Planning for retirement to live the retired life that we want to live is something each of us needs to seriously undertake and the sooner the better. We need to prepare for the inevitable impact of our aging, we need to understand the financial requirements to support that senior lifestyle, and we need to occupy ourselves with worthwhile endeavors to realize a satisfaction and purpose. And once we arrive, how effective will our planning prove to have been? How accurately will we have for seen what retirement living truly entails? Did we really have a clue those many years ago when we started to look toward the horizon and contemplate retiring?
I asked a group of retired folks to answer three questions about their retirement and what kind of surprises – good and bad – they had experienced upon officially joining the ranks of the retired. The results helped me to better understand first hand that not everything goes as we plan but without a plan, perhaps even less so.
Question 1: What is the best thing about your retirement?
Supporting the premise that retirement life is when you finally can choose to do what you want to do, most of the responses mentioned freedom from work and the stress that it brings.
- The best thing is that one can go in many directions and pursue those hobbies and likes that work got in the way of pursuing.
- Retirement made me nicer – I brought home a lot of stress from my job and it impacted my relationships.
- A sense of satisfaction in having it all work so far. Any time someone retires there is a leap of faith, that the money, health, emotions…all the various parts are going to work out.
- Freedom from the confines of employment and it’s set hours and responsibilities.
Question 2: What was the biggest surprise that you learned after retiring, the thing that you least expected?
Interestingly, one very common mention was being surprised with how fast time passes.
- The biggest surprise was how quickly the time goes and how little we sometimes accomplish – there’s always tomorrow!
- I still don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day.
- Biggest surprise was the way time speeds up.
Also mentioned was the fact that all of the best planning does not guarantee a secure financial future.
- Regardless of how one plans for their financial future, there is usually not enough finances in retirement income to support all one’s goals. So one must be creative and resourceful in spending.
And finally, plans you make and goals you set may end up changing when you actually cross the retirement finish line. For example, plans to travel extensively may get a little fine tuning.
- I had plans to spend three months a year in Hawaii, travel to Europe at least once a year, take cruises, buy an RV and travel the country. Very little of that has happened because my wife and I decided being away from our home, family, and friends at this stage of our life isn’t something we want to do.
Question 3: What single piece of advice would you give those who are making preparations to retire?
I think that Bob hit the nail on the head when he responded, “Plan, plan, plan for everything, and then realize you have no idea what is going to happen and that is OK. Plans are meant to evolve.”
Two main themes came up in answer to this question:
1. Have your finances in order so you can weather whatever the future will throw your way. Mary recommends continuing to saving a bit of money each month, “If you don’t put a bit back regularly, savings head south way fast.” The fact is that once you retire, your options to supplement your income are far fewer than while you remain in the working world. So plan and save and save some more now.
2. Have numerous fun things to do to keep busy and pursue passions to bring meaning to each day. And be sure to take care of yourself and your health so that you can enjoy doing it. Bren has the idea with passions he pursued including the following:
a. Explore ballroom dancing traveling the world as a Cruise Ship Dance Host.
b. Spend time as a substitute teacher to make use of those skills learned teaching prior to retirement.
c. Charitable mission work as he did in Costa Rica.
d. Help where he can like when he was a member of a medical team helping those in need after Hurricane Katrina.
Retirement will hold some surprises for us all. After all, it is the first time we have experienced this stage of life and we are learning as we go. But it is helpful to learn some of the secrets from those who are already there to assist us in becoming better retirement planners.
I like Bob’s final comment and will borrow it as the close of this discussion: “Your retirement will be like a blank canvas. You’ll buy all the paints and brushes but will have no idea what it will look like until you start applying the paint.”
May each of our retirements be a masterpiece.
Thank you to Mary, Bren, Bob, Syd, Jan, Tony, Dave, and Anna for your input.
Bob and Syd are fellow retirement bloggers and their sites are well worth a visit.
Bob is at Satisfying Retirement
Syd is at Retirement – A Full-Time Job