Do you need a vacation in retirement?

Taking time to get away from the daily grind while you are working is an important ingredient to maintain sanity and a healthy relationship with your partner. The stress and hectic pace of full time employment requires downtime to stay on top of you our game, recharge the old motor and reinvigorate what might otherwise become stagnant thinking. Who does not remember that wonderful feeling after a week or so away when you return to work ready for action? Well at least until you quickly find yourself overwhelmed as you are forced to return from that slower pace you so easily were able to adapt to. Vacation when you are working is important.

What about after you retire?

Supposedly retirement provides an escape from all those stresses and hassles typical to the working world. We are no longer working full time so problems associated with that state of life should be a distant memory. Do you really need to take a vacation from a retired life spent doing whatever you want? Does the old engine need to recharge when it has not been subject to those same demands that wear it down?

Having been retired for three years now I have my routine down. I keep busy pursuing activities and passions that I love. I try to avoid stressful situations and with the flexibility of running my own life am generally successful, at least to this point. But just because I don’t need to escape my day to day life does not mean I have given up vacationing.

My wife and I are in Maui at the moment. We have been here a few times including an idyllic wedding not so long ago. Maui is a special place for us. And yet I cannot help but feel that it might be better suited for a younger generation. All around us happy families with little ones are enjoying the sun and surf, splashing and playing in the numerous pools that decorate our surroundings. Squeals of joy pierce the air and we cannot help but get caught up in there young exuberance and love so obviously displayed. What fun for all! But what about those of us whose kids have grown up?

Young adults pursue a myriad of activities from parasailing to paddle boarding, from sunset cruises to snorkeling excursions. We did these same things when we were a similar age. And I am sure we could do them (most of them anyway) today if we so chose. And that is where I find myself challenged. I don’t really want to do those things. Am I taking full advantage of these wonderful islands if I am happy taking a walk here and there or sitting on our balcony reading a book? Shouldn’t I be out there doing all I can to not waste a moment of our limited time here?

If there is one thing I have learned in retirement it is I do not need to stay busy every moment to enjoy myself. Downtime is good time if that is how I choose to go. A balance of activity and relaxation is a what keeps this ship safely on course. I enjoy doing things at my own pace and choosing those things I most want to partake in. What I do is what is right for me at the moment. That is one of the joys of retired life.

Maui is truly beautiful with warm tropical breezes wafting through the palms, miles of white sandy beaches and an ocean a color of blue that takes your breath away. But it is just one place amongst a multitude. There are so many wonderful destinations we could visit, places we have never been to. And as retirees we finally have the time to get out there.

I think the trick in retirement is realizing you no longer vacation to get away from something. Instead you are blessed with the freedom to vacation just to get to something wonderful. Rather than escape you now vacation to add to your list of memorable experiences. Stay as long as you want. Do as much or as little as you choose. And if you like what you have found you can do it again. Could it get any better?

And who knows – I just might try my hand at a little paddle boarding tomorrow if I am so inclined. Aloha for now.

3 Retirement Misconceptions

Each of us has his or her particular vision of how we hope retirement will play out. Some look forward to an active life doing those things they never had time for while mired in the working world. Action and adventure will be the topic of the day. Others may wish to pursue a slower pace enjoying each day for what it has to offer without feeling the need to pack calendars with activities. Whatever your personal preference it is important to look ahead to plan and prepare. Good things do not automatically happen just because you roll into retired life.

We look forward to living and pursuing a second act doing what we genuinely enjoy. We have earned it. This is our time. And hopefully we can each do just that. But it never hurts to be a little cautious. It is better to go into retirement with eyes wide open rather than simply optimistically hoping for the best. As you navigate your retirement here are a few gottchas to watch for:

I have worked all my life and I can’t wait to do nothing in retirement

Your retirement should be a time for you to turn things down a notch and take it easy. You have earned it. For many the initial honeymoon period – that first 6-12 months right after you retire – is a wonderful time. No more getting up early to battle the traffic. Goodbye stressful meetings and busy airports. Say hello to sleeping in a bit and starting your day slowly, at a pace that suits you. Doing nothing – “watching the grass grow” as my dad would say – feels darn good. But then a funny thing can happen.
Instead of feeling excited about the new day you find yourself becoming a little bored. Those fun distractions that initially brought a smile to your face start to feel a bit old. Doing nothing turns out to not be all you had expected.

It is valuable for those nearing retirement to take an honest look at how they will spend their days once the job is no more. How will you keep busy and engaged in meaningful activities? What will those activities be and do you have enough of them? Finding yourself retired and bored can be a terrible thing. Better to put those creative powers to use today before you arrive at retirement’s doorstep to build your list of passions, hobbies and worthwhile pursuits. You have the power to make each day memorable or at the very least not boring. You can always make time to do nothing. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you have made it to retirement your job is done. It takes effort to live a fulfilling retired life.

I will never have enough money to retire

In order to live a safe and sane retirement we need to have sufficient savings or some continuing source of income to pay the bills. How much you need depends a lot on the lifestyle you live. Once retired some expenses will reduce or go away – education for the children, mortgage payments if you have been fortunate enough to pay off your home, and gas bills to fill the cars for the work commute. Other aspects of life will become more expensive such as healthcare. Each of us should look closely at the way we hope to live our retirement and compare it to the income we expect to have. You may have to make adjustments. Some choose to make a trial run living as if retired to see just how accurate their estimates are. Others wait until they can wait no longer due to failing health or changing job circumstances.

My fear is if you wait too long you may miss out on those younger years when you can still do it all (almost). When you first retire at say 65, the options for what you can try and experiment with are broader than when you get to 75. Hopefully you are still healthy enough to get out there and play. That is not to say just because you are 75 it is too late. But the reality of aging is what it is. It is easier to do some things while you are younger. If you worry about having enough money to cover every contingency you will probably never retire. The cost of that additional financial security may require you missing out on experiences you will never be able to recoup.

I will be bored if I don’t work

This can be a tough one. Numerous studies show a majority of seniors would choose to work in some capacity after retirement. The biggest reason is to maintain the social interaction that comes with a job. When we retire we not only leave behind our career but also all of those who along the way became part of our lives. Some make the effort to maintain relationships after retiring but it is not easy. That common ground provided by sharing a workplace is gone and sometimes there is nothing commensurate to take its place. And then there are those who genuinely enjoy what they are doing so leaving the job can be seen as a negative.

I have found the absence of a job a good thing in my retirement. That incredible stress and constant pressure to perform is replaced with a slower paced day to day existence. I get to decide what I want to do when I want. I can explore interests I may have been forced to abandon since I now control the clock. I am looking into volunteering in the community as well as investigating local organizations in such areas as gardening and wine appreciation. I rarely find myself bored, but I have only been at it for three years now. Still, short of needing to go back to work for the money I am quite happy far, far away from the work scene. Who has time to be bored?  :)