Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

Time sure does fly. The other day I took a look at the first blog I posted for “Retirement – Only the Beginning” way back on July 4, 2010. I had been contently working away at various start ups across Silicon Valley for over 30 years raising a family and setting aside a little something for the future. At age 52 I figured I had another ten to twelve years to build that nest egg and get ready to depart the working world. Then suddenly I found myself out of a job.

After a reasonable amount of panic and some fruitless searching for an immediate replacement job, I stepped back to catch my breath and put some thought into the future. It was a bit scary but I had faith I would re-enter the business world within a reasonable period of time. In the meantime I thought about what I would like to be doing and what I definitely wanted to avoid. Of course it was a real possibility I might not have the luxury of making a choice if I needed to return short order to the competitive job market

With my job search under way I began to think beyond my career and look to what might lie ahead. I had never given any real thought to retirement but with time on my hands and the years ticking by, what better time than now?

I had come to the realization that although only 52, each passing year brought me closer to retirement age. I had no idea what retired life would look like but I knew I wanted to retire at some to-be-determined age. I just did not have much insight into what exactly I would do with those months and years in my control.

So I asked myself, “What can I do now to prepare for my future retirement?”

And so I began a journey that continues today and remains a work in progress. Here is how I described my motivation for starting “Retirement – Only the Beginning” in my first blog:

I started for two reasons: (1) to attempt to navigate the huge amount of retirement information currently available and distill into accurate, succinct information. In effect, create a checklist to identify now those things that we can do so our retirement is the best possible. (2) Equally important to discuss and share what we can do to help assure a quality retirement, filled with fun and adventure and excitement that makes each day worth getting out of bed.

Today I consider myself “unofficially retired.” I still keep my eyes open for that perfect situation where I would want to hop back into the working world. But over the past two years, my criterion has become progressively stricter. I am not finding much in that fast-paced high stress technology world where I grew up that interests me enough to commit 60-70 hours a week.

And so the journey continues.  I want to share a few tidbits I have learned while blogging these past years. Having them in my back pocket helps me feel a bit more prepared for what the future may hold.

Have a plan

I often hear from readers that are nervous about retirement when it comes to knowing what they will do to occupy their days. Most planning prior to retirement tends to be financial in nature. Not too many spend commensurate time preparing for what to do to stay actively engaged and excited about living once they retire. Some first begin thinking about their retired days when they are on the doorstep of making the move. I have learned that waiting too long increases the risk you may not be able to make changes and adjustments that could improve the quality of your retirement. You might run out of runway before you get off the ground. However, if you take the time to look down the road and visualize the life you want to live before you retire, you might add to your overall enjoyment and avoid at least some nasty surprises. Since you will likely be retired for 20 years or more, having a plan for your future should be a priority.

A regular routine is a good thing

I am a very organized person who does not do well sitting still for extended periods of time. Having something to do keeps me engaged and active. During my pre-retirement warm up, I have established a nice daily routine to keep me busy mentally and physically and I enjoy it. I make it a point to get out of bed by 7:00 each morning. Since I am a morning person, this regular starting point helps me kick into gear rather than find myself reluctant to exit a warm bed. With my routine of blogging, exercise, reading, gardening, walking, and watching the flowers grow, I never find myself remotely bored until maybe 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, just in time to think about dinner and a nice glass of vino.

Frugal is fine

My wife and I love to travel but we have learned we do not need to stay in five star hotels to have a good time. We enjoy good meals out without feeling the need to go to the hottest new spot in town charging exorbitant prices and burdened with long lines. We are happiest being together in a lovely location enjoying each other and the moment. It is amazing how affordable life can be if you do not require all those bells and whistles to have a good time. Outside of entertainment, we do not really need anything for the house, the cars should run for a long time, we have all the clothes we need (still fun to shop for those special additions of course), and we really enjoy cooking our meals together and eating at home. It turns out it’s really not that difficult to live well without spending extravagantly.

