What Does Retirement Look Like?


Those of us who eventually cross the retirement finish line look forward to happy times pursuing diverse interests we reluctantly set aside while life and responsibility demand their due. And though the hard part is getting there, plenty of challenges await once we don the badge of retirement and strive to adapt to an alien life where each day’s activities are up to our individual preference. This new freedom can be overwhelming especially after decades following the rules, adhering to overpopulated calendar dates. We can do whatever we want for as long as we want. So how exactly does that look?

When I first retired I was pretty excited. No more work stress, no more commuting headaches, no more answering to the whims of those higher in the pecking order. I was free to do my own thing, to let the good times roll. So why not? My wife and I traveled all over the place. I knocked out that massive list of to-do’s I had been compiling for years. I revisited neglected hobbies from piano to gardening to ping pong. I attacked a stack of books amassed for just this time. For a while I was a busy bee happily buzzing from one activity to the next.

Unfortunately, after a year living the retirement dream, something was missing. As a rather organized person (aka obsessive) I found myself reviewing my accomplishments at day’s end. If I did not complete at least a few worthwhile endeavors I felt I had wasted the day. When my wife asked, “what did you do today?” I found myself struggling to offer anything of substance. How exactly do you define “worthwhile”? And worthwhile from whose perspective?

Back on the job quantifying worthwhile was straight forward. Complete the project on time; achieve the quota for the month; sell more this quarter than you did last. The rules were clear and success easily measured.

But once retired, for better or worse, what is worthwhile is not always apparent. Goals are much softer, indeterminant. Success is not so easily measured. Then again, isn’t success in retirement doing what you want, enjoying life and feeling good? Maybe I was overthinking the whole thing. Just go with the flow and don’t worry about impressing anyone. Be happy with living the day and enjoying all it has to offer. Perhaps a bit difficult to quantify? But so what.

With the current COVID situation my wife and I are together pretty much 24/7. Any disagreeable habits will come to the forefront under the spotlight that is daily interaction. But for us the close proximity has not been a problem. We each have our hobbies – she puzzles, attends yoga classes online, quilts, and hikes with select friends; I work out, go for walks, read, garden, and fiddle with the piano. It doesn’t feel like we are stepping on each other’s toes. I hope she feels the same!

And the fact we cannot dine out is no biggie. My wife is an amazing cook and with time on her hands explores new recipes almost daily. We have been eating like royalty and I happily do the dishes.

We have also learned to appreciate each other and what we have. I believe our patience has improved as we navigate a stressful time together. We understand the importance of supporting one another in difficult times, acting as a unified front. But also feel free to explore individual interests. Retired life has taught us it is a lot easier to have fun together if you can also have fun on your own.

We are still figuring it all out. Retirement is in no way stagnant – it is an ever-evolving journey with surprises around every corner. Enjoy yourself!

Debunking 5 Common Retirement Myths

Written by James Clarke

While Americans know full well they have to save for retirement, many have some mistaken assumptions that could end up costing them money when they’re older. When it comes to crucial aspects like healthcare, for example, most couples don’t realize that they’ll need over $280,000 in retirement savings for healthcare costs. Beyond healthcare, there are many other retirement aspects that Americans are uninformed about and here we’ll cover 5 of them.

My Social Security and Pension Will Be Enough

Banking on your social security and pension to be enough to support you in retirement is a terrible misconception. When looking at the numbers, Social Security provides a third of the monthly income for most retirees at about $1,471. Despite this, 21% of retired couples and 45% of retired singles still depend on Social Security for 90% or more of their retirement income. You shouldn’t count on your pension too much either as both public and private pensions are in trouble. While some are at risk of going under, others have billions in shortfalls and won’t be paying as much as originally promised.

I Don’t Need to Plan for Retirement Just Yet

While most people know they have to start their retirement planning early they tend to put it off. CFP and financial educator, Joe Catanzarite warns that people don’t start retirement planning until it’s too late or something happens that sends them scrambling. This can lead to costly mistakes and reactionary buying of financial products that they may not need and don’t help create a plan for the future. Therefore, Catanzarite recommends you start planning early, listing your priorities and goals and seeking advice from a qualified planner.

Borrowing from My 401(k) is a Good Idea

Borrowing from your 401(k) should only be as a last resort. Investopedia notes that you could lose investment earnings on the money you’ve borrowed and repay the loan with after-tax dollars. Should you lose your job you’ll also have to repay the loan faster, during your next tax return. Thus, it’s a good idea to consider other avenues like short-term loans, or a title loan to avoid the headache of borrowing from retirement savings. With title loans in Ohio having only minimal requirements for borrowers such as a vehicle title for collateral, it’s a comparatively low-risk move compared to borrowing against your 401(k). Online options are available depending on the state, with loaners Highway Title Loans, for example, servicing borrowers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah, among others. With a short-term loan, you’ll also avoid potential penalties and tax implications associated with borrowing from tax-deferred investments.

