Smooth Your Transition Into Retirement

Retirement is something to look forward to. Most of us envision a well-deserved escape from the stress and strain of working life, a new chapter where we will have the free time to pursue all those interests we were forced to shelf while laser focused on making a living. If we can somehow survive today’s struggles we just might get there.

Unfortunately once one arrives at retirement’s doorstep things don’t always go as planned. Making the switch from full time employment to full time retirement can be challenging. And since we have no experience to draw upon launching our second act is an unfamiliar adventure where to excel we must learn as we go.

I retired five years ago. After an initial adjustment period I am pretty satisfied with the life I now live. However there were times I struggled, stumbled and made mistakes. As long as you learn from your mistakes it’s okay, right? Here are a few important lessons I have learned along the way.

Realize an identity beyond your job

At a cocktail party when asked “what do you do?” a typical response tends to describe your role on the job. Often what you do is a major influence on your perception of who you are. Many are so absorbed with their job they have no real life outside the career. Now you are retired – who are you?

If you find yourself with no identity outside your job retirement can leave you feeling lost and without purpose, disconnected from a reality where until now you played a significant role. Once retired it is important to establish new roots to grow and nurture the post-job you. You were and are someone beyond your employment. Retirement allows that person to surface and take control, to make the best of what can be an exciting inspiring stage of life.

Don’t just keep busy, find meaning

Boredom is a real threat to the unprepared retiree. If you retire at age 65 you can hope to live 20 or 30 years in retirement. That is a whole lot of days and months and years. Playing golf or volunteering a few hours a week is not going to be enough. At the end of the day wouldn’t it be nice to look back on your activities and feel some degree of satisfaction, some small bit of accomplishment?

When I first retired I was fine with doing nothing. After 30 years of the old grind I deserved it. No one was telling me what to do. I was finally my own boss. I slept in, attacked a mountainous stack of books I had accumulated, took a few trips, revisited some long forgotten hobbies, and was happy basically watching the grass grow.

That lasted about six months. Now what? What was I supposed to do with the rest of my second act?

How we choose to spend time as retirees is a personal decision. Activities that excite me might bore the pants off you. What helped me was trying to stay open to the many possibilities that came along while building up the nerve to step outside of my comfort zone.  After five decades of life I was pretty set in my ways. Then here comes retirement, a blank page waiting for me to paint my own unique picture.

So I tried some new things, things I always wanted to do or had recently become interested in:

– I always wanted to be a writer so I started a blog “Retirement – Only the Beginning” where weekly I share my journey in search of a meaningful fun retirement. Taking things one step further I wrote and self-published two books handling everything from the content to the cover.

– After a few trips to Paris I thought it would be cool to learn a little of the language (at least enough to read the menu) so with the help of an app I downloaded to my iPhone I am learning to parle francais.

– My dad always loved gardening so I am giving that a try nurturing our plentiful roses and growing some veggies. There is something special about saving the seed from a favorite tomato then sprouting it, growing it and eating the fruit all over again!

You don’t have to be productive all the time

You cannot be good at your job if you waste time. Many become so accustomed to giving 110 percent they find it hard to gear down for even a weekend. Don’t be surprise to find you feel guilty “wasting time” in retirement. But it is okay to do so. With the job behind you are allowed to slow down. Every moment need not be productive. A good healthy mix of activity and downtime rids your day of stress and anxiety, neither welcome in any retirement plan. I learned an important ingredient to a happy retirement is finding a pace you are comfortable with and going with the flow.

Dedicate part of the day to fitness – mental as well as physical

It’s wonderful to no longer deal with the hectic stressed-out pace of full time employment. On the other hand your mind will probably never as sharp as when you were making snap decisions or dealing with unexpected events that populate the typical work day. The job keeps you on your toes. When you remove that from the equation you might lose a step or two, perhaps slow down a bit from that top-of-the-food chain whirlwind you had become. In retirement it is important to find new challenges, try new things, and keep the old mind engaged. Like any muscle if you don’t work it out your brain will atrophy. My wife and I partake in a myriad of brain games including cards, backgammon, jigsaw puzzles, remembering names, discussions with smart friends, and revisiting specific details of past trips and experiences.