It’s okay to do nothing

As I have shared more than once over the years my biggest fear of retirement has been running out of things to do and potentially finding myself bored. But it is important to balance meaningful activities with time off. I have come to realize that a happy retirement for me will be a combination of doing things and doing nothing. I am learning to be okay with cutting myself some slack and enjoying downtime, no longer feeling guilty if I am not accomplishing something every moment. It has been a process to free myself from this self inflicted guilt. After so many years hurrying through incredibly busy work days where there was never a moment to spare, I have come to accept that I have earned the right to do nothing. And I like it!

Good health should not be taken for granted

As we get older we are constantly reminded of what challenges the future may hold from slower reflexes to reduced strength to precarious balance negotiating the roads we walk. We witness it every day in friends and family or read about it in AARP and see it on the news. It won’t be easy but we have committed ourselves to do our best to stay healthy along the way. Working out regularly, walking together, watching what we eat, and generally being aware of our physical and mental state is our conscious contribution to staying healthy. Every healthy day is a blessing and we appreciate it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

An uncle of mine living in a retirement community tells the story of a retired bigwig CEO who feels he is better than the rest of us mere mortals despite having departed the working world many years earlier. My uncle gently informed him that he used to be a CEO. Now he is just another retiree like everyone else in residence. I think as we age it is important to maintain a sense of humor. Those readers who despite challenges they encounter as they age are able to maintain an optimistic outlook have the best chance of living a happy retirement. A smile, a little laughter, and a relaxed optimistic view of the world can go a long way.

I want to thank you readers who over the years have shared candidly details of your personal journeys into retirement. I have learned a lot from your honest feedback, real world experiences and sense of humor in the face of challenges. And I look forward to sharing more as together we continue navigating the retirement jungle that makes up the landscape for our second act.

Good luck to us all and let’s enjoy.

This entry was posted in Aging, Family, Frugal Retirement, Healthy Living, Senior Lifestyle, Senior Safety, Senior Travel and tagged by LoveBeingRetired. Bookmark the permalink.

About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

13 thoughts on “Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

  1. Pingback: Weekly Roundup of Great Personal Finance Articles From Around the Web

  2. Hi Dave! I love how you explain that although you are still (somewhat) willing to take on a new job, you are getting picker by the minute. Isn’t that the truth? I think anytime any of us starts feeling the freedom of having more leisure than work time filling our days, we realize that they are much more precious than extra dollars. We are close to the same age and something I know for sure is that time is the most important thing (that and health) as we navigate this period of our lives. ~Kathy

    • Thanks Kathy – I think my new “job” will be to take care of myself and my wife while we enjoy time to do whatever we want. No worries about a promotion or review or climbing the corporate ladder with this job – I am more than ready to commit! 🙂

  3. Dave, there is SO MUCH truth to the above since I am looking at Retirement as my next station, and all of the things that you are going through is on my mind. Career, Next Venture, 168 hours a week, how to keep busy, frugal vs. cheap, busy vs. sitting-around, focus on health-care, regular routine etc.

    As a detailed oriented person, I am logging everything that is coming to my mind, preparing spreadsheets, calculating/computing things, and looking ahead with depth.

    What I cannot figure out is how to handle the ‘he is working, and I am not’ syndrome when it comes to people I know. How does one manage that feeling everyday, esp. when everyone goes to work in your neighborhood, friends don’t have time Mon-Fri and they all have ‘busy things to talk about’. Besides making new friends, how does one manage the ‘annoying thoughts’ in our minds. Is this abnormal, or am I too competitive, or with this feeling, I will never quit my job?



