Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

Time sure does fly. The other day I took a look at the first blog I posted for “Retirement – Only the Beginning” way back on July 4, 2010. I had been contently working away at various start ups across Silicon Valley for over 30 years raising a family and setting aside a little something for the future. At age 52 I figured I had another ten to twelve years to build that nest egg and get ready to depart the working world. Then suddenly I found myself out of a job.

After a reasonable amount of panic and some fruitless searching for an immediate replacement job, I stepped back to catch my breath and put some thought into the future. It was a bit scary but I had faith I would re-enter the business world within a reasonable period of time. In the meantime I thought about what I would like to be doing and what I definitely wanted to avoid. Of course it was a real possibility I might not have the luxury of making a choice if I needed to return short order to the competitive job market

With my job search under way I began to think beyond my career and look to what might lie ahead. I had never given any real thought to retirement but with time on my hands and the years ticking by, what better time than now?

I had come to the realization that although only 52, each passing year brought me closer to retirement age. I had no idea what retired life would look like but I knew I wanted to retire at some to-be-determined age. I just did not have much insight into what exactly I would do with those months and years in my control.

So I asked myself, “What can I do now to prepare for my future retirement?”

And so I began a journey that continues today and remains a work in progress. Here is how I described my motivation for starting “Retirement – Only the Beginning” in my first blog:

I started LoveBeingRetired.com for two reasons: (1) to attempt to navigate the huge amount of retirement information currently available and distill into accurate, succinct information. In effect, create a checklist to identify now those things that we can do so our retirement is the best possible. (2) Equally important to discuss and share what we can do to help assure a quality retirement, filled with fun and adventure and excitement that makes each day worth getting out of bed.

Today I consider myself “unofficially retired.” I still keep my eyes open for that perfect situation where I would want to hop back into the working world. But over the past two years, my criterion has become progressively stricter. I am not finding much in that fast-paced high stress technology world where I grew up that interests me enough to commit 60-70 hours a week.

And so the journey continues.  I want to share a few tidbits I have learned while blogging these past years. Having them in my back pocket helps me feel a bit more prepared for what the future may hold.

Have a plan

I often hear from readers that are nervous about retirement when it comes to knowing what they will do to occupy their days. Most planning prior to retirement tends to be financial in nature. Not too many spend commensurate time preparing for what to do to stay actively engaged and excited about living once they retire. Some first begin thinking about their retired days when they are on the doorstep of making the move. I have learned that waiting too long increases the risk you may not be able to make changes and adjustments that could improve the quality of your retirement. You might run out of runway before you get off the ground. However, if you take the time to look down the road and visualize the life you want to live before you retire, you might add to your overall enjoyment and avoid at least some nasty surprises. Since you will likely be retired for 20 years or more, having a plan for your future should be a priority.

A regular routine is a good thing

I am a very organized person who does not do well sitting still for extended periods of time. Having something to do keeps me engaged and active. During my pre-retirement warm up, I have established a nice daily routine to keep me busy mentally and physically and I enjoy it. I make it a point to get out of bed by 7:00 each morning. Since I am a morning person, this regular starting point helps me kick into gear rather than find myself reluctant to exit a warm bed. With my routine of blogging, exercise, reading, gardening, walking, and watching the flowers grow, I never find myself remotely bored until maybe 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, just in time to think about dinner and a nice glass of vino.

Frugal is fine

My wife and I love to travel but we have learned we do not need to stay in five star hotels to have a good time. We enjoy good meals out without feeling the need to go to the hottest new spot in town charging exorbitant prices and burdened with long lines. We are happiest being together in a lovely location enjoying each other and the moment. It is amazing how affordable life can be if you do not require all those bells and whistles to have a good time. Outside of entertainment, we do not really need anything for the house, the cars should run for a long time, we have all the clothes we need (still fun to shop for those special additions of course), and we really enjoy cooking our meals together and eating at home. It turns out it’s really not that difficult to live well without spending extravagantly.

It’s okay to do nothing

As I have shared more than once over the years my biggest fear of retirement has been running out of things to do and potentially finding myself bored. But it is important to balance meaningful activities with time off. I have come to realize that a happy retirement for me will be a combination of doing things and doing nothing. I am learning to be okay with cutting myself some slack and enjoying downtime, no longer feeling guilty if I am not accomplishing something every moment. It has been a process to free myself from this self inflicted guilt. After so many years hurrying through incredibly busy work days where there was never a moment to spare, I have come to accept that I have earned the right to do nothing. And I like it!

