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.

Are You As Happy As The Retiree Next Door?

Each morning before getting out of bed I take some time to center myself and my thoughts in preparation for the day ahead. It helps to highlight the right path before taking that first step. I am thankful for all that I have been blessed with from my wonderful parents who raised me in a sane, safe and supportive family to my now-independent children who I always enjoy seeing to my beautiful wife resting at my side. A quick glance out the window adds to a swelling feeling of appreciation as I watch the sunlight spread throughout the branches of the nearby oak trees and listen to the always vocal birds busily engaged in the morning. Aside from the “normal” aches and pains I am healthy and feel good. I look forward to what the day has to offer.

I very much enjoy being retired. The career I left behind was a good one. I was involved with a number of very cool companies with awesome people and though we may not have always knocked it out of the park we were generally successful in our efforts. But I do not miss the stress or the deadlines or pressure that came with the job. Of course it would be nice to have that regular check coming in but you can’t have everything.

Retirement has been my chance to spend time doing what I want. My focus has changed. Rather than defining myself by my work I am learning to define myself by what I do with my time. I am no longer a Sales Manager at such-and-such a start-up but rather a traveling-piano-playing-hiking-blogging-French-learning-garden-growing-new-recipe-trying-stepping-outside-of-the-box member of this human race. It took some effort to let go of the me I had been for more than three decades but I feel I have made the transition.

Bernina flowers

I am learning to focus more on experiences rather than things. When younger it was important to work toward physical things such as cars, homes, clothes, furnishings, etc. But at this stage in life, with the kids on their own and our material needs thoroughly met, it is time to move beyond just possessions. I will always enjoy a slick sports car passing me on the road but now I see it with different eyes, appreciating it rather than longing for it. Architectural Digest is filled with incredible homes and equally amazing contents – all well and good. I enjoy looking at the pictures without trying to figure out a way to have them for myself.

What lights my fire now is travelling and wandering. Whether I step out my front door to head down the road or board a plane to some preciously unvisited destination, getting out in the world is what I want to do in my retirement. There is so much to experience, so many things I have not done and now, finally, I have the time. And it is no longer about staying in the ritziest fanciest places. Now I prefer to spend my money on what lies outside rather than inside my accommodations.

Not everyone finds retirement fulfilling and exciting. Some might become bored without a clear precise routine laid out to follow each day. Without regular interaction with co-workers it is possible to begin feeling lonely. If you are no longer making money you could feel you are worth less than when you brought in a regular paycheck. As we age it becomes more difficult to do those little things we took for granted. Although liberating the freedom to make choices and live each day on your own terms is also intimidating. There is no one but me to blame if I don’t get it right.

Despite the challenges, I believe that in general retirees are happier living their second act. Despite bumps along the road having control over how you choose to spend your time is empowering.

I recently tuned into a seminar conducted by Merrill Lynch called “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List”. The gist of the session was that the majority of retirees are enjoying the leisure time that is now theirs to manage. And that is a good thing because the average 65 and older person interviewed has 7.5 hours of leisure time each day compared with those poor folks in the 35-44 age group who are limited to only 4.1 hours per day.

The freedom and flexibility to live the life they choose makes leisure time that much more rewarding. For example in retirement 60 percent found leisure experiences with their grandkids more fulfilling than with their children. Since they are free to do what they want more power to them!

I think when it comes to living a fulfilling retirement making the most of leisure time is an excellent place to start. Getting here has been a hard fought battle – time to celebrate. No one is telling us what we must do – we are free to choose. Whatever your passion, whatever your pleasure the wait is over. Enjoy!