A Little Routine Fights Boredom in Retirement

Let’s figure that by the time you near retirement, you have been a member of the working masses for 30 plus years – a pretty reasonable assumption if you started at age 21 or thereabouts. During all those years hard at it chances are you developed a regular schedule for your days. Get up at the same time, go through your morning ritual of newspaper-breakfast-coffee, make the ever-so-enjoyable commute to your place of employment, work, return home, and roll into your evening routine. It is easier to fall into a routine that works for you than to try to figure out each day what to do next. And there is a certain comfort in predictability.

Now that you are retiring, a little routine can help in ways you may not have considered prior to your arrival.

As a retiree, how you choose to spend your time each day depends on you. You have earned the right to do what you want when you want for as long as you want. This freedom is one of the great rewards of retired living. But along with freedom can come challenges. What will you do now that you can do anything you want? There are a lot of hours that make up the many days ahead. If you retire at 65 you can hope for 20 or more years of retirement. And if you are like most of us, you want to make the most of each.

I find a little routine provides a nice framework for the day. Admittedly I am a pretty organized person. My wife may upgrade that description to obsessive but it works for me. As I live my “trial retirement” until the official move to 100 percent retired status, I have a handful of activities I do throughout my normal day. Without the requirements of a job, having a routine helps me stay engaged and active. I don’t hover in bed even though nothing specific needs to be done. Instead I make it a point to get up and around by 7:00. Getting up at a regular time each day allows me to take advantage of what is for me a high energy time of day. I have always been a morning person.

Here is a typical day. I begin with breakfast and the newspaper – I recently added doing the daily crossword puzzle to help get my mental juices flowing. Coffee in hand, I head to the computer to write/blog/create/see what is new in the world for a few hours. Next it is time for a workout alternating between weights, stationary bike or yoga. Then lunch followed by an hour walk in the neighborhood sometimes to the local store to gather provisions for dinner. Back home and a bit more computer. Then comes my “elective period” when I will spend some time in the garden or engage in various home projects or read or play the piano or watch the grass grow, whatever suits my fancy for that particular day. Time for a little TV where I watch an hour show recorded earlier (no time for commercials in my retired life!). Somewhere between 2:30-4:00 I typically grow a bit restless and feel the need to get out of the house one more time. The perfect opportunity for a quick trip to the store or neighborhood coffee spot. Upon my return a little preparation for the evening meal and suddenly it is time for the 5:00 news.

My routine works for me. Yours may be something entirely different. But having a set of regular activities to occupy your time may help to avoid that what-do-I do-now feeling sometimes experienced by seniors. There is nothing worse for a healthy retiree than to find herself bored. All of the promises of living the retirement dream amount to little if you are unhappy and unsatisfied with the life you live.

The good news is since you are master-of-the-schedule you are not forced you to stick to the plan. If you want to deviate a bit or depart entirely, you are free to do so. You can change the routine and change it back or not – you are in control. And you are always free to expand your horizons and try new things. Remember you write the rules in your retirement.

For me, that little framework for the day helps me feel that although retired, my day is far from empty and I better get to it. There are things that I should be doing, things that I enjoy doing. The good news is in retirement, I get to decide what those things are.

Time for my workout – enjoy your day and enjoy your retirement.

How One Couple Prepares to Retire Together

As my wife and I grow ever nearer retirement, we are excited about our future together. It has been a long road but we are just about there. Here’s the current situation – my wife works for a start up managing all aspects of the office along with doing her best to assure the various employees play well together. She is wonderful at her job and although not always a cake walk, enjoys the interaction with co-workers and energy that a small business perpetuates. Prior to the last two years, I also worked in the technology start up arena managing various sales teams. Never a dull moment as we drove hard to achieve our goals and then reset at the beginning of each new month.

These last two years I have been “free” from work as the next gig has not materialized and in all honesty is not likely to. I am 55 which is about a century too old for the typical start up where average ages are lower than my children (ouch). But rather than bitch and moan, I am looking ever forward. I know that in the next few years – be that one or five or somewhere in between – my wife and I will retire. We look forward to spending quality time together doing what we want with our days free from stress and just plain happy to be alive.

As big believers in planning ahead, my wife and I have been discussing how we will retire together and not drive each other crazy.

Sharing our individual visions of retirement

Since we are unique people it makes sense that we do not have exactly the same view of our retirement-to-be. So we talk about it. We have identified some of our shared visions as well as areas in which we differ. Here is where I believe we are on the right track – although we have some differing views of retirement, we are not trying to reshape or change one another (probably a good thing since at our age we are pretty set in our ways). Instead we do our best to support and encourage each other to pursue the retirement that is most desired. And having uncovered no real clashes in our visions, the road ahead looks relatively smooth (he said optimistically).

My wife is the more social of us and enjoys spending time with others at dinners and events. She is also most happy when she keeps busy. It is possible that her fulfilling retirement may include a part time job to occupy perhaps half of the day. In this role she can interact with co-workers as well as stay engaged and active. Although I like people just fine, I have no problem pursuing activities alone or with just her as opposed to getting out and about (and after 30 years in the Bay Area, I HATE traffic and crowds with a passion). With the past two years of “practice retirement” under my belt, I have created an enjoyable routine that occupies me until about 4:00 each afternoon. The good news is I still have one hour to add something new before cocktails!

