Those of us fortunate enough to be living the retired life by choice should be eternally grateful. The “by choice” is an important consideration. If we are jettisoned from our jobs because of changes in the company or the phasing out of our roles or if we are forced to leave a career we like for health reasons we are talking a different reality. But assuming we have sufficient control over our life to make the choice to retire we should count ourselves among the lucky.
How many have friends who are mired in the daily grind of a thankless career counting the days until they might hope to call it quits? “Just five more years and I will have enough time in to get 80 percent of my pension.” Five years may sound like a reasonable length of time but what if those years are going to be filled with stress and worry and pressure? It’s not always just about the money but also what toll staying on the job could take upon your long term well being.
Many know all too well how a stressful job can have a serious impact on your health. Unfortunately not all have been able to set aside sufficient savings to subsidize retirement, especially the retirement they envision. They have no choice but to keep their noses to the grindstone for the foreseeable future with the real possibility they may never be able to retire. What a horrible fate to be prisoner to career that slowly but inevitably sucks the life and soul out of its people.
After almost five years retired I can honestly say I do not recall a single day when I missed the job. For 30 years I built sales teams at various tech startups. Sometimes our sales for the month determined whether the company could pay the bills and keep the lights on. Can you say pressure cooker? I have many fond memories of people I met over the years, a few of which I remain in contact with – but only a few. I remember being part of first rate celebrations on tropical islands when things were going well. I can look back and feel good having been part of numerous small companies that grew to larger companies. I have no complaints. But I don’t miss it.
Along with the memorable moments there were plenty of stressful times which caused challenges in relationships and drove up my blood pressure. Who can forget the mind numbing daily Bay Area commuter traffic, the end of the quarter account reviews in front of impatient unforgiving executives, or the multiple “reorganizations” and “down sizings” that came with the territory? On more occasions than I care to remember I was forced to fire someone who was doing their best but the decision had been made to reduce headcount. Each employee was not just another headcount but rather a real person with a life and family and dreams. I don’t miss that thankless responsibility for an instant. And by the way these days my blood pressure is no longer an issue. 🙂
But now, after a long journey, it is time to relish the joy of retirement. Not only are you able to avoid negatives associated with a stressful job but in retirement you actually get to pick and choose how you spend your time. What a luxury! You no longer need to be productive every minute. You get to set your own schedule – or have no schedule at all. And whatever is on your calendar can be rescheduled should the mood strike you. You can take advantage of opportunities spur of the moment. You are no longer forced to battle the weekend crowds since you have seven days a week of freedom. Flexibility is your new middle name. You can see your children as often as you want (as long as they can make time in their busy schedules).
For me one of the biggest pluses of retirement is the flexibility of my days. My attitude getting up each morning is “let’s see what the day will bring.” I have my regular activities to choose from, a bunch of interesting possibilities I am investigating and I try to remain open to new experiences. Rather than over plan the day I am learning to go with the flow. Our neighbors came by the other day in the early afternoon and asked if my wife and I would like to jump in their car and join them at a local seafood joint for some oysters and cocktails. It took all of ten seconds to say “sure thing, let’s go”, impressing our friends who said enviously, “so that’s what it’s like to be retired.” If a neighbor wants to go for a hike in an hour, okay. Should family happen to be passing through we can always make time for an impromptu visit. We finally get to do what we want when we want and with who we want – that for me is the best part of being retired.
I know I am lucky to be retired. I have no intention of letting my good fortune go to waste. Tomorrow is another day and I can’t wait.