I Won’t Have as Many Expenses

For mysterious reasons many Americans believe that their living costs will magically decrease by half when they retire. In fact, they could go up. You’ll still be paying for your home when you retire, and although your mortgage may be paid off, you’ll pay for insurance and property taxes. You’ll also need transportation, food, utilities and communications. Sure, you’ll spend less on fuel because you no longer have a daily commute but your car will still need insurance and possible repairs. As we mentioned above, healthcare could even make your living costs increase. Plan for maybe a 20% to 25% reduction at most.

I’m Going to Work After Retirement

Many people expect to continue to work during their retirement and two in three expect that work will be a major or minor source of income, based on a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). In reality, only half of those can do so and the rest leave the workforce due to job loss, and disability, among others. Therefore it is important to plan to retire 3 to 5 years before you think you will and delay taking Social Security benefits for as long as possible.

Call Me Grandpa

Three months ago my daughter proudly announced the arrival of Lucas – her son and therefore my grandson. He is her first child and more importantly our first grandchild! A cute little dude with big eyes and a smile that is going to get him into trouble when he grows up. He is already discovering the finer points of flirting.

It is hard to believe that little gremlin I used to carry in a backpack as we walked Capitola beach now has a gremlin of her own.

My daughter and her family live two hours south of us which is the perfect distance – close enough to reach via a moderate drive but not so close as to be easily accessible for short notice babysitting. Needless to say with the new addition we will likely head south more frequently – gotta be part of those memorable baby pictures.

It is exciting to be a grandpa. Years ago my wife and I talked about having grandkids. “Sometime down the road it will be wonderful.” Well that road has now been traveled and here we are.

As a novice grandpa I look forward to sharing new experiences with Loo, seeing the world through his eyes and being part of his excitement at all things new.

Sharing first time experiences

Loo (currently four months of age) recently visited Target for the first time and was pretty much overwhelmed – in a good way. The sights and sounds and smells, the chattering people – all interested in getting a closer look at him – and the bright colors, everything new and everything  exciting. I am sure his little heart was fluttering at full speed as he tried to take in all the stimuli. And we are only talking about a visit to Target!

I imagine his first visit to the zoo and the amazement he will feel with so many crazy and diverse and noisy critters to see.

What about his first taste of cotton candy? A gossamery wisp of sweetness that melts as it touches your tongue.

Something as simple as feeding a bluebird in the backyard will be an adventure for the first time feeder.

And his first pickle! Pickles are a tradition in our family. It is not unusual to see any of us comfortably seated in front of the TV whittling away at a massive dill. I await his expression when he first chomps into a juicy gerchin.
I believe seeing new experiences through the eyes of my grandson will allow me to appreciate the little things that much more. Everyday occurrences that become mundane can transform into miraculous events when realized from the perspective of a novice. Thank you in advance Loo for setting me straight.

A Grandpa’s responsibility

Parents have a tough job when it comes to raising children. Their job is 24/7. The child’s safety and future is in their hands. The person they will become is hugely determined by the example parents provide. Likes and dislikes, hopes and aspirations, prejudices and beliefs, all will be mirrored in the little person, that chip off the old block.

As a grandpa I survived the day-to-day stresses that come with providing for a family. Free of that burden I can focus on what matters most – at least in my opinion. I would share three wisdoms gleaned from my 61 years on this Earth:

Treat others the way you want to be treated – an oldie but goodie and applicable to all things. You are never too young to start living this.

Find something you love and follow it – in the end it is better to look back on a life spent doing what you are passionate about rather than tallying your bank balance. My son has worked his butt off for the past seven years to get a full time job caring for animals in the zoo. He majored in zoology and in a very competitive job market has shed blood, sweat and tears working for free or close-to-free to get his foot in the door. He recently secured a full time job at the Oakland Zoo and we are all ecstatic. It’s not just about money – it’s about getting up each morning looking forward to your day. Loo, take a lesson from your uncle and follow your dream.

Listen – with your mouth shut and your ears open it is amazing what you might learn. Chief Luther Standing Bear said,”Silence grants a space before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that thought comes before speech.” You cannot listen if you are talking.

We have been grandparents for four months. As a newbie to the game I can say that the experience is all we could have hoped for and imagined. Each smile on that little face brings an immediate smile to this old mug. To me there is no sweeter sound than his cooing whispers after a good meal, living in the moment without a fear in the world. It may have taken a while to get here but grandparenthood is good. We look forward to sharing what tomorrow brings in the everything-new never a dull moment life of our first grandson.