Personalize Your Retirement

(Taken from “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be”)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Retirement is defined quite simply and succinctly in Wikipedia as the point where a person stops employment completely. To those about to begin their personal journey into retired living that abbreviated account might seem an understatement of sorts. As 75 million baby boomers begin to enter that time in their lives when retirement becomes a consideration if not a priority, retirees to be may quickly discover there is a lot more to consider beyond simply the absence of work. Talk about a life changing event – no more nine-to-five, no more Monday morning dread, no more corporate politics, away with those boring meetings, done with pressure filled project deadlines, and finally time for ourselves to do what we want to do. Rather than centering our efforts on moving up in the ranks we can begin to focus on moving out into the world and on to brand new experiences. Retirement can change the way we live every day and redefine those activities we have become accustomed to doing during that day. There is a bit more to retirement than merely the absence of employment.

Well before reaching the threshold of retirement the wise retiree to be will begin to navigate the endless jungle of details that promises to make up his retired life. Assuming we retire at 65 the duration of our typical retirement will be in the twenty to thirty year range. That is a lot of days, a lot of weeks, and a lot of months during which we are solely responsible for identifying and pursuing interests to make our days worth living. Gone are those busy working days filled with packed calendars. Our weekends will extend beyond Saturday and Sunday to include the entire seven day week. Imagine the possibilities now that we can pursue our passions and plans seven days a week! Get ready for time on our hands – lots of it.

I retired from years working in social services and now am following my own bliss. I have a small antique business that I started the month after my retirement. I love old things and the search for them. For the first time in my life I am able to wake up when I want, and the way I spend my day is up to me. I am free to be me.

As we look toward our future, it can help to start to prepare for what is going to happen rather than just wait and see. There might be actions we can take ahead of time to provide for an even more enjoyable retired life. Try to visualize your perfect retirement. Based upon the person you are, your interests and your passions, how might your perfect retirement look? What is really right for you? It is never too early to begin planning for your own fulfilling retirement. Once you begin to more clearly understand where you are today and where you want to ultimately end up, you can start putting together the pieces to build a retirement custom made for you.

What does retirement mean to me?

So you have decided it is time to call it quits at the old job and take a step into a new life of retirement, a new chapter, a new beginning. Some soon to be retirees find themselves almost giddy with excitement and expectation as they look toward the wonderful new life they will soon begin. Others are just ready for a break from the same old grind. Still others may find themselves a bit unsure and perhaps nervous about exactly what lies ahead. With the pending event drawing ever nearer, ideally you are beginning to ask the questions that can give you a deeper understanding of your personal views and expectations.

How do you feel about retirement?

Are you ready or reluctant?

How do you envision yourself in the next five years? What about ten? What about 20?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your new life ahead?

Are you maybe a bit scared? If so what is it that concerns you? What are your biggest fears?

What most excites you about the promise of retirement?

Are you looking forward to exploring new interests and trying different things?

Are you creative and energetic enough to occupy yourself with meaningful events each day?

Are you looking forward to spending 24/7 with your spouse?

Will you be able to find meaning in a life outside of work?

What single thing do you believe is most important to achieving happiness in retirement?

An understanding today of what you expect in retirement can allow you to make adjustments as needed while you still have time.

Take a look at your emotional reasons for working (doing something worthwhile, being respected by others, etc.). Those don’t just drive your work, they drive your life. You need to find non-work interests that give you the same sort of emotional benefits.

While I was searching for just the right cover for this book, I asked myself what single picture would best represent the concept of retirement. Is it even possible for a single moment in time to summarize all that is part and parcel of retired life? What I did not want to do was go with the old tried and true snapshots typically associated with retired life. I did not want to use a sunset since I believe that retirement is the beginning of something new rather than the end. I was not interested in using one of the many pictures of an old couple sitting on a bench looking out at a beautiful view of ocean, lake, or mountains. Yes this can be a wonderful component of the retirement we will live but it downplays all of the activity and adventure and life there is to live in addition to watching the world go by. And I sure wasn’t going to use a picture of someone swinging a club on the golf course, a far to frequent depiction of what awaits the recent retiree.

