Tips to Help Your Transition Into Retirement

When I took the leap to join the ranks of the retired I thought life was going to be a breeze. All of the tough stuff was behind – right? The kids were in general independent and having families of their own. The house was pretty much paid off. I felt confident stress from the job would soon fade to a distant memory. And I had a ton of hobbies and projects I was just itching to get to. How difficult would it be to spend my days doing what I wanted rather than what someone told me to do?

It did not take long to discover the switch from full-time-employee to full-time-retiree is not without its own challenges. I was a novice at the retirement thing, a first timer with no history to look to for guidance. The retirement my parents live is from a different time and although they are very happy the vision I had for my own second act was not the same as theirs. Right off the bat I felt guilty if I did not keep myself occupied every moment. I had learned in the working world never to waste one precious minute lest an important deadline fall into jeopardy. Old habits can be difficult to overcome and I struggled to evolve. Then I faced the dilemma all retirees will one day confront when asked at a party “What do you do?” Without my career to fall back on I was caught off guard. What exactly does the retired Dave do? How should I spend my free time in some worthwhile way?

That was four years ago. Since then I believe I have gotten better at this retirement thing. It takes work but I figure there is no better way to spend my time now if I hope to make the best of the coming decades of retired living. Here are a few thoughts that helped me more smoothly transition into retirement.

Adjust your intensity to fit your new lifestyle. Now that you are retiring, you are free from any stressful job requiring 100 percent of your focus 100 percent of the time. The only deadlines you face are those you set. Your transition can be easier if you calm yourself and learn to find a pace that you are comfortable with. Concentrate on the journey rather than the individual steps. In the initial days of my retirement I often found myself kicking into a higher gear when doing simple things like gardening or cleaning the house. Rather than relax in the moment and enjoy the activity I pushed myself to get it done quickly and efficiently – just like the boss always wanted. But there was no more boss. It took serious effort to recondition myself. I had to realize there is no hurry. Not everything must get done on a schedule. Now I sweep the deck slowly, patiently, enjoying the nearby oak trees and savoring my freedom. It still gets done only at a pace that suits me.

Couple on the beach

Give yourself time and space to get there. Don’t be in a hurry to get somewhere you have never been before.  There are no more deadlines. Realize you answer to no one other than yourself. Don’t pile on unnecessary pressure to immediately achieve. If what you do is pleasing to you it is worthwhile. Cut yourself some slack – you have earned it. You are not the first person to retire and I would venture that few newbies get everything right from day one.

Channel efforts toward what you can control. No one can entirely control what life might throw our way. That does not mean we cannot influence our future. Retirement is the right time to focus on what is good for you. You finally have time for you. You finally have time to figure out an exercise regimen that you can stick with for your good health. You have time to work on that diet to make you fit not fat. You have time to explore the multitude of activities to engage your mind and heart and passion. Rather than focus on what you cannot do try to imagine what you can – and go for it.

Don’t hide what you are feeling. This is a new chapter in your life. You should not expect it to proceed flawlessly. There will be frustrating moments to cope with. But you are not alone. It is not healthy to hide or try to ignore feelings that cause you concern. Remember giving advice to a child or friend encouraging them to share what distressed them? Talking about it can help. That was good advice – good enough to follow yourself. Facing difficulties alone can feel overwhelming especially for those retired. We no longer have co-workers to lean on, children are out in the world living their own lives, everyone always seems to be so busy. It is often up to each of us to take the initiative to open up and begin the healing process.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to keeping busy.  With decades of retirement life ahead, one hobby or golfing every day is not going to make it. Variety is the spice of life even more so in retirement. The more options you have to entertain and engage you the less likely you are to become bored. Rather than bored we hope to find ourselves excited about what the new day has to offer. Don’t be afraid to try something – anything – to stir things up. What do you have to lose?

Being retired should be fun so don’t wait too long to dig in. Take advantage of the fact you will never be younger than you are today. Do those things now that down the road may become too demanding. Cut yourself some slack but don’t allow yourself to watch life from the sidelines. As long as you are healthy enough to get out there and play, join the game and enjoy. That’s what retirement is all about.

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!