Is it Better to be an Introvert or an Extrovert Retiree?

I recently read a book on introverts and their precarious place in a society that relentlessly encourages outgoing, always-on uber personality types among its members. Starting in school then continuing throughout life we are taught the importance of being extroverted and personable, outgoing and confident. Shyness is associated with weakness. Being thoughtful is perceived as slow to act. Don’t expect to get what you want if you are not able to dynamically sell yourself and your ideas.

In many ways, our world reveres the extrovert. Kids of all ages navigate toward peers who are the most self confident and outgoing. Gregarious in-your-face Uncle Bob is the favorite relative. In the work environment it’s the player with the best presentation skills and personality who tends to rapidly ascend the corporate ladder. The reality is those same perpetually confident individuals may not always have the best idea but still get their way because they do the best job selling that inferior concept. It’s not easy being an introvert in a world where the loud talkers grab all the attention.

While reading the book I thought of myself and where I might fit in the whole introvert/extrovert discussion. And how, I wondered, might my particular personality leanings play out in retirement.

At a high level I am an introvert. Kind of unexpected considering my career was in sales. I am comfortable being alone and rarely challenged when it comes to entertaining me. Whether engaged in my daily exercises or reading from one of what are typically 3-4 books under way or walking the neighborhood or just sitting in the backyard, I keep Thoughtful Gnomebusy on my own. I do not feel any particular emptiness due to a lack of personal contact during my typical retired day. I find plenty to do on my own and the list keeps growing

People talk about missing the social aspect of “the job” but I am not so sure. I admit interacting with co-workers keeps it interesting – you never know what hot gossip you are missing unless you are there in the middle of things. Sometimes an eventful weekend is more special when shared with those around the Monday morning coffee machine. But when I compare the benefits of that regular social interaction with the “costs” associated with work – stressful quotas, long boring meetings, office politics, and the endless competition to climb the corporate ladder – I am not surprised that the retirement option for me is preferred.

Although an introvert at heart, I also very much enjoy getting together with friends for an evening out or attending a San Jose Sharks game. I love to make people laugh (that old hint of Robin Williams I used to be known for during college days). I can even hold my own at cocktail parties although small talk pretty much loses its interest after an hour or so. It’s not that I don’t like people but rather that I am okay on my own.

Is it okay to be slightly introverted in retirement? I think the answer is yes (at least I hope so) as long as you have sufficient worthwhile activities to engage yourself mentally and physically. If you are self sufficient, you are less likely to become bored since you do not rely on others to fill your dance card. You are free to do what you want when you want for as long as you want. If you lose interest in an activity, you move on. I accept it can be dangerous if you let your natural introversion become an excuse for hiding from life. You don’t want to be so afraid of interaction and stepping out that you lock yourself away. I don’t fear for my particular situation. My slightly more extroverted wife will make sure I do not find myself in such a predicament, keeping the social calendar filled with a smattering of events, dinners, shows, and other things outside the home.

Does an extrovert have better odds of living a happy retirement? After all, they find it easy to interact and typically build expansive social networks throughout life. It would seem a natural extension to continue building those networks once retired. Being connected with a wide variety of people makes it easier to fill your day with lunches and outings and events. Free from the shyness that hounds some introverts the extrovert retiree is comfortable trying new things and meeting new people. If that retirement lifestyle sounds like your cup of tea it does not hurt to tip toward the extrovert side of the scale. But if you are an introvert, forcing yourself to live a role you are not comfortable with might not necessarily be the way to go.

I don’t think that there are too many 100 percent introverts in the world. More likely people tend to lean one way or the other but are a mix of extrovert and introvert. I don’t believe there is any significant advantage to be more one way or the other. But knowing which way you are inclined can be helpful. If you are introverted you realize trying new things and meeting new people may require a little extra effort. You can better understand where people may find you slightly put-offish or uninterested when you are far from it. But you are also more likely to be self-sufficient at a time in life when many struggle for a clear path to follow.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted or somewhere in between, knowing your true nature can help you leverage your strengths and confront areas of weakness. Better informed and self aware perhaps you can improve your odds of living a retirement that is the best it can be.

