4 Fears About Retirement

From my US News & World Blog

Retirement scares me. Part of it is the financial side of things and the nagging question of will I have enough to last throughout my entire retirement. None of us is immune to this fear unless we have been fortunate enough somewhere along the way to hit it big and money is no object.

What scares me just as much is what will I do when I retire? How will I fill the days with exciting and worthwhile activities? Can I avoid boredom at a time when I finally have the ability to do whatever I want to do?

[See How to Save for Retirement on a Low Income.]

Some emphatically state they don’t have time to think about what to do as they are busy each day just getting through their day. Hobbies, travels, and activities keep them running at full speed all of the time. They cannot imagine a retirement life that is anything but action packed and fears of boredom or empty hours to fill does not cross their mind.

But I am not sure. Having taken an 18 month trial-retirement journey, I was more than ready to get back to work. And 18 months is a fraction of the time we can expect to be retired. Can I really keep busy enough in retired life?

Legitimate retirement fears? Not yet retired, I am obviously not the best judge of exactly how retirement will play out. But as I plan for that day, here are some concerns:

1. Travel. Wonderful, exciting, so much to see, I look forward to lots of travel in retirement. But how much travel is realistic? If we travel once each quarter to a new destination, will that be too much? In 10 years that would be 40 different places. I love researching new destinations and planning out trips but that’s quite a lot. And what about the expense of travel? Yes we can travel on a budget but air fares and hotels quickly add up. Travel will be a big part of retirement but just how much of my retired life will it occupy?

[See Places to Live the American Dream Abroad.]

2. Physical capabilities. Today I ride the bike three times a week, lift weights twice a week, do a combination of yoga and pilates twice a week, and on the weekends, my wife and I go for extended walks and hikes. But I noticed on our last hike that it was more of a struggle to get up the hill at the end, and I am years from retirement age. Physical activity is a big part of my life but the likelihood is that years from now I will be more limited. I will never surrender but need to consider that less time will be occupied with this. What will take its place?

3. Enough hobbies. My parents are active in tennis, bridge, golf, theater, travel, dining out, and various other events. Their calendar looks like that of a busy CEO. But I do not have quite so many varied interests. By starting my planning now I hope to discover things to do that I am passionate about to fill my retirement hours. But what if I do not?

4. To-do lists. When we first retire, attacking that ever-growing list of things to do is exciting. Projects long in need of completion get done and a genuine feeling of accomplishment is experienced. But how long will it take to finish off the list? During my brief time off, I quickly finished my list including new additions along the way. I do not believe a to-do list will keep retirees busy for any extended period of time.

Don’t get me wrong–I am definitely looking forward to retiring. I hope that by planning for retirement ahead of time I will identify retirement challenges today and have time to make adjustments to better prepare to keep busy as a senior citizen.

Maybe I will be a busy bee during retirement with little time to fret over what to do next, but maybe not. And that is why retirement scares me.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.

Excitement in Retirement

So after scrimping and doing without for so long, with years of putting others needs first as you provided for your family and countless re-evaluations of when and if you can retire, you have finally crossed the threshold. You are retired – let the golden years begin! It has been a hard road and you can consider yourself lucky as I am reading yet another headline saying 27% of those over 55 are postponing retirement. In fact some wonder if they will ever be able to retire.

We all want to retire at some point – what that retirement will look like exactly is subject to interpretation as many will continue to work in some capacity whether they need to or because they want to.  But deep down I think we all believe that retirement is an American way of life just like owning a home or getting an education. Hmm – those are not such a given anymore either – these times they are a changing. At least it USED TO BE assumed that retirement awaited us all when age 65 rolled around so for the sake of this post let’s assume that things are as they used to be and you are among the retired masses.

Your calendar is open, you list is made, the day awaits – where to start? At your “ripe old age”, do you even remember how to have fun? And as we have been warned, the first six months of retirement are easy – the honeymoon period when we can finally do what we want to do when we want to do it. The new freedom is intoxicating but be aware the hangover. One morning you may awake and find yourself wondering what you will do with the rest of your retirement years and there are a lot of them!

Excitement in Retired Life

I believe we do in fact know how to have fun but we have insulated ourselves to survive an often unfriendly world. In retirement, this insulation can get in the way of us stepping out and really enjoying ourselves. Better safe than sorry is no way to enter a retirement that may be 20 or 30 or more years. What can we do to regain that free feeling we experienced during the honeymoon period? Where can senior citizens find excitement in retirement?

Watch hockey! Growing up I had never seen or had any interest in seeing a hockey game. Then a friend took me to a live Sharks game back in 1993.  Although I did not understand the nuances, the incredible energy of the screaming fans quickly raised my excitement level and I was hollering along with the rest of the faithful. When I came home that night, I lay awake for hours until I finally calmed down enough to sleep. I have been a fan ever since and the fact that my son and daughter are equally fanatical just adds to the experience for us all. I am sure other sports have similar impact on people but for me it is hockey. And with the San Jose SHARKS just one round away from the Stanly Cup Finals, now is the time to witness playoff hockey which is as good as is gets!