As for the physical side I recently discovered a guideline that helps me stay on track. The goal is to take a minimum of 10,000 steps each day. Mileage may vary according to the length of your stride but for me that works out to close to five miles a day. At first the distance sounded unrealistic – how can I possibly walk five miles every day? So I picked up a “fit bit” and began tracking my steps. Soon I found myself “taking the long way” whenever possible – walking instead of driving to the nearby store (2 miles round trip), using the stairs rather than elevator, happily strolling to the far side of the house to retrieve some forgotten item. At the end of the day it all added up and I was pleasantly surprised how often I hit that 10,000 step target.

There is no universal blueprint for how to transition into a fulfilling retirement. Each of us needs to find our own path. But we might learn from the experiences of others. And if we are fortunate we may avoid repeating mistakes endured by those who have gone before us.

How Do You Rate Your Retirement?

If you were to give the retirement life you have been living to this point a grade – like back in school – would you be looking at an “A” for excellent or a “C” for average or (hopefully not) an “F” for failure? There are a lot of variables – maybe it’s better to go with pass/fail. It’s not always easy to live the retirement of our dreams. I think the bottom line is are you happy with your second act or is there room for improvement? And if there is room for improvement what can you do to raise your grade?

I have been retired full time about five years now. Most readers of LoveBeingRetired are familiar with the story of my fall from grace in the tech start-up world that left me prematurely job free well before anticipated. Sometimes you have to accept harsh reality which for me was I was too old (at 53!!) to do a worthy job within my chosen career at least according to the hiring powers. I am not bitter (well not overly bitter) but it was an unexpected turn of events to say the least.

Looking back at these years in retirement I find myself reliving a myriad of emotions:

– The fear I was totally unprepared for the decades of “independence” ahead.

– The self-doubt following months spent unsuccessfully trying to get back into the working world.

– The nagging concern over finances.

– Then the glimmer of possibilities as I began getting used to my new lifestyle and actually enjoying it.

– And now the hopeful expectation for all that is still to be.

St. Chapelle spires

Before assigning a grade to my retirement or yours there are a few questions worthy of consideration.

Do you find meaning in your life? Many find their justification for being in the job they do. Once separated from that daily endeavor they struggle to find that same feeling of worth.  If you can’t find worthwhile endeavors beyond the job retirement can feel empty. It becomes difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning – what is the purpose? But if you have reasons, motivations, passions that excite you each day can offer new opportunity. You don’t have to stick to the same road that led you here. Try new things, branch out, cut loose and do what feels good. Finding meaning is very personal and no two paths are exactly the same. How would you rate your current situation?

Do you have plans for the future? I have found having goals keep me moving forward. Retirement need not be the end of aspirations. Glen Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Retirement offers precious time to do what you want to do. Whether your passion is travel or learning, reading or writing, painting or singing, the time you need to explore new directions is now yours. What do you see yourself doing tomorrow? Next month? Next year?

What would you change about your situation? Back in the day we worked hard to earn those all-important “A” grades. It makes sense that it takes similar effort to boost our retirement rating to an honor roll worthy level. And while a report card full of “A”s as a student may have been awesome a stellar retirement rating means you are on track to live the best second act possible. Are there areas requiring attention to realize the best retirement possible? Can you fine tune your lifestyle to increase the likelihood of living a fulfilling retired life?

What are the best things about being retired? Sometimes life feels a bit heavy as we strive to address various challenges such as aging or unwelcome money issues or living without clear direction or struggling with boredom. Occasionally we may find that old Ben Franklin comparison of pluses versus minuses tipping in the wrong direction. As an inveterate optimist I typically see the glass half full. I have found worrying has no impact on the outcome of events. No matter how I fret good things and bad things happen. Why not face the future like Frank Sinatra who sang “The best is yet to come.” And those best of moments are sometimes found in the least likely of circumstances.

What are your plans for your continuing education? Just because we haven’t been to class for years does not mean we are no longer capable of learning. With the free time retirees enjoy the opportunity presents itself to pursue areas that interest us rather than are required of us. Your second act can be the right time to learn more about what you love without the stress of final exams. Put that mind to work. Keep yourself engaged and challenged. You are never done learning.

Are you happy? At the end of the day when you glance into the mirror do you see a smiling face looking back? If you do, give yourself an “A” for making your retirement work. That is what is all about right, finding happiness and fulfillment and enjoyment each day. Whatever path you discover, whatever steps and missteps you take, wherever your journey leads you if when it is all said and done you feel positively about how your time is being spent you are doing just fine. As a matter of a fact, feel free to do more of the same!