Doing things together as well as apart

My wife and I love to do things together. We travel whenever we can, hike every hill in our vicinity, happily wander the countryside in search of that perfect loaf of bread or Pinot Noir, share a quiet moment reading side by side, and typically end the day perched in the best spot to watch the sunset. We are blessed in that we do not have to be doing something every moment. Even if we are doing different things being near each other works just fine. And although we share many common interests, we also support the pursuit of our individual hobbies. We agree it is healthy to have time apart just as much as time together. While she puzzles – either jigsaw or Sudoku or crossword – I write my next blog. When she reads a book while catching a bit of sun in the backyard, I fiddle around in the garden to make it just so. We do things together and we do things apart and the mix works for us

Talking about what lies ahead

The reality is we are getting older. How that will roll out for us over the coming years remains to be seen. But we see our friends and family moving up in years and witness the impact first hand. We are optimistic but also realistic. Already the little aches and pains are making their presence known. Those knees we took for granted as we ran those many miles in our youth will have their say. Hikes we aggressively undertook up steep hills need to be tempered a bit as stamina is not what it used to be. The volume on the TV is a bit louder and the heat in the house a bit higher. It isn’t easy but trying to ignore reality is a losing proposition. We are trying to accept aging gracefully, making the best of it and adjusting our lifestyle accordingly. And we are far from done as we plan on doing all we can along the way to make the best of our second act together.

Learning From Fellow Retirement Travelers

For all intents and purposes, I have come to realize that I am taking the initial steps into my retirement. I have been out of work for more than two years and prospects are not overly hopeful that I will find something along the lines of what I have been doing for the past 30 years during my career. And in all honesty I am not sure I still fit in with the fast and furious high tech craziness that typifies this Bay Area in which I live

Am I out in left field if I find the new social media far from social? Something that replaces face to face interaction is far from social in my book. Perhaps a better term would be “virtual media” since most interactions now reside in the realm of the internet. I will concede there is value in the quick easy way we can send a brief note to touch bases with those we care about. My daughter and I text pretty much daily and are able to share up to the moment updates with pictures even. But as far as knowing everything there is to know about me and what I like and where I am and what I had for breakfast, who cares?

One other area of technology that I find valuable is blogging. Back in 2010 I started writing about my journey as I attempt to prepare for the retirement I would eventually (hopefully) realize. Although it may have arrived a bit ahead of schedule, I am thankful for what I have learned. I hope I am better prepared to live the fulfilling retirement I imagine now that I have an understanding of what it will entail.

I have learned a lot from various reader comments. Frequently, fellow retirees-to-be share their personal experiences as they attempt tonavigate the retirement jungle out there. Most are in the same boat as they near retirement age and are not 100 percent sure about the future. Views shared typically express a general excitement, a curiosity, sometimes a bit of uncertainty, but across the board optimism is one of the most common feelings expressed.

I want to share a few comments that I received with requests for my free eBook, Navigating the Retirement Jungle. What I find most encouraging is the authors are just regular people like you and me doing their best to figure out how they can make the most of their retirement. No one has all the answers but many are beginning to ask the right questions.

“My husband plans to retire soon and is very nervous about the whole aspect of being retired” – sound familiar?

“I have been reading/thinking/planning about retirement for a couple of years now and believe I am just about there. I would like to read your book as I head towards making the decision final” – just like you and me, doing the research to plan for the transition.

“Kindly send me a copy of the book on retirement so I can read and avoid some pitfalls.”

“Please send me your free e-book. I am just ending the first year of this honeymoon period and look forward to endless opportunities in the future” – that is what I mean by optimism and excitement about the future!

“I am 55 now and planning retirement starting at 60 or 61. I spend most of my free time searching and reading retirement-related articles, blogs and books. I am truly mentally absorbed by the “planning phase” in order to be well prepared for the day I can retire” - I am always encouraged by others who take seriously planning and preparation before they retire. Ideally their foresight will allow them to identify potential problems while there is still time to make corrections.

“Hi, I am not about to retire, possibly in 15-20 years more but I got curious…I’d like to prepare my own retirement and be happy when I reach that stage” – I can’t fault anyone for starting early when it comes to planning for retirement.

“Well I am starting my retirement adventure on January 1st. It is clear that although I have financially planned for my retirement, I have not accounted for what I want to do. I just started researching the subject today and started a list of all the things that I can think of. I am up to 32! I’d like a copy of your book to help me navigate the next 20 years” – once again reinforcing the importance of preparing for the non-financial aspects of retirement along with the financial.

There are many other comments but hopefully you get the general theme. Most are excited about the possibilities of retirement. Most have not prepared as fully as they could while the date to retire sneaks ever closer. But most also realize the importance of knowing as best they can ahead of time what they are getting into.

The lessons continue as the journey is far from done. Retirement – it’s only the beginning…