What to Expect in Retirement

The only way to really understand what it is like to live the retirement life is to do it. You might read books and blogs to get a high level overview of what to expect. Friends and family may have helpful input based upon personal experiences. And there are more courses and classes than you can shake a stick at. All of this information can provide some guidance as you begin to navigate your retirement journey. But no one who has gone before you will have lived retirement in exactly the same way you will.

Our freedom to pursue what we love while building the custom retirement closest to our individual definition of perfection is a gift. Imagine creating a “job” description for yourself that includes only those things you love. As a retiree you can set your own hours, spend your time doing what you want, avoid unnecessary stress, answer to no one and look forward to tomorrow. How does that sound?

Although your journey will not exactly mirror my own I want to share a few noteworthy discoveries made over the last four years spent in the trenches (aka retirement).

Taking responsibility for your own inspiration

It is a sad fact that some retirees all too soon find themselves disappointed. When high expectations are not met boredom and frustration can follow. And yet there are others who revel in their days. They are busy and engaged and often cannot find enough time in the day to get everything done they want. One difference is they do not wait for the world to inspire them. Instead they seek out excitement and new experiences forever on the lookout for new avenues to explore. It is not always easy to find inspiration to live life to the fullest. But waiting for something to come along is not a good course of action. I do my best to use my imagination, explore my dreams, try to stretch beyond any self-imposed limitations and go for it. So far so good.

Feeling more at peace with life

Many retirees find retirement to be a safe port after the storm. There is a lot to be said about finally arriving at the doorstep of our second act. Most of those stresses that consumed us in earlier years are behind us. We need no longer struggle with the pressures of the work scene. The family is for the most part (hopefully) raised and independent. We no longer feel the need to prove our self to anyone other than our self. And we have blessed free time to spend as we choose. Where in earlier days it was easy to let all the little things get to you, retirement seems to thicken the skin a bit – we learn not to sweat the small stuff especially when beyond our control.

For many, retirement can be the happiest time of their lives. Leaving stress behind and enjoying the moment can be just what the doctor ordered. I am learning to go with the flow and try to focus on the positive.

Watching expenses more closely

A reality of retirement is you must live within your means. According to  a recent study by BMO Wealth Management 35 percent of Americans over 55 consider debt reduction their biggest financial concern. If you were budget conscious before you retired the transition should be relatively painless. Just keep doing what worked for you on your way here. If balancing the books was challenging in the past there is some good news. You will no longer have to deal with certain expenses like education, mortgage payments (roughly one third of Americans 55 and older have paid off their homes), commuting costs, business clothes and 401k deductions. The bad news is healthcare costs have the potential to more than make up for many of those discontinued fees. I am learning in retirement the importance of balancing and prioritizing, of spending on what is most important to health and happiness while cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary things. So far it is not that difficult – just takes a little extra effort.

Humoring those friends not yet retired

Although I am retired not all of my friends are so fortunate. It should not be surprising that an occasional pang of jealousy might come into play. The good news is my friends are a great bunch of people. They look forward to their own exit from the working world, most the sooner the better. Still it does not hurt to be sensitive. Some jobs are just fine while others are nightmares. I try to encourage those struggling to hang in there and keep their eye on the prize. I tell them how I enjoy the retired life but don’t rub it in. Keep on track, stay focused and don’t give up. I can personally vouch for the fact it will be worth the wait.

No one knows how their retirement will play out until they begin living it. Expect the unexpected. Prepare as best you can for the financial as well as non-financial aspects of your journey. Do your best. Then hang on for the ride – it should be a doosie!


Get To Know The Retired You

It is not always easy to get retirement right from day one. The business that has occupied our days for the past 30 plus years as we navigate our careers and family life is not the best training ground. Where our working years tend to be dominated by perpetual responsibilities resulting in the daunting challenge to find enough time in the day to get everything done we must, retirement for many can be the polar opposite. Instead of others directing us to do what they want – be that boss or child or spouse – living our second act finds us much more in control of our time and choice of activities. Retirement can be the best of times if you understand yourself, are aware of your motivations and passions, and have a clear view of the path ahead.

Before I “officially” retired, I often imagined what it would be like. Free to manage my time howsoever I envisioned days of leisure slowly unfurling as I enjoyed the new found freedom from stress in pursuit of what mattered to me. Without deadlines and quotas shadowing my every step I planned to find the perfect pace at which to live each day – goodbye rush and hustle. No more taking one for the team, no more heroically grinning and bearing it – I would finally be able to do what I want. I was ready to get the party started.

I optimistically (perhaps a bit naïvely) considered all the good that lay ahead, the positives rather than any potential negatives. After all what could possibly be negative when it comes to living in retirement?

It was not too long before I came to discover this retirement game was not always a bed of roses. I occasionally found it challenging to think of some inspirational activity to dedicate my efforts to. Once my initial list of to-dos was done, I found myself with an awful lot of free time on a calendar ominously populated by empty squares. Since most of my friends were still working they were not able to join me in my spur of the moment pursuits. There were a lot of factors I had not considered but for better or worse I was retired.

Knowing a bit about yourself and how you will react to retired life can help smooth your transition and ideally facilitate a first rate retirement. I just finished reading Hello Someday, a collection of thoughts and exercises aimed at helping you better understand the nuances of preparing for retirement. Rather than merely a read Hello Someday is an interactive workbook with prompts to help you dig into a myriad of topics all relevant to a living a fulfilling retirement.

One section focuses on identifying some of the most important things that have influenced and shaped who we are. The questions are relevant to ask at any point in your life but particularly so when it comes to planning for retirement. If you can get yourself thinking about those important things before you retire you might better prepare for the decades ahead. Here are a few of my favorite questions:

What is your proudest moment so far?

What always brings a smile to your face?

What would you like to have happen in your life this year?

What things would you like to stop doing?

Identifying and understanding what makes us happy, inspires us, and gets us fired to live each new day can help target our efforts toward achieving those things most essential to our individual happiness. If you know what to look for, if you know what you love retirement can be your chance to go for it. Many new experiences await some to be enjoyed for the first time. As Pliny the Elder said, “What is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?” The retirement each of us live can be marvelous. We just have to know where to look.