Two Reasons Retirement Is Awesome

Do you ever picture what your life will be like once you retire? It’s fun to imagine what is to come once you are 100 percent in control of how you choose to spend your time. Freedom to do what you want, minimal stress, the chance to do those things you could never find time for, and no one leaning over your shoulder telling you what to do. It sounds wonderful and it can be. The secret is to plan ahead and prepare for the next chapter. Spend time figuring out how you will spend this extended vacation that will last decades. And not just your finances – it is also important to figure out what you will do, what you want to do with the free time that will be yours to manage.

What do you want your retirement to be?

I look at my parents who have been retired for seventeen years. Both are relatively healthy beyond the normal age related issues we will all have to face. Although not as active as they once were they keep plenty busy with bridge games, dinner parties, travels (more local these days but since they have already travelled everywhere they really want, that works), a bit of golf, family visits, lots of reading, and a sprinkling of FOX News and old movies from Netflix. Mom still cooks most meals and dad pitches in with dishes (only fair). Dad always loved maintaining his garden – roses are his specialty. He can no longer do it all himself but still makes time to get outdoors and work the land a bit.

I am not sure how they imagined their retirement but believe mom and dad are happy with how things turned out. Keeping busy – mentally as well as physically – has allowed them to remain sharp and engaged with life. They have a wonderful network of friends clearly demonstrated come Christmas time when the cards roll in big time. Not a bad retirement by most standards.

Before retiring four years ago (that went fast!), I spent time looking ahead to the day I would exit the working world. I read books, blogs, and reports. I listened to seminars and podcasts. I talked with retired folks in my immediate circle of friends or more accurately my parents circle. It seemed everyone had a different thought on what was best about being retired. Since retirement is a very personal journey, I believe every choice can be right as long as you pursue your passions.

For me there are two simple reasons why retirement is such a wonderful place to be.

Goodbye stress

The kids are out of the house and living independently. The mortgage is paid so we just have to save for property taxes and maintenance. I have stepped off the corporate ladder and no longer battle to reach the next rung. I said goodbye to problems getting to sleep as nothing stressful waits in the wings. Demands on my time are few so I am free to pursue what interests me. Talking with others who are still working I almost feel guilty – almost.

The absence of stress in my life is a welcome state. I feel more at ease, able to appreciate and enjoy more fully little things previously overlooked. I don’t worry about what is beyond my control. Where in the past the good life often passed me by in a blur I now live each day at a pace that suits me. No stress – no problem.

Hello new interests/experiences

When I was in high school we were required to learn a foreign language. I chose Spanish. Once graduated, I never looked back and what I may have learned gradually became rather rusty. Until now that was fine – I had no real interest in languages. Then we went to Paris and I found myself intrigued by the French spoken all around me. With a new found interest and time on my hands I downloaded an app called Duolingo and dedicate a little time each day to learning French. I have no plans to become fluent – I just want to be able to pick up a bit of conversation, ask for directions, read a menu, you know – the basics. I am having fun and my wife is impressed with my progress (since she speaks French I value her opinion). Similarly my interest in history during earlier life was pretty much nonexistent. I am not sure why I now love learning about all things past from the European monarchs to the Indian Wars to those numerous events that changed the course of history. Who knows where my interests will take me next? One of the best things about retirement is having all the time you want to dedicate to newly discovered interests. The clock no longer dictates my day – I am in control.

The other day a neighbor came by to visit. We talked a bit and when I described how I was exploring the wonders of history via an online course his response was “Boy, don’t ever let me retire!” His idea of retirement is running that next marathon or ballooning over the countryside or pushing himself to some new extreme. My idea of the perfect retirement is a bit different. The good news is we are both right. How we choose to live the best retirement is up to our individual wants, wishes and passions. Enjoy!

Retirement Happiness Depends on Your Perspective

Getting retirement right has a lot to do with setting reasonable expectations. It is not just about what you want – it’s also facing the reality of what you get. Some look forward to an idyllic escape from the stress and strain of working for a living, a time to slow down and smell the roses and enjoy the moment. Others may hold a more pessimistic view, imagining their second act as one of gradual decline and loss of independence. For the majority of us, retirement will be somewhere in between. But having the right outlook and a realistic perspective may help tilt the scale in our favor.

When we are young, we have great aspirations for the life we want to live. Ahead lies a promising career that hopefully inspires us. By working hard and saving, we might have those nice things that make life more enjoyable. And perhaps we envision a family to share our life and love with. We want it all, we feel there is no reason we should not have it all and we have plenty of time to give it our best shot.

As we approach retirement, many of these earlier dreams have either been realized or adjusted where appropriate. The idea of starting a new career can seem unrealistic, although there are those rare seniors who do just that. For most of us, if we have had a good career and achieved the goals we set, that particular hunger has been, for the most part, satiated. While at 25, achievement, recognition and accumulation were all important, at 65, having been there and done that, our goals are different.

I look back fondly on years spent working furiously for various startups. At the time it was a blast, and I energetically gave my all, happy to be working with a unique bunch of people equally as dedicated. Today, just thinking about running at that breakneck speed honestly tires me out. I believe my mind could still compete, but I really have no desire to do so. The fact is, my goals have changed. I no longer need to outperform my peers to be recognized. I don’t need to compete for a higher position or bigger office or more letters after my name. This is, to a large extent, because I am happy where I am at the moment. But another part might be due to the fact that as of now, I have statistically lived the majority of my life. It is no longer important to me to be the best in the eyes of others. What is important is spending my life with those who matter most, doing what I want with my time and having no regrets.

Many of us have known someone facing a debilitating or terminal disease that either impacts their quality of life or shortens it prematurely. When they are finally able to come to grips with what their fate, priorities tend to shift. What was so darn important to achieve during a future spanning 20 or 30 years can become less important in an abbreviated time frame. Each day is precious, and we learn to reprioritize what really matters.

I ask myself how I would spend my days if I learned I had five years to live. I sure would not worry about making a fortune or becoming a vice president or pursuing other lofty goals. I would want to spend time with my family and let them know how important they are. I would want to visit those places I have always wanted. I would sample every new restaurant in the area without concern over too much spice. I would try to find peace inside myself and enjoy every moment I was given. With a shortened future, I would not want to waste time.

Why would I live any other way in retirement? Now that I am in control of much of my life, I should do what matters to me. I set the standards and make the rules. I can make the choice to positively face each day no matter what may be in store. My retirement happiness is in my hands, and I sure do not want to fumble. No more waiting for the right time – that moment is now.

Written for US News & World

Retirement Relocation Realities

A few years back my wife and I began exploring the possibility of relocating in retirement. We have lived in the Bay Area for most of our adult years dutifully contributing to the frantic world of Silicon Valley while raising the family. For that time in our life living here was ideal. The kids went to good schools, there was plenty to do on the weekends, and should the job situation change there were all kinds of companies to work for.

Although the Bay Area has a lot to offer, there is a cost. Before you journey anywhere you must consider the traffic situation. In my mind there are few places so attractive as to entice me to get on the freeway – any freeway – around commute time. Over the years the “commute window” has expanded to encompass more and more of the morning and evening hours. Maybe I am just getting older, a bit less tolerant but it seems popular spots are typically overcrowded, parking is a perpetual nightmare, public transportation is insufficient, and there are just too many people! You get the idea why we have been looking into other possible areas to retire to.

After careful consideration over a number of years of possible locations across multiple states, we made our decision. We purchased a place about 80 miles from here near the ocean in a quiet, friendly and minimally trafficked neighborhood. We rented the retirement-house-to-be for a year while finishing off job commitments and getting our ducks in a row. And