I settled on the picture you see of an empty hammock swinging in the breeze. First of all the vacant spot invites someone to climb on in and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing moment and who better qualified than a happily retired person in search of a little downtime. Secondly, the fact that the location is a tropical spot on some unknown shore reflects the myriad of options we will have to travel and explore new and exotic locales once we retire. The hammock may await us but not before the adventure of getting there has been lived. Finally, I have always had a thing for the ocean and the peace it brings to my soul. I can definitely picture myself reclining in the hammock, gently swaying in the warm tropical breezes with the steady sound of waves breaking in the distance. And when I am ready, one quick hop out of my hammock and a new unexplored world awaits me.

LoveBeingRetired

There is No Going Back

Fond memories of days gone by are a joy to replay in our mind’s eye. Whether reliving a particularly happy time in our life or recalling a rare perfect confluence of all things good, our past can be a riverbed of precious nuggets waiting to be mined. Occasionally memories might even outshine the life we currently live.Do you ever find yourself tempted to return to that special place packed with special memories to do it all again? It was so perfect – why not go back? You might stay at that same wonderful bed and breakfast, maybe even in the same room. Is that spectacular dining spot still around, perhaps with that identical table and oh-so-memorable view? Maybe you take again that same wandering path through hillside vineyards or find once more the hidden wine shop tucked inconspicuously into an obscure corner of the village. Though memories may be clear, the way back is not always.

About nine years ago my wife and I visited an off-the-beaten-path restaurant in Intragna, Switzerland. Our table was one of about fifteen spread comfortable across one large room. The food was incredible. I swear I can still taste the truffle pasta. Through the window we gazed upon a little valley speckled with brightly painted houses the air resonating with bell-clanging cows while in the distance lurked the ever present snow capped mountains. As the meal unfolded we witnessed the slow progression of a spectacular sunset painting the world a royal red before closing down the day. Service was friendly and nine years later I still remember my first sip of grappa from those foot long bottles they acrobatically poured at meal’s end.

The memory remains crystal clear, like we were just there. Talk about the perfect moment.

Last year we revisited this spot excited to relive our nostalgic experience. I think we were realistic – we did not expect such a perfect moment but were hoping for something close.  It turns out our memories far out shined current day reality. The experience was not bad it just was not a good as before.  The food was not quite as tasty, the service mediocre, and the whole vibe was a bit off. That certain magic was missing despite some near misses.

Messing with perfect memories can be a risky proposition. What are the chances the second time around will be better or even as good? You can safely assume not everything will be the same. And there is always the chance they will be worse, inferior, not worthy of special memory categorization at all. Imperfections might actually pollute that perfect picture painted years ago. Is it worth the risk?

My dad grew up in Sioux City, South Dakota. Over the years he shared many colorful stories of his life adventures, some comical, some heart rending, all near and dear to him. A few years ago he took my mom on a trip to show her his old stomping grounds. You would expect signs of “progress” over the interim fifty-plus years (aka traffic, sprawl, dirt roads converted to highways, all the wonderful ingredients of growth). Not only were most of the familiar landmarks gone, they could not even find where the old farmstead had been. Little was as it had been when dad was growing up. Fortunately they were able to hook up with my dad’s roommate from medical school so the trip was still a success. That said it was not what they had hoped.

Revisiting and attempting to relive a perfect moment is a noble pursuit. What fun it can be to plan and make arrangements to do it all over again. We do all we can to get it right, down to the smallest detail, and hope for the best. If things do not work out exactly as we hope it will not be due to any lack of trying.

Some may choose to play it safe – leave that perfect memory alone and savor it in blissful review. Break out a nice Pinot Noir, bring out those pictures and take an invigorating virtual stroll down memory lane. Ah but those were good times.

