Get Out and About to Make The Most of Retirement

Once you start to get the hang of life as a retiree it’s easy to find yourself slowing down a bit. There are not nearly so many things you must do. Responsibilities are fewer and farther between. Instead you enjoy the luxury of picking and choosing those activities and interests you genuinely want to pursue. Retirement is a time to revisit passions and hobbies previously ignored, forgotten or left behind due to a busy life. And you can control the pace at which you proceed. You need never go faster than you wish. Contrary to the working world, in retirement slow is an entirely acceptable speed.

A well-established routine can offer a certain level of comfort. Unexpected surprises are kept to a minimum. Doing those things you know so well does not require excess effort. You may repeat the same things but by now you know how to do each just right. And yet with no diversity in the day, if there is nothing new to look forward to, if you find yourself unwilling to try something for the first time you may be selling your retirement short. Should you become too comfortable, if you only experience what is well-known and familiar, you risk missing out. Sometimes along with easy and safe comes an uninvited guest – boredom.

This past week the locals of whom my wife and I are now counted were witness to the annual Carmel Concours. Owners of good-as-new antique, entirely unique and crazy exotic cars come from all over the world to show off what they’ve got. Of course as it is such a big attraction hordes of people show up to take part in the celebration. I am not a big crowd person. My wife might go so far as to say I do not like people. An exaggeration but let’s just say I prefer more intimate gatherings.

If I were to allow my natural inclinations to rule, I might stay home and happily read the details of the Concours in the local papers painlessly enjoying videos of the various best-of-breed automobiles displayed on the evening news. Boring! Instead my wife and I jump into the car and get as close as possible to the event on Ocean Drive – about six blocks as it turns out. We walk casually amongst the many four wheeled works of art appreciating them for their incredible beauty with spotlessly shined chrome engines and magnificently glowing paint jobs reflecting rich colors in every shade of the rainbow. Even more fun is observing the people who attend the event. Talk about a broad swath of humankind – truly worth the effort to get out and about.

Hund on a bench

Getting out and getting into life around you is an important part of a meaningful retirement. Watching from the sidelines may be easy but it is also unsatisfying. Experiencing life firsthand rather than as a passenger makes memories more vivid and heartfelt. Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by the rigors of travel with endless lines for tickets and security and coffee and pretty much everything? Don’t give in. Don’t take the easy path. Try to imagine safely arriving at your destination with the travel behind but your journey just beginning. Be prepared, be aware and most importantly try to be patient.

Do crowds intimidate you as they do me? Sometimes the hassle is worth the wait (although not always). Our solution is to get to events early before the crowds descend and leave ahead of the mass exodus. We always bring a few bottles of water and granola bars to avoid lines and exorbitant prices. Most important for me I get into the right mindset. I prepare myself to accept everything will take longer. I cannot change that reality but I can try to not let it get to me and instead focus on enjoying the good things.

Getting out does not need to be a major endeavor. As retirees we have the luxury of acting on short notice. A show or concert or event can be enjoyed without elaborate planning. A limited time special at that otherwise overpriced beachfront resort can be jumped on even midweek. Driving is a wonderful way to travel to beautiful places across the country without ever setting foot in a crazy airport. All it takes is a little creativity and initiative on our part and we can be off and running.

I often find myself happily seated in the garden watching the birds, enjoying the flowers, happy to be alive and where I am. It is a good thing and I sure don’t complain. But as the years progress I plan to do my best to avoid becoming complacent. I hope to always sustain a curiosity that keeps me looking around the next corner. I hope I never feel too old to try something new, for the first time. I hope that when I lay my head down at days end I have no thoughts of having wasted the blessed hours given me. Retirement is a blast. Finding that balance between activity and rest that is right for you will only make things better.

Our new Boston Terrier Frankie is looking up at me with those big time-for-a-walk eyes. A walk will be good for him and for me too. It’s time to get out and about, to take advantage of what remains of the day with my happy four-legged-friend and to enjoy being retired.

Two Reasons Retirement Is Awesome

Do you ever picture what your life will be like once you retire? It’s fun to imagine what is to come once you are 100 percent in control of how you choose to spend your time. Freedom to do what you want, minimal stress, the chance to do those things you could never find time for, and no one leaning over your shoulder telling you what to do. It sounds wonderful and it can be. The secret is to plan ahead and prepare for the next chapter. Spend time figuring out how you will spend this extended vacation that will last decades. And not just your finances – it is also important to figure out what you will do, what you want to do with the free time that will be yours to manage.

What do you want your retirement to be?

I look at my parents who have been retired for seventeen years. Both are relatively healthy beyond the normal age related issues we will all have to face. Although not as active as they once were they keep plenty busy with bridge games, dinner parties, travels (more local these days but since they have already travelled everywhere they really want, that works), a bit of golf, family visits, lots of reading, and a sprinkling of FOX News and old movies from Netflix. Mom still cooks most meals and dad pitches in with dishes (only fair). Dad always loved maintaining his garden – roses are his specialty. He can no longer do it all himself but still makes time to get outdoors and work the land a bit.

I am not sure how they imagined their retirement but believe mom and dad are happy with how things turned out. Keeping busy – mentally as well as physically – has allowed them to remain sharp and engaged with life. They have a wonderful network of friends clearly demonstrated come Christmas time when the cards roll in big time. Not a bad retirement by most standards.

Before retiring four years ago (that went fast!), I spent time looking ahead to the day I would exit the working world. I read books, blogs, and reports. I listened to seminars and podcasts. I talked with retired folks in my immediate circle of friends or more accurately my parents circle. It seemed everyone had a different thought on what was best about being retired. Since retirement is a very personal journey, I believe every choice can be right as long as you pursue your passions.

For me there are two simple reasons why retirement is such a wonderful place to be.

Goodbye stress

The kids are out of the house and living independently. The mortgage is paid so we just have to save for property taxes and maintenance. I have stepped off the corporate ladder and no longer battle to reach the next rung. I said goodbye to problems getting to sleep as nothing stressful waits in the wings. Demands on my time are few so I am free to pursue what interests me. Talking with others who are still working I almost feel guilty – almost.

The absence of stress in my life is a welcome state. I feel more at ease, able to appreciate and enjoy more fully little things previously overlooked. I don’t worry about what is beyond my control. Where in the past the good life often passed me by in a blur I now live each day at a pace that suits me. No stress – no problem.

Hello new interests/experiences

When I was in high school we were required to learn a foreign language. I chose Spanish. Once graduated, I never looked back and what I may have learned gradually became rather rusty. Until now that was fine – I had no real interest in languages. Then we went to Paris and I found myself intrigued by the French spoken all around me. With a new found interest and time on my hands I downloaded an app called Duolingo and dedicate a little time each day to learning French. I have no plans to become fluent – I just want to be able to pick up a bit of conversation, ask for directions, read a menu, you know – the basics. I am having fun and my wife is impressed with my progress (since she speaks French I value her opinion). Similarly my interest in history during earlier life was pretty much nonexistent. I am not sure why I now love learning about all things past from the European monarchs to the Indian Wars to those numerous events that changed the course of history. Who knows where my interests will take me next? One of the best things about retirement is having all the time you want to dedicate to newly discovered interests. The clock no longer dictates my day – I am in control.

The other day a neighbor came by to visit. We talked a bit and when I described how I was exploring the wonders of history via an online course his response was “Boy, don’t ever let me retire!” His idea of retirement is running that next marathon or ballooning over the countryside or pushing himself to some new extreme. My idea of the perfect retirement is a bit different. The good news is we are both right. How we choose to live the best retirement is up to our individual wants, wishes and passions. Enjoy!