Good health should not be taken for granted

As we get older we are constantly reminded of what challenges the future may hold from slower reflexes to reduced strength to precarious balance negotiating the roads we walk. We witness it every day in friends and family or read about it in AARP and see it on the news. It won’t be easy but we have committed ourselves to do our best to stay healthy along the way. Working out regularly, walking together, watching what we eat, and generally being aware of our physical and mental state is our conscious contribution to staying healthy. Every healthy day is a blessing and we appreciate it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

An uncle of mine living in a retirement community tells the story of a retired bigwig CEO who feels he is better than the rest of us mere mortals despite having departed the working world many years earlier. My uncle gently informed him that he used to be a CEO. Now he is just another retiree like everyone else in residence. I think as we age it is important to maintain a sense of humor. Those readers who despite challenges they encounter as they age are able to maintain an optimistic outlook have the best chance of living a happy retirement. A smile, a little laughter, and a relaxed optimistic view of the world can go a long way.

I want to thank you readers who over the years have shared candidly details of your personal journeys into retirement. I have learned a lot from your honest feedback, real world experiences and sense of humor in the face of challenges. And I look forward to sharing more as together we continue navigating the retirement jungle that makes up the landscape for our second act.

Good luck to us all and let’s enjoy.

Enjoying the Freedom of Retirement

A typical life story for most of us might go something like this: Our first 25 years are spent growing up, experiencing an introduction to the realities of what it means to become an adult and getting educated as we prepare as best we can to enter the “real world.” The next 30-40 years are spent working for a living, paying the bills and raising a family.  And hopefully the final years – our second act – will be spent retired from the stresses and challenges that we have somehow managed to survive to this point.

Not an easy road by any means yet something we all must travel. Looking back on the years gone by I am sometimes amazed at the resilience and persistence exhibited by we mere mortals. In efforts to make ends meet and prepare for our future we are often forced to endure thankless and sometimes abusive work environments for years on end. Stress becomes our new best friend as we attempt to pay never ending day-to-day bills while somehow also providing for big ticket expenses like education, braces, cars, and the occasional wedding. We are forced to delay the pursuit of our own interests and passions because there is just not enough time in the day. It just plain ain’t easy!

But should we be so fortunate as to safely and sanely arrive at the doorstep of retirement, perhaps this is our time to live a little. Maybe with a large chunk of our responsibilities taken care of there will be a little time left in the day to enjoy the freedom we so rightly deserve.

If I close my eyes and think about what the retired me will be able to do (or not do as the case may be), the future looks bright. I am optimistic and excited and more than ready to jump into that second act and live it for all it is worth.

Here is a short list of some ways I plan to enjoy the freedom of my retirement:

(1) Knock out my to-do list – I have been adding to this list for many years in the hopes I may someday have the free time to attack it. Based on where the list is today, I figure to be busy for about a year assuming I do not add to it along the way. I can’t wait!

(2) Set my own pace - since there is nothing that I must do or any hard and fast timelines, I plan to proceed at a pace that suites me. I figure some days I may be less energetic than others. If that is the case, I can and will take it slower. I am the decider.

(3) Try new things – I am anxious to dig into my various hobbies and interests but now that I have time I hope to experiment with new things as well. I want to take a journey outside of my comfort zone while I am still young enough to do so. A little excitement and a little variety are in the cards for me.

(4) Spend more time with friends and family – the most important people in my life have sometimes been pushed to the bottom of my priority list due the nature of life. I plan to renew and rebuild those relationships I value most.

(5) Writing – I love to express myself in blogs and books. I can see each day starting with some time in front of the computer where I put thoughts to paper (or actually MS Word). And of course if I lack inspiration on a particular day no problem – I will try again tomorrow. No pressure…

(6) Try my hand at cooking – I love good food and am always looking for the next killer recipe. Now I have time to experiment and discover even more.

(7) Do nothing and feel guilt free – I know that the habits built over a 30 year career will take some time to break. One I plan on addressing short order is riding myself of that nagging feeling of guilt should I not put every minute to productive use. If I decide to sit in the yard with coffee in hand for the better part of the morning, so be it. Reading, napping, and daydreaming will have all the time they need in my retired life.

Obviously this is just a subset of what can be a truly impressive list. And your list may vary. Whatever your interests or passions retirement can provide the freedom to pursue each as you see fit. It has been a long road and you have earned the right to do what you want. Enjoy.

From my blog on RetireUSA.

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.