But if you decide to play it safe what about those potential new memories that will never be realized? Although our second Intragna excursion was not on par with the first, while on the trip we discovered the beauty of Thun where we took a lovely boat ride around the lake and wandered the historical streets in search of amazing pastries. Other new experiences included walking the castle wall in Lucerne overlooking the city and nearby mountains, a quick ferry across the Rhine in Basel, and a truly amazing walk among the vineyards along Lake Neuchatel. Now we can add these new special memories to our existing database.

Good memories are a wonderful thing. While we are still able to why not make as many of them as possible. Cheers 🙂

LoveBeingRetired.com

Retirement Blues

According to life’s great book of rules, retirement should be the satisfying, well-deserved culmination of a life spent in preparation for just this moment. Away from the stresses of the working world, able to pursue interests that are actually interesting, free to spend time as you want – darn close to the definition of the perfect scenario. How could anyone find they are anything but happy to be retired?

Be careful what you wish for…

What if you discover you are not entirely ready to retire? What if you are unprepared to fill your free hours with worthwhile, meaningful and fun things? Perhaps worst of all what if you become bored? The thought of twenty or thirty more years spent pursuing the same dismal course can bring on those retirement blues big time.

I enjoy being retired. But the beginning of my second act was anything but enjoyable. Having lost my job at the tender age of 53 no one was more surprised than me to find I was no longer hirable. Apparently 30 years of experience was no longer valued in the fast moving technology start-up rocket-to-the-moon companies I had been happily engaged with to this point. Upon finding myself “on the streets” I struggled for more than a year to find some fit, enduring multiple pulse-quickening sweaty-pit-inducing interviews but found no takers.

At first I was confused. To this point I had moved seamlessly from company to company with very little time between jobs. Someone always wanted me on their team. I thought I still had “it” but apparently that was not the case. What had changed so drastically?

I questioned my own worth. Was it something about me? Had I lost my mojo, was I no longer good enough? In the end I fear I was just too old to fit the bill with the twenty-something CEOs driving those enterprises onward. My original plans had been to work to close to age 62. Forced retirement could put a major crimp in the financial position I had hoped to be in before my exit. Not the best way to start a retirement life.

What if you find as you enter your “golden years” you are not physically or mentally up to launching a new life chapter? Many retirement age folks have worked long and hard along the way. Some may just be worn out. Now that you finally have the time to do all you dream of you just don’t have the energy. Talk about grounds for a serious case of the retirement blues.

What if you find yourself living your retirement dream solo? Probably not exactly the dream you envisioned but sometimes reality just the same. All those adventures you planned with your significant other, those spur-of-the-moment escapes, those travels to previously unvisited destinations, those peaceful times spent side-by-side reading or just enjoying being together – without someone to share the moment a piece of the magic is missing.

What if retirement is just not what you expected? You may be free to do what you want but do you know what that might be? Will an empty calendar be a good thing or not? You may have hobbies but are they enough to entertain you for ten or twenty or more years?

Before you let those retirement blues get the best of you take a moment to remember what you have dealt with and survived to arrive at this stage of your life. Each of us has faced challenges. If you have raised a family you have weathered storms the likes of which only fellow parents can imagine. You have withstood everything from teething to tantrums, sleepless nights to dance recital jitters, teen angst to bewildered young adults struggling to grow up, and on and on. You have to be pretty tough to get through all this with all your marbles (or at least most of them).

Many have weathered careers that were a far cry from what we imagined when we began. Not all bosses are a joy to work with. Not all deadlines are reasonable. Not all who should be promoted are in fact promoted. Sticking with it is no easy chore and yet you prevailed.

Retirees are survivors. Don’t sell yourself short. Call upon those super hero strengths you developed along the way.

I try not to worry about things out of my control. Too often I imagine all the bad outcomes that could be and then when the moment arrives it turns out not nearly as awful as I imagined. Unfortunately I cannot take back those worrisome moments spent in anticipation of something that ultimately never was. I am learning it is better to go with the flow rather than try to prepare for every possibility.

Coping with the blues is part of the human experience. Retirement blues is just another track on the same record. We have done it before and with a little luck and determination we should be able to do it again.

Happy Retirement!

LoveBeingRetired.com