  4. I think it makes perfect sense to feel a bit guilty about enjoying your freedom while the rest of the world slaves away for a living. But then I think about the fact that for the past 30+ years I have been mired in the same painful existence. Now that retirement time is here, I have earned the right to do what I want. And it is up to me to do those interesting things that give me something to talk about while others relive their working day. I look forward to the challenge! 🙂

  5. DB,
    Thanks for all the truly inspiring posts to date. Most other blogs and retirement websites focus on the financial part of life after work, rather than the importance of living and enjoying life itself. My “graduation” is planned for September 2014, at the ripe young age of 65. Plans include daily exercise at the YMCA, senior softball, philosophy and psychology courses at the local junior college, and community volunteer work with “Guardian Ad Litem.” Also, most importantly, fun time with my beautiful wife. Again, thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. Keep-up the enlightened work.

    • Happy Graduation and thank you for the kind words. I like your plan of action and am sure your wife appreciates your commitment to her and your future life together. Enjoy! 🙂

  6. Dave,
    You are so eloquent in your description of the life scenario of the corporate slide into retirement. My late spouse worked for a Forbes 500 company. At age 56 his division was sold, The new company did not need him as they mostly used their own personnel to fill the field positions. He was retired with an early retirement package. This scenario has been replayed for many friends and relatives. Many corporate types are not given the opportunity to reach full retirement.

    Our choices at that time have been critical for me. He had iffy health so we decided to take lump some retirement settlement and luckily we could retain the his life insurance and health benefits. We knew if his health failed (which it did), I would loose half of his retirement monthly income.

    For a widow it is always good to find a good accountant who has good investment savvy. For me I could not have chosen better. My investment guy almost doubled the 401K and lump some money in about 10 years when I retired.

    We had a good knowledge of the challenge of living on a fixed income. My father died when he was 65 years old and my mother had minimal assets. I managed the funds and we supplemented her income when special needs came up. Our lesson was understanding the financial and healthcare piece. For my parents quality of life never came to be. Health was on the downside for both of them at a very early age.

    For me the most critical piece was learning to accept what was and then embracing the situation so I could make the best out of what is. For me David’s death was the emotional challenge I found most difficult to embrace. But I have found a meaningful life filled with family, friends and believe it or not blogging.

    I look forward to your continued saga of life lived with an intentional up swing.

  7. Thank you Carol for sharing what has not been an easy retirement journey. All the planning and preparation can go for naught if your health does not hold up. It sounds like you are finding meaning in the relationships with family and friends. And your positive attitude is something to treasure and nurture going forward. Good luck as you continue your journey and here’s to your well deserved up-swing! 🙂

  8. Dave, I enjoyed the post that I’ve tweeted the link out to my followers. I’m 56 years old trying to figure out how to face down retirement in the next ten years with very little to show for retirement savings due to life’s tendency to kick some of us down harder than others. I’ve come to the conclusion that, if I’m to enjoy my “retirement”, I will have to come up with a plan to phase out of my corporate job into a job I truly enjoy that provides an additional income to my retirement fund as well as to give me a reason to get up in the morning. So I completely agree with your concept of pursuing a balance in both lifestyle and the financial aspects of retirement.

    • I think you are on the right track Alan. There is no reason why you cannot find a pursuit or second career that you enjoy to spend time at while retired. The additional money is always welcome but beyond that you have identified something you care about and can explore into the future. Good luck with your journey and keep me posted.

  9. At 58 I found myself unexpectedly ‘retired’ when another business wanted to buy me out. I figured the all cash deal might not come along ever again so why not. Since I’ve worked for myself forever working for someone else at this point in my life probably not in the cards. Trying to fill my day is the challenge. I always like to do something. Just haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t want to start up another business or commit to a ‘full-time’ gig. This retirement thing is full of challenges and so far I find many others in the same boat trying to figure it out.

    • I hear you Bill – one of my biggest fears has been running out of things to do in retirement. I am feeling better having created a bit of a daily routine that I enjoy and am free to depart from whenever I want. I will probably look into volunteering at some point but I don’t want to be “underutilized” – I have some skills from my working years that could be helpful rather than sweeping the floor or answering the phone! Good luck to us all and enjoy…

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