How do you stay positive when life keeps getting harder?

It is not easy to come to grips with growing older. The world around us fixates on all things youthful while advertisers bombard us with happy, wrinkle-free picture-perfect models cavorting happily with nary a care in the world. The message seems to be if you are young you have it made. But what about those whose teens and twenties are a distant memory? Is there a place for those of us whose youthful spirit finds itself betrayed by a progressively more wrinkled visage?

I am doing my best to come to grips with the wear and tear of my 55 years of living. I do my part as far as getting my exercise and following a healthy diet. Overall things are going fine but not all the time. The spirit may be willing but if the body doesn’t pitch in it sometimes feels like an uphill battle.

As the years progress we learn it is not always easy doing those simple things we took for granted not so long ago. Little aches and pains insidiously work their way into daily life. Bending down to pick up a dropped set of keys requires more dedication than it should. I cannot make up my mind if I should bring my book closer or hold it at arm length to read type which seems to be tinier every day. It wasn’t that many years ago when my day began with a single multi-vitamin. These days my prescription regimen is far more involved and my vitamin is now specifically for those over 50. Just minor annoyances in the overall scheme of things but still…

I remember as a teenager my father expressing his chagrin that all the actors he grew up with were getting old. At the time his comment did not make much of an impression – they were all old to me! Now I get it. Not only are my favorite actors and actresses IMG_0290showing a little more gray even those high energy rockers that populate my musical memory cannot escape the effects of time. I remember seeing The Eagles in concert when I was 17 and they were jamin’. Although I enjoyed a recent revisit as the band tours once again, it was impossible to ignore the fact that these guys are now in their late sixties and early seventies. I don’t even want to talk about The Stones.

When I get together with old friends I realize they are actually becoming “old” friends. We overlook the gray atop our heads and bravely try to see beyond lines that are slowly laying claim to our foreheads and the corners of our eyes. Our discussions have moved from the cutest girl in the office to the cutest daughter in college or recently graduated even. We easily share memories of past adventures that bring tears of mirth but now often find those mixed with real tears shed for losses and pains experienced along the way.

There is just nothing easy about getting old.

Thankfully there is a positive side. I believe with some effort it is within our power to learn to accept certain challenges brought on by advancing years. Each step we take is a part of our own unique journey. Some are easier than others but all move us steadily forward. Rather than mourn the losses, I think it makes sense to focus on the positives, the opportunities, and the new adventures that wait.

I am not yet a grandparent but look forward to the experience. What could be better than spending time with tiny inquisitive ever energetic mini-people as they experience for the first time what life has to offer? The first trip to the zoo, the first birthday cake, the first face-to-face with the family cat – everything eye opening and fresh. And at the end
fun in the sunof the day the little treasures go home with their parents who get to do the heavy lifting for the foreseeable future. I might almost feel guilty enjoying all the good and passing on the dirty diapers and childhood challenges to the persevering parents…almost.

I look forward to spending more time with my wife. She is still working these days so we are limited to sharing evenings and weekends. What I am talking about is when she is job free and we can take off during the middle of the week for an impromptu journey to wine country or the coast or just about any place where we can be together. I can’t wait for those extended trips back to Europe or Mexico as well as exploring places we have never been. So long as we are healthy, we hope to stay active and engaged always searching for that next new experience.

As a retired person, I no longer suffer the stresses of the job or demands of pursuing career advancement. The only ladder I plan to climb is the one to put up my Christmas lights. No more meaningless meetings. Goodbye annual performance reviews. See ya critical deadlines. I don’t think I will miss work much at all. And if I find I do, I can always look into contributing my time doing something I enjoy that matters to me.

