Retirement is Full of Surprises

If you think life is full of surprises just wait until you retire! No matter how prepared you might think you are your second act will be littered with unexpected twists and turns, unimagined adventures and new experiences, and hopefully many truly memorable moments. But until you are actually living the life you only think you know what to expect.

Before I retired I did my due diligence. I read books and blogs, talked with retirees, and tried to figure out what I would like and not like to pursue once I departed the working world. I imagined what it would be like to get up each day with nothing required of me beyond what I wanted to do. It sure sounded good but things don’t always turn out the way you plan.

Out of the blue

While still a youngster at the childlike age of 53, I found myself unexpectedly unemployed with no real prospects on the horizon. I searched valiantly and relentlessly for my next gig but after a year of rejections and “we decided to go another way” I was pretty disheartened. I didn’t feel that old. I thought my years of experience – decades actually – were surely worth something to someone. My plans regarding retirement had me calling it quits closer to 62 – I was far short of that target.

Fortunately I was able to retire earlier than planned. My wife kept working so our medical coverage was taken care of and cash flow remained positive. My days have evolved into a collection of activities and interests that keep me engaged from morning to night. I love being retired but never forget how blessed I am – not everyone’s situation is so rosy. I am learning to expect the unexpected.

You’re not too old

Some view retirement as the end of the road. Your career is behind you, the family is raised and on their way, and you have achieved some or maybe all of those major goals you set back in the day. Not much is expected of you now – just take it easy and enjoy the fruits of you labor. As my dad would say, “sit back and watch the grass grow.”

Not so fast.

This generation of retirees often enters their second act energized and excited about the coming decades. Accustomed to busy active days they have no plans to watch retirement from the sidelines. Finally granted the free time to pursue what lights their individual fire retirees are stepping out. So long as you remain physically able you can experiment and try new things. Who says you are too old? Stories of septuagenarian and octogenarian achievements are well documented. Feel free to add your name to the list.

You can get along with your spouse 24/7

If you think about it the longest time you have been with your partner 24/7 is probably on a 1-2 week vacation. That is not much of a test for the 10-20 year stretch that retirement promises. But you know what? You can make it work and it can be fabulous. My wife and I have been retired together a little of one year so we are still newlyweds in terms of our retirement timeline. We have learned a lot about what we like to do together whether hiking or playing cards or getting to know the neighbors or entertaining. We have also learned the importance of having our own interests to pursue. A little time spent on our own makes time together more special. Best of all we are comfortable just being together. We don’t have to fill the air with small talk. We don’t have to “be on” all the time. We can just be in the same room reading or doing whatever and we are happy. A harmonious retirement is all about being sensitive to one another and maintaining a willingness to adapt. There is plenty of room for both or you.

There’s not enough time in the day

Before I retired I was concerned I would not have enough to keep me busy. Sure I had a few hobbies and had my eyes on exploring a few more but was that enough to occupy me 10 hours a day 7 days a week? I remember discovering a blog Retirement A Full-time Job where Sydney Lagier shared her retirement journey. It quickly became clear she was anything but bored. Sydney was always on the go trying new things and never looking back. So there was hope!

These days I get started around 7:30 in the morning with coffee and the newspaper (a real newspaper, not online). With the many different interests I pursue throughout the course of the average day, before I know it I am looking at cocktail hour. Who has time to be bored? I have learned you can never have too many hobbies/interests/passions. I remain always on the lookout for the next addition to my list. I won’t say I am as busy now as I was when working full time but I sure enjoy what I am doing much more.

I read somewhere “retirement is only the beginning”. Now is the time to enjoy all the surprises our second act has in store. :)

Make Your Retirement User Friendly

When I started LoveBeingRetired back in 2010 one of my goals was to figure out what I could do to prepare myself to live a fulfilling, meaningful and fun retirement. At the time I was still working full time but was getting up there in years especially when it comes to the start-up arena which was my chosen career. The possibility I might find myself unexpectedly out of work was a real concern (as it turned out a well -founded concern). After all the struggles and long hours with my nose to the grind stone I was hoping to avoid as many nasty surprises as possible once retired. I did not want to waste a precious moment once I crossed over to the other side – retirement that is.

What could I do to make the most of my second act? How could I engage my mind and body for the future decades when I would control how I spent my days? What did a successful satisfying retirement even look like?

No one has all the answers but I have learned a thing or two since 2010. The education is on-going but here are a few highlights:

The more interests you have the better

If you are like me your interests will change over time. What was an exciting endeavor at 20 might feel down right out of place at 60. Perhaps you have done something so many times that you are just tired of it. It could be as you evolve over the years your passions evolve as well morphing into new and different areas of focus. Maybe what really lights your fire is being engaged in a whole bunch of different diverse things, kind of a hobby-aholic.

I believe you can’t have too many interests, hobbies or passions. A wide variety of options allows you to custom fit activities to your desires at any given moment. With a long list to choose from you are more likely to find something just right for right now. The risk of becoming bored is reduced when you have multiple and varied activities in your bag of tricks.

Once you retire you will be blessed with the freedom to set your own schedule. If something becomes boring move on. Should an undertaking feels overwhelming call it quits and revisit at your leisure. You are free to choose the path you take. You are free to explore whatever might ignite your interest at the moment. Best of all there is no one judging you other than you.

At any given time I am likely reading 5-6 different books. A few are light reading – fiction or thrillers; a few are real life non-fiction; a few might have an historical flavor. What I truly enjoy is I can sit down and read one for fifteen minutes. Then I can pick up another of an entirely different flavor and read that for a while. My wife must find it curious to see me sitting on the couch with a stack of books on either side, one for the read and the other for the to-be-read titles. Perhaps not your cup of tea but for me what a joy!

Over the years readers of share how they spend retirement days in ways most fulfilling and meaningful to them personally. From dancing at every opportunity whether there is music or not to trekking through Mongolia on a camel to perpetually touring the US in a RV to playing trumpet in a local band to returning to school to study those subjects you actually like to becoming a gardener extraordinaire, the options are limitless. As a retiree it truly is different strokes for different folks.

Be forever curious

Have you ever seen that light of curiosity the shines in the eyes of a child? So much of the world is new and unknown, so much potential exists, so much excitement is just waiting to be experienced. Its little wonder children run around like turbocharged caffeine addicts trying to make as much as possible of every minute. That curiosity with all things keeps them young at heart and might do the same to those of us further along in years. If we wonder, if we ask, if we search the days can be filled with meaningful moments. A little imagination combined with a pinch of curiosity thrown into a pot of free time is a recipe for success and fun.

Don’t wait for life to come to you

As I have said before we will never be as young as we are today. Now is the time to get rolling, to pursue those dreams we have waited so long to realize. Who knows what the future holds? None of us wants to regret waiting too long and sadly missing those opportunities to enjoy ourselves. The sidelines are for watching – better to get into the game and see what you are made of.

Ask for help

A reality of aging is the little things we so easily did up to this point do not remain so easy going forward. Something as basic as cleaning the house can lead to sore joints and tired muscles. It is important to come to terms with the situation and live accordingly. Take your time getting the chores done. Don’t be afraid to stop midway and finish the effort later. And don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Friends and family make up our support group through our lives. Getting help in these later years can be an important contributor to a happy retirement. Stay off those ladders, pace yourself and never run with scissors.


If I have learned anything from my years on earth it is worrying is a waste of energy. Stressing out about things beyond my control only detracts from my quality of life. Life is too short and there are too many wonderful moments to be had. My plan is to enjoy the journey for all it is worth. Is your glass half empty of half full?