Take that trip and take a chance – my wife has traveled extensively over the years and is comfortable in pretty much any situation. Her past adventures include hiking alone through Guatemala for three months. So when we travel these days, I follow her lead. While in Paris she wanted to visit Montmartre, renowned for its Sacre Cour church and as a hangout for local artists. However to get there we had to wend our way through a less-than-desirable neighborhood asking directions if we dared from the always helpful French locals (!) Following her lead and holding her hand firmly we made the journey and arrived safely, and it was the highpoint of a very exciting vacation trip. You never know what some out-of-the-way neighborhood may have to offer until you walk its streets. Moral of the story – take a chance, step outside of your comfort zone a bit and experience the real world outside of movies and TV specials.

Buy and manage a hotel on a Caribbean island – the sun, the sand, freedom from crowds and incessant advertising, a steel-drum playing in the background with a fruity rum drink in your hand, a tropical island may be just the ticket. Put your entrepreneurial skills to work and watch the rest of the world go by. Actually before you attempt such an endeavor I recommend you read Herman Wouk’s Don’t stop the Carnival. Even if you decide against the tropical move, the book is a wonderful read!

Become a blogger – there is an amazing array of personalities in the blogosphere with interests spanning everything from retirement to reptiles. As you write and read other blogs, you will meet folks with similar interests and passions. You can share your thoughts in your posts as well as interact with others via their blog and websites. It is easy and rewarding and who knows where it may lead.

Retirement is only the beginning. Don’t be afraid to live. Don’t be crazy dangerous but also don’t be overly cautious. Live the life you have dreamed and if you are so inclined, share your adventures with the rest of us. We just might find the inspiration we need to step outside of our own safety zone and live an exciting retirement life.

A lifetime in review

Years ago I was sitting next to my dad in the pew at church as we did each Sunday morning. I noticed that he was writing on a small piece of paper and although I could not see what he wrote I was curious. After mass I asked and he said he was doing a little review of his life so far – how had he done to this point against the goals he set for himself as a younger man.

In his early fifties at the time, he had in my estimation been a great father. Dad worked hard to put himself through medical school while later he and mom often did without luxuries for themselves to save for the future.  He had always provided for the family, we kids were going to private schools for the best education, on weekends we did family trips to the local foothills and beyond, and we always sat down to dinner together to share the events of the day. He was a success by any measure in my book.

So what about the book on me? At a similar age now, where did I sit compared to my goals as a young man? What are the real measures of success in each of our lives?

Family – mom always said there is nothing more important than family and we lived that rule. Weekends were spent with relatives as we celebrated life over a table of BBQ chicken or hamburgers or whatever was on the menu. Important events such as baptisms, first communions, graduations, school plays, tennis matches were always accorded their just due and everything was considered important. Each of us was recognized for being a success at what we did which helped to build self-confidence that followed us through our lives.

Raising my kids we did not spend as much time with the rest of the family as I would have liked to. But we did foster in our household the value of each individual, the importance of pursuing your dreams, and the all important do to others as you would have them do to you. Today both kids are rock stars (not literally) with successful college careers and now onto the working world.

How do you rate yourself in the category of family?

It is not about the things – we lived in a nice house in s nice neighborhood. We never wanted for anything but were taught early on the importance of spending wisely. Designer labels were not a part of my growing up. Credit cards were paid off at the end of each month and used more to build a credit history than anything else. If you could not afford to pay cash for it, you could not afford it! How that way of thinking could help us all these days from the government to the home front.

Raising my family, I was a bit loose with the credit cards as we competed with others caught up in the Silicon Valley madness. Spending more than we should have, we found ourselves in more debt than was comfortable. But we cleared the slate and adjusted our behaviors and made it through. The kids learned from the experience as well as their own. Now when it comes to designer labels, they shop at Marshalls or outlet stores if they cannot do without. And equally as valuable both realize the importance of pursuing a career that fills your heart rather than only your wallet.

Do you and your family value what is important or are you caught up in the never-ending attempt to one-up the Joneses?

Major decisions – in my parent’s house, career choices were discussed and then supported. Although on a pre-med path from day one, when I changed direction to focus on business after my first year in college, my physician father and nurse mother both supported the decision. They knew I was pursuing what was best for me and it was not medicine. More than anything, I appreciated their trust in me that I would ultimately find my way. I have jumped from job to job over my career but always with their support.

Who will your kids choose to hang out with – not always exactly the people you would have chosen? Who will they date – I guarantee not always who you have in mind? How will they dress? How will the cut their hair? What part of their anatomy will they choose to pierce?

In the overall scheme of things, these are minor details that you cannot control. It is often easy to get sidetracked and fight a battle that you will not win. I believe that if you support the inner person and provide guidance rather than enforce rules you have a better chance of helping someone find their way. It is all about the person they finally become rather than what it took to get there.

Are we as supportive as we can be to help each other find our individual destiny?

Upon review, not necessarily a perfect report card but on a pass/fail scale, I think I pass. At least I hope this rating is what I would receive from my kids and family. After all, they are the ultimate graders and the lives they lead are in large part the result of just how well we did our job.

How do you rate your lifetime in review?