Best of all, is there anything better than having the freedom to spend your time as you see fit? Imagine the glorious feeling of starting your day when you want, filling your hours doing what you enjoy, taking a nap when the mood strikes, trying something for the first time, and just generally occupying your time having fun.

Along with the challenges we will face comes the real chance to live and explore, to love and laugh, and to make the most of each incredible day.

Retirement – here I come!

How To Keep Retirement Fresh

Once you are fortunate enough to retire, you don’t want to squander your hard-earned free time. With 20 or 30 years to look forward to, you are free to fill your days with activities and experiences you genuinely want to pursue. But not everyone enjoys this newfound freedom. You could find yourself somewhat lost, unsure of how to spend your time and bored with the limited options you are able to come up with.

Now that you manage your own time, it is up to you to keep your retirement life interesting. Here are a few ideas to help keep retirement fresh:

Do something special for you. After decades of work and caring for a family, it is not surprising that we may have fallen into a less-than-exciting routine. Doing the same things every day is a rather lackluster way to go. As a retiree with time on your hands, why not shake things up a bit? Do something special or out of the ordinary. It could be as simple as celebrating your birthday in a new way by introducing a bit of adventure. Take the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try something you have always wanted to do.

While I am not a thrill-seeker, I’m still planning some first-time adventures for retirement. I look forward to perhaps steelhead fishing the Rogue River in Oregon, hot air ballooning over Sonoma Valley or camping at Big Sur under the pine trees. I’m hoping to have at least one annual adventure in the coming years.

Go ahead and spoil yourself. If you have never been pampered by a full-day spa treatment or sat by an outdoor fire on the beach while watching the sun set, this can be your chance. Splurge on a five-course meal with wine pairings or open up the pricy bottle you’ve been saving. Create a special event to look forward to.

Keep learning new things. I recently signed up for a series of online classes on understanding investments. I want to better understand the terminology and concepts of the investment world. With the flexibility of online sessions, I am able to watch as much as I want at one time, pause when needed and replay if I do not quite grasp the concept Musical Glassesthe first time around. There are also many other topics available, including everything from growing a killer garden in containers to medieval European history to understanding the brain. Best of all, there is no exam at the end of the process.

If you prefer the face-to-face interaction of a standard classroom setting, local colleges offer a diverse collection of topics for those with the time and interest. You can even learn with the great outdoors as your classroom. Consider taking a senior group hike through a national park, where trained guides describe the culture and history as you walk through some of the most beautiful spots on earth. Since you choose what and how you study, learning can be fun.

Expand your social circle. The more people you engage with, the more variety you expose yourself to. I am not talking about more Facebook friends, but more people you actually see and interact with in a non-virtual way. When my parents first moved to their current home, they did not know anyone. But they made the extra effort to meet the neighbors and spend time with co-workers. Before long they found themselves busily engaged in regular bridge clubs, tennis outings and dinner parties. They have come to know many wonderful people with diverse backgrounds while maintaining a perpetually busy calendar. Whether you prefer a club setting or more intimate gatherings, getting out and meeting others can open up new avenues to explore, keeping your retirement interesting.

Have some fun. With no stress from a job and more free time to pursue your interests, you might think retirees would be happier than most working people. But whether due to the effects of aging, money concerns or other factors that come into play, retirement living can be challenging. To make the most of your time, you need to add some fun to your day.

Pause to think about what brings a smile to your face. You and your partner could create separate lists of things you most enjoy doing. Put each on a slip of paper and throw them into a hat. When you need a little inspiration for something to do, draw one and go for it.

A few years ago my wife tried her hand at Sudoku. She has always been puzzle-inclined, and before long she found herself starting each morning with the daily Sudoku from the newspaper. I was reluctant to give it a try since I did not understand the attraction. However, I recently gave in, and now my wife makes a copy of the daily puzzle so both of us can enjoy the challenge. You never know where you might find yourself having fun until you try.

From my blog for US News & World