slowly negotiated his way into an empty chair, each tried to rise above the situation. Loved ones supported those who could not manage for themselves doing whatever small thing they could to make it easier. The strength each demonstrates always chokes me up a little. And it helps me put my own issues in perspective.

Being part of a small town community

I grew up in Stockton California which back then was a pretty small place. From college on through my career I was part of the Bay Area masses aka traffic, tons of people, lines, waiting and always rush, rush, rush. Of course there were pluses like diverse nightlife options, massive shopping malls with every store imaginable and lots of restaurants to frequent. But ever since we made our move to a 4400 person community I realize how much energy and inspiration the small town offers. I love going into a local shop and being recognized by the owner, often greeted by name. I love the slower pace that life takes – what’s the hurry? I love the friendly locals who wave to you from their car when passing or say a genuine “howdy” when passing you on the street. And should I feel the need for a little faster pace I can drive fifteen minutes to get all I need. I realize that being part of a community is something I missed living the fast paced life of the Bay Area. Now retired I am able to enjoy the smaller world I am happily a part of.

The games people play

My parents have been life-long bridge players a passion that enabled them to meet similar minded folks when they first arrived in the home where they have lived since I was seven. Their calendar is littered with bridge lunches and dinners. It gets them out of the house, keeps their minds sharp and they are darned good at it! My wife is an incredible jigsaw puzzler. Anything less than 2000 pieces does not stand a chance once she puts her mind to it. The end results are truly amazing and she loves progressing through each completion. We were recently introduced to dominos which has worked its way into the evening rotation alongside backgammon and gin rummy. A little competition is a good thing. It keeps us engaged and striving to do better. And I realize at my ripe old age that it is not just about winning but about playing the game.  What fun!

A little this, a little that

Since I am retired my schedule can be flexible. I don’t even need a schedule if I don’t want. I have the luxury to move freely between interests, spending as much or as little time as I want on each. I stick with it until something else interests me more then move on. What some might consider erratic is ideal for me. Read a little, walk a bit, exercise some, clean a tad, write awhile, play a few songs on the piano, putter in the garden, nap as necessary, stir and repeat. The freedom to do what I want when I want for as long as I want makes retirement life click for me.

It is easy to become bored at times. That is okay as long as we do not linger. If we focus on the many inspirational people and places and things we should be able to move beyond any temporary boredom. Inspiration is often found in our own backyard.