Make Your Retirement Count

After all the effort it takes to make it to retirement, it sure would be nice if once we arrived we could leave our troubles behind and look forward to smooth sailing and happy moments. We are done with the heavy lifting – now it’s time for us. And there is no reason not to hope for many good times as we start to navigate our second act. We have time and freedom to pursue what we really love. Ideally our health is relatively good allowing us to actively engage with the world around us. Our minds are still sharp, honed over years on the job and now free to explore new horizons. It is our time to get to it.

As the years shape us into the people we are, many learn that life is not quite that easy. Things do not always work out the way we plan – sometimes not even close. Why should retirement be any different? Along the retirement road we will likely confront unexpected bumps in the road, unplanned for challenges, and stretches of just plain bad luck. Being the resilient bunch we are we try to focus on the positive and endure any negative.

A number of people from family and friends to blog readers have showed me a few ways to help make the best of retirement. Their examples and chin up attitude helps to inspire and guide me should I get a little down in the dumps (not often but it does happen).

In past blogs I have shared snippets about my aunt. Currently age 73 and the recipient of two knee replacements (one per leg) she raises the bar when it comes to getting out there and living. Chances are when you reach out to catch up she is either on the road or planning for her next excursion. Recently back from two weeks in Croatia where she walked miles each day while sharing magnificent travel shots with those of us at home she is recharging for a few weeks and then back on the road again. On numerous occasions when we walk together I have to kick my pace up a notch to keep up with her – especially when heading up hill. She never complains. And she never runs out of ideas of where to go next. As she has told me on numerous occasions, she is going to keep up this pace as long as she can. She knows at some point – hopefully far down the road – she will no longer be able to maintain her love of travel and walking among the cobbled streets and fragrant hillsides that inspire her so. But until then she remains unstoppable. The moral to the story – keep on wanting and keep on walking.

A reader of my blog describes how he recently retired as his role was gradually phased out (I know how that goes). He has researched and read widely to prepare himself to best take advantage of the free time he is now responsible for. He is actively engaging with the community in search of like-minded people in similar situations. But he finds himself at a loss unsure what to do. He does not just want to keep busy but rather do something worthwhile. “I am still struggling to find that new center or core of daily life that is dynamic and vibrant.” Rather than feel sorry for himself he is taking action, trying new things, refusing to surrender. Most recently he is looking into starting a blog as he was a writer in his earlier life. Very eloquent with great ideas to share and a love of the written word, I think he has found a new direction that should serve him well in retirement. The moral of the story – keep moving and trying new things. Don’t wait for happiness to find you.

Another reader describes her recent entry into the ranks of the retired – ten days now and counting. She and her husband are enjoying exploring their neighborhood from a new perspective, able to pause to sit on a bench if they want to appreciate the birds in the trees and children playing in the park, partaking in the peacefulness that is so easily overlooked when we live our turbo working lives. Although a bit sad to leave behind the careers they have been a part of for 30 years, she is looking at retirement as a time to begin again. She calls herself and her husband “oldyweds” – with a lot of similarities to our former selves of almost 30+ years ago when we were newlyweds embarking on a new journey that we didn’t know where it would take us.  But hand in hand we ventured forward, as we will do again.” I like that. I don’t think it could be said better. The moral of the story – you are never too old to begin a new journey.

There are other stories of people successfully making the best of retirement life. As a new entrant I am enjoying myself and my freedoms. Knowing I am not alone, that others have gone before and still others are in the same boat allows me to feel safer, optimistic about what is ahead. You never know and it may not always be pretty but if you don’t go for it with all you have there is no one to blame but you. For better or worse, retirement here we come!

My Wife is Ready to Retire

I retired a few years back. A big part of my decision was based upon the ever changing job environment. What I described as “diverse experience across multiple years and technologies” unfortunately translated into “too old”. At the time I was 53 and had enjoyed for the most part where my career had taken me. But the powers that be did not feel I had a place in their future. And so began my retirement journey.

I have learned a lot over these last three years – most significantly that I have a lot to learn. It took me awhile to start figuring things out. Although somewhat at a loss in the beginning not always sure how my days would play out I feel I have evolved into a relatively happy, engaged, rarely bored retiree. Best of all I look forward to what tomorrow brings.

Now the time has come for my wife to join the ranks of we retired. I am excited about her becoming more a part of my daily life. And I look forward to sharing our respective second acts side by side.

After a successful career across multiple start ups Beatrice has had her fill of office politics. Dealing with inefficiencies that could easily be addressed if someone just took responsibility is no longer intriguing. It is time for something new. Although she will miss some friends from the job she has always been willing to make the effort to keep in touch with those she wants. And although the safe comfort of a place to go each day will be no more, she looks forward to the many new things she will be able to do with her free time.

She is excited – for the most part. What she is not 100 percent clear about is what she will do to stay busy and engaged once she leaves the job behind. Having worked steadily over the past decades she has only had to fill her weekends with worthwhile activities. Monday through Friday was spoken for by the demands of her career. Now suddenly her weekends will extend to seven days – that is a lot of additional free time. I can relate as this was the biggest single fear I faced when I first retired.

Her plan for now is to take it easy for a few months, enjoying a little downtime to recharge and contemplate the future. But not too far down the line she plans to look for work of some kind. The ideal would be a part time job without much of a commute doing something she enjoys that makes a difference. She is happy in the same line of work or willing to try something new. I support her completely. I have come to learn from readers and fellow retirees there is no reason work cannot be a part of the retirement mix especially if you like what you do.

My wife is very social with a wide range of friends scattered around the globe. She likes to get out and engage with people in the community. In our new digs she plans to reach out to neighbors and locals to learn the lay of the land as well as discover common interests. I see many a dinner party and afternoon get together in our future and look forward to it. She has always been interested in volunteering for worthwhile causes. Now she will have plenty of time to do just that.

One of my wife’s and my great loves is hiking. We are fortunate in that we live within a few miles of a wonderful national park with trails and vistas to fit every want. I imagine us exploring early morning strolls along winding dirt roads as the sunlight filters through majestic redwoods and ancient eucalyptus groves. I see us navigating the many paths to find the most challenging, most scenic, and most hiker-friendly for later down the road when we may no longer possess the fortitude to climb the highest heights. Should we need an alternative to the mountains, 12 miles down the road is some of the most beautiful coast line in the world. It is easy to picture a nice five-mile walk listening to the breakers booming along the shore, breathing in the fresh air, watching seals and gulls go about their merry way,  and ending up at a quaint café where a frothy cappuccino waits. Not too bad if you ask me.

I hope my experience evolving into a happy retiree might in some way help her hit the road running. Although we are different in many ways she will likely have to deal with a lot of what I went through coming up to speed. Why not learn from my mistakes? I will let her know that she does not have to stay busy every minute of the day. Sometimes it is okay to do nothing and if you enjoy what you are doing who is to say it is a waste of time. I will highlight the joy of an empty calendar as well as one filled with only those things you choose to do. I will encourage her to try new things she has never done before. I will recommend she revisit hobbies and passions she may have been forced to push to the wayside while busily employed full time. Now she has time. I will share with her my daily routine that sets aside time for exercise and creativity and exploration and relaxation. If difficulties arise I will remind her we are in this together for support, love and enjoyment. Together we are stronger. And I will invite her to join me in this retired world where the future looks promising and we have the enviable luxury to do what we want when we want.

Welcome to retirement my dear. So glad you are joining me. :)