Dealing With the Unexpected in Retirement

Life is full of surprises – some good and others not so. Whatever fate has in store each of us must find a way to deal with what comes our way. We play the cards we are dealt, learning as we go, hopefully not too often repeating the same mistakes. Our education might be straight forward seasoned with a healthy dose of common sense. Or we might need to call upon a certain inner strength to guide us safely through troubled waters.

Some surprises are less-than earth shattering in significance. They present themselves as mere pains in the butt, distractions along an otherwise pretty smooth road. We expect to have to deal with many situations in life. But what about those unexpected out-of-the-blue experiences we don’t see coming?

Did you know that your passport expiration date must be at least 90 days beyond the date of your scheduled return from a trip? I learned this recently while in line at San Francisco International airport. With luggage in tow my wife and I were blissfully expecting to depart a few hours hence on a month long escape to Switzerland. It was not to be. “You can’t travel on this passport.” I was informed I had no alternative but to go to the local federal passport building to apply for a same day passport. As luck had it the next day was Labor Day a wonderful holiday that happens to shut down all government agencies. Another day lost.

We could have bemoaned our situation but instead made the best of the cards we had been dealt. We were in San Francisco, a spot travelers from around the world hungrily journey to. So we found a last minute deal online and booked a hotel for two nights. We then proceeded to walk the town journeying to beautiful Noe Valley, touring ostentatious and glitzy Nob Hill, exploring the latest pizza hot spot in SOMA, and just kicking it in The City. Our experience at the federal building went unexpectedly smoothly and we were soon on our way arriving in Zurich a few days late but safely and with my brand new 10-year passport in hand.

No matter what age navigating the unexpected can be challenging. And nothing gets easier as you get older.

What would you do if in your early fifties you suddenly found yourself out of a job – right sized out or phased out or just plain laid off? It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact a lifetime spent building and honing your skills is suddenly deemed worthless. With companies laser focused on cutting costs regardless of the impact on lives this undesirable situation is a stark reality for many. And your options are not always many. Some are forced to move into a lower status (and paying) role to make ends meet. Others find themselves pushed into some kind of early retirement, underfunded and unexpected with an uncertain future.

Recent weather extremes have rattled many a cage. From the epic flooding in Texas to the path of destruction left by hurricane Irma to fires that rage once again across California, many are learning to expect the unexpected from Mother Nature. How do you cope with the total destruction of your home? What words of consolation are there for the frustration felt having to recover from the ravages of forces beyond your control?

How we deal with unexpected events can pave the road to our future happiness or lack thereof. No one can wave a magic wand and make everything better. But we can try to make the best of a bad situation. Life events can feel overwhelming but maybe less so if we try to actively do something about it. And nowhere is it more important to take an active role than in the case of planning for retirement.

How can we make our individual challenge less so? What is within our individual power to impact our situation? We don’t have to do it all on our own. Family and friends are there to lean on and provide support. Getting through unexpected times calls for us to utilize all of our tools, our contacts, our networks and whatever else might help.

Not all unexpected events are negative. More easily dealt with are joyous announcements of pending weddings or births. Far less intimidating are ecstatic calls received when kids describing the new “perfect job” they just landed. Uplifting are those times when your tomato crop exceeds your wildest expectations. There are plenty of good unexpected surprises in life.

We can expect the unexpected to be a mix of positive moments as well as challenges. Hopefully the scale tips in our favor. How we handle these ups and downs will define the person we are and the quality of the retired life we live. Good luck to us all. And while you have a moment why not double check the expiration of that passport of yours. No need to unnecessarily add stress to your next airport encounter.

Where to Find the Best Retirement Advice

If you hope to enjoy the best retirement possible you need to plan and prepare for your time in the sun. Waiting until after you retire is too late. By then there is little you can do to correct or fine tune any problem areas. A little homework now can help pave the way to a smoother road when you ultimately exit the working masses.

When it comes to retirement planning there are plenty of areas that require careful consideration. After all we are potentially talking about the next 20 to 30 years. How much will you need to live the life you hope to? Where will you live? What’s the best course of action when it comes to healthcare coverage? How do you stay active and engaged? Is there a place for part-time work in your second act? Will you be bored? Where will you find meaning in your days lived?

With so much at stake, it makes sense to investigate all possible sources for guidance.


Mom and dad lived in a different time. What worked for them might not be quite what you are looking for. However their experiences can prove enlightening. Steps they took to migrate from full time work to full time retirement may be worthy of consideration. Mistakes they made can be illuminated and hopefully avoided. Sharing those aspects of retired living they most love may stir your imagination and guide you toward similar successes. The ideal retirement envisioned by our parents is not necessarily perfect for us. But what they have learned along the way just might make our personal journey less bumpy.


Our children may be able to shine a useful light upon our retirement. They have seen the impact of your career on your and their lives. Other than you no one knows better the stress and strains endured to make it in the world. And our kids know what really makes our clocks tick. Who knows better the satisfaction dad felt dragging everyone on weekend driving treks? Or the joy mom experienced when her hand made placemats were the topic of praise at a family reunion? First hand experiences with our life’s ups and downs make them pretty decent coaches. Our kids can provide a good sounding board to bounce ideas off. They want their parents to be happy. And although their perspective is from a younger generation their insights may assist in our efforts.


