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.

The Retirement Holy Grail

When we finally decide to exit the working world to enter the ranks of the retired, each of us will experience our own personal retirement. We are unique human beings with differing motivations, passions and fears. What works for you may not be quite what I have in mind. The beauty of it is we are free to follow whatever path we decide is best and most rewarding according to our individual preferences. Freedom of choice is one of the major benefits of retirement.

Although there are no universally applicable steps to insure a fulfilling retirement, I believe there are some guidelines that can apply across the board. In the final chapter of my book“I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree To Be”, I propose a list of what I believe to be the top 10 considerations for the soon to be retired. Here are a few samples taken from that list.

Be easy on yourself

As you transition into retirement, you are leaving behind a working you that required your constant attention and focused effort. You had things to do, you got them done on schedule and you felt good about your achievements. And you probably rarely if ever wasted your time. As you begin to live your retired lifestyle, things are different. You do not have to be productive every minute of every day. You have the luxury to kick back and enjoy life at a more leisurely pace. Unfortunately for many this sudden transition can be difficult. It is not easy to turn off behavior that has evolved over a 30 year career. But it is important to realize there is nothing wrong with doing nothing. Take it easy on yourself as you transition into this new role that you have no past experience with. There is plenty of time later on to look for meaningful pursuits to populate your day. For now, see if you can go with the flow and take things down a little from the hectic working world you have recently exited.

Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone

At this stage in your life you are likely pretty settled and comfortable with the person you are. You know your limitations, are familiar with your interests and are hopefully content with the life you live. Life is what it is and although not necessarily pulse-quickening, it is safe and predictable.  But what about excitement and diversity? When was the last time you did something new and different? Some may feel they are too old to try something unfamiliar, to explore new horizons. But if not now, when will you get out there and experiment? In retirement you have the freedom to do what you want and more importantly you finally have the time. There is so much to explore and experience even though not everything may be in your comfort zone. Now I am not proposing you take up skydiving or bungee jumping, but if you limit yourself today you may look back with regret down the road. A little adventure can keep you young at heart.

Try to live below your means

Living on a fixed income can feel constraining and a bit limiting as we move into our second act. But for many retirees, it is the reality. The good news is that living a fulfilling retirement does not require tons of money. Yes you want enough to pay the bills without lying awake at night worrying. But if you are careful and pay attention to where the money is going, there is no reason you cannot maximize the bang for your retirement buck. There are numerous ways to live frugally while at the same time enjoying a full life. And if you are able to figure out the details and live within or below your means, you can kiss goodbye those stressful moments of financial worrying. If each month you spend less than your investments and savings generate, you are ahead of the curve. What a relief!

Have no regrets

No one wants to be that guy on his death bed bemoaning the fact that he should have spent his time differently. Few will complain about not spending more time at the office or increasing their net worth. More likely the sadness is for not spending more time with family and friends, doing what really mattered and following what they were truly passionate about. It is easy to get caught up in the whole making money for money’s sake. But how much do you really need to be happy? The good news is that in retirement, you finally have free time. The responsibility is yours to spend it wisely, to maximize your happiness, and to have no regrets.

From my blog on

Retirement is Your Last Chance to Do These Things

When we retire, we get to refocus our days on doing what we want, rather than what we have to do. We will be free to explore new avenues, experiment with new things and experience what life has to offer outside of a 9-to-5 grind. This promise of the good life in retirement keeps some people going during challenging moments.

Just over half (52 percent) of the oldest baby boomers who were born in 1946 have fully retired and are not working, according to a recent study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. While 38 percent retired because they had reached retirement age or wanted to, 17 percent retired due to health issues. The good news is that most of these boomers (92 percent) say they like retirement somewhat or a lot.

But not everyone is prepared to make the most of their second act. One day you are working, and the next suddenly you are on your own, no longer beholden to someone telling you what to do. The new freedom to choose is exciting, but can also be a bit overwhelming. Here’s how to fill in the empty time:

What have you always wanted to do? I have already started a list of the things I most want to do in retirement. When I finally retire, I plan to enjoy some downtime doing nothing at all. I will not think about work, nor will I pressure myself to fill my moments with meaningful accomplishments. I just want to exist for a while and catch my breath.

But once I am recharged, I have grand plans. I want to write a novel, most likely tilted toward horror like my idol since childhood, Stephen King. I want to learn to speak a language, most likely French, so I can travel comfortably through Paris and the countryside of France. I want to spend more time playing the piano, and then sit down at a restaurant or lobby and wow the passersby. I plan to create the garden I have always wanted with tomatoes, fresh vegetables and fruit trees, including apple, pear and peach. Will this list be enough to keep me entertained for the next 20 years? Probably not, which is why I am starting this list before I reach retirement age.

Where have you always wanted to go? If you were unable to wander the globe to your heart’s content while working, retirement can be your chance to make up for lost time. Some world travelersfind the more exotic the destination, the more exciting the adventure. If you are a thrill-seeker, majestic mountains, fast -moving rivers and deep dark jungles can be yours. Now that you have the time, your trips are not restricted to a week at a time. You might even opt to live at your destination for an extended period to really get a feel for the culture and surroundings. And don’t overlook your own backyard. Many of us live in beautiful and unique locations, but have not had the opportunity to fully investigate. Travel does not have to be long distance to be exciting and fulfilling.

What have you always wanted to be? Looking back on their career, too many people realize they have been working just for the money. Retired life can become the perfect chance to try your hand at something new, without the burden of struggling to making ends meet. Encore careers can allow retirees to do something they enjoy and are passionate about. Many dedicated employees envision themselves as writers, artists or humanitarians, despite what it may say on their business card. In retirement, you have the chance to be who you really want to be. If you have had your fill of the working world, there are many other options available from volunteering to mentoring to getting a degree.

Whatever you want for your second act, retirement can be the perfect time to do it right.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.