Each of us has the power to influence the quality of our retired life. With some work hopefully we can improve a less-than-stellar grade to something closer to an “A”. Why settle for average when you can be excellent. When you think about it, now that you are retired is there a more worthy focus for your attention?

Independence and Aging – Tools That Can Help

Written by Jessica Hegg

Independence comes in a lot of shapes and sizes for seniors. For one 65-year-old couple living on their own in the house in which they raised their family, independence might mean getting to stay in that house til their final days. For a 76-year-old man in an assisted living facility, independence might mean being able to care for himself, feed himself, and get out for walks and visits without assistance. No matter what independence in your Golden Years looks like to you, these tips and tools can help:

Mobility Tools

Using assistive devices to aid your mobility doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your independence. On the contrary, mobility aids and assistive devices can empower your self-reliance, making it easier to get around your own home and even help prevent falls.

At the first sign of leg or foot weakness, pain, balance problems, exhaustion, or experiencing multiple falls, talk with your doctor about your mobility plan and whether an aid might help you. From canes to walkers, knee scooters, and wheelchairs, retaining your mobility and independence may be as simple as finding the right tool to support your movements and balance.

With one third of adults over 65 experiencing a fall at some point, fall prevention is directly linked to remaining mobile and independent. Falls can lead to hip fractures, strains, muscle tears, and even hospitalization. ‘Fall proof’ your living environment by:

  • Removing clutter and trip hazards (like cords and curled up rug corners) from walking pathways
  • Getting your vision checked for any impairments that might affect your walking
  • Investing in proper fitting shoes that support and stabilize your movements
  • Installing grab bars, rails and guide lighting around staircases, ramps, and bathrooms
  • Exercising regularly to strengthen bones, muscles, balance, and coordination

Technological Tools

Independence in retirement is taking on new meaning in the digital age. Technological devices, mobile applications, and online services are making living on your own while still staying connected easier than ever.

The rise in use of virtual assistants is a trend making its way into the homes of many Baby Boomers. While Siri on your iPhone can help you look something up on the web or place a call, free standing virtual assistants like Amazon Echo with Alexa or Google Home can go even further. With a simple command, they can update your grocery list, play music on your home sound system, turn on the TV, set alarms, update you on the day’s news, and more.

Online video chat services like Skype and Google Hangout encourage older adults to stay connected to family and friends by live video chatting with them on a computer, even if they live far away. In addition, social platforms like facebook and instagram help you engage with others, check out local events, view photos of family and friends, and more.

Mobile applications you can download and use on your smartphone or tablet, like Instacart or Peapod, let you order groceries online and have them delivered to you door. And apps like TaskRabbit help you find local help to assist with errands, house cleaning, pet sitting, and more household jobs. Looking to add some cash to the old retirement account? Use sites like CraigsList, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace to sell high-valued, gently-used items you no longer want or need.

Everyday Use Tools

In addition to preventing falls and exercising regularly, avoiding annoying health ailments that can affect your ability to complete tasks on your own, like arthritis pain, back inflammation, or muscle strains, can be simplified with even the most basic everyday tools.

Reacher grabber tools are inexpensive, nifty devices that make reaching objects off the ground or up on high shelves easier than ever before. The lightweight design and clever grip handle of a reacher tool helps you extend your reach without exerting too much effort, while rubber and magnetic jaws on the end help you grip and pick up hard to reach items.

Handle grippers make eating, writing, and even brushing your teeth easier, especially if you are one of the 20% of adults in the U.S. with arthritis. Handle grippers slide or wrap around thin instruments or tools to provide a wider, nonslip area with which to grip them securely.

High-powered blenders aren’t just for infomercials anymore. With a strong emphasis on eating a healthy diet infused with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, senior health is showing more and more benefit from whole foods nutrition. And simply put, high-powered blenders can ease the time-consuming process of preparing food, and take the pain out of having to handle multiple pots, pans, lids, and utensils.

Toss an avocado, banana, greek yogurt, fresh spinach, and frozen berries into a high-powered blender for a super food smoothie rich with vitamins, protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Or blend roasted tomatoes and garlic, cream, and basil on a soup setting for a quick, warm meal that might have otherwise taken 20 minutes to make.

When it comes to independent living for older adults, a handful of factors come into play including health, mobility, finances, and living environment. For each and every one, there are tools, both physical and virtual, that can simplify daily living and boost your independence. What’s your go-to independent living tool?