Our friends are typically more than willing to offer what they feel is useful advice. The thing is when it comes to retirement they are often in the same boat as we. They are unsure exactly what to do in their next life chapter. They are learning as they go. It may well be we end up helping each other plot a course as we work through strategies and make adjustments. After all what are friends for? 


Retirement bloggers are another source of useful retirement planning information. In addition to writing most are engaged in their own personal journey, openly sharing hits and misses experienced along the way. Useful insights often come from readers commenting on articles read. Their first hand input add texture to the retirement picture painted by bloggers.

LoveBeingRetired has been rolling since 2010. Since then we have enjoyed a few favorite sites:

Bob Lowry shares his retirement journey on his site A Satisfying Retirement offering insights learned while figuring out the best most meaningful way to live life as a retiree.

Retirement: A Full-Time Job immerses readers in the adventures lived by Sydney Lagier who retired at 44 and has not looked back since.

If you prefer an audio experience, tune into Retirement Journeys hosted by Ted Carr who shares an ever expanding collection of podcasts from authors, bloggers and people navigating their retirement journeys.


AARP, authors, pundits and those in the know offer another avenue to explore when it comes to preparing for your second act. With so many choices available see what friends and family recommend.


If you want to learn about retirement, talk with a retiree. Rarely will you find someone more willing to discuss the ups and downs of retirement than someone already living the life. First of all they have the time. Secondly a captive audience interested in what they have to say will be a positive in their day. Get ready for lots of details and plenty of stories. But what better way to glimpse what lies ahead? Researching what it will be like to be retired is all well and good. But until you find yourself immersed in the role, 24 by 7, you cannot really understand what is involved. Listen up to first hand encounters to learn what it’s all about.

As you prepare to navigate the retirement jungle it makes sense to gather as much information as possible. Get all the facts. Look at your situation from all angles. Listen to advice offered by others. But in the end your retirement is your personal journey. What works for others is rarely a blueprint for your successful retirement. Make plans according to how you hope to live. Trust your gut and be willing to make changes along the way. Accept there will be ups and down but try to stay positive. This is your time to do what you want to do when you want to do it. If that is not a good recipe for happiness I am not sure what is!

Dealing with Isolation After you Leave your Job

Written by Louise Nayer

As I walked down the serpentine road of City College of San Francisco, going to class, I always met students and colleagues. Some students would shyly walk past me as I smiled; others would say “Hi Professor Nayer!” and sometimes we would hug each other.

Faculty and staff, many whom I had known for over twenty years would stop and we would chat about children, grandchildren, classes, illnesses, deaths, and births. So many little chats over so many years.

When we retire, we lose those voices. Many of those we talked to we will not see again. How do we continue to be engaged with people when we leave our work places? Even though people can never be replaced, how do we create a new community? Many studies point out that human connection is by far the biggest marker of happiness. Older people who have left the workplace can feel isolated without that constant connection to people at work. Some get depressed and feel their life is meaningless. However, there are myriad ways to plan so you can have a retirement connected to others.

Before I left my teaching job, I knew I wanted to write, so I joined the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. I rented an office space two days a week and knew I would have a place to go with a writing community. Was it easy? Not at all. At first when I joined The Grotto, I looked around at all the strange faces. Where were my friends? I felt lonely, disconnected, like walking into a new middle school and wondering if I would be liked or say the wrong thing. But slowly, that changed. Now, years later, I love this new community. I’m excited to wake up on my Grotto days and see my friends. Others, like my husband, go back to their place of work one or two days a week, to volunteer or to work part-time.

It is important to be patient with yourself and realize adjustments take time, as you find a good volunteer opportunity, a class at a nearby community college, a gym with exercise classes, a garden club or a hiking club or whatever you fancy. If you are not a very social person, it’s important to force yourself to have face-face lunches, dinners, and connections to people, along with email and phone calls!

For some, having more time with children and grandchildren gives people that needed engagement to others. My friend Dixie and her husband moved from California to Ashland so they could help their daughter who had twins. Was the move easy? No. Packing up a home full of memories and leaving the state where you have lived most of your adult life can be daunting and terrifying. But over time, they are both thrilled that they moved. They love Ashland for all it has to offer, and they help their daughter with the twins every week.

It can take a few years to settle into “retirement” and figure out ways to surround yourself with people you care about. But there is no void. There are always ways to connect—from tutoring at the local school, to volunteering to helping students write college entrance essays, to hiking clubs or to a sick or disabled neighbor who needs help with groceries. You’ll also have time to call family members or old friends who you haven’t seen for a long time.

Pets can be wonderful, too. My husband and I got a puppy that is now one year old. It has been a very challenging year as we are 68 and 74 and a puppy has endless energy. But now, our dog, Ella, a member of the family, has many moments of sprawling next to us on the couch. Pets can offer great solace, plus in walking dogs you get to meet your neighbors.

Finding a new community or filling your day with connections to others might be challenging at first, but over time and with some effort, everyone can find wonderful ways to reach out and engage with others.

Louise Nayer’s latest book, Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen, part memoir and part-self help, is a guide to emotional planning before and after retirement. Many fears surface during this pivotal time and the book  includes interviews, expert wisdom and calming techniques. Her previous book, Burned: A Memoir, was an Oprah Great Read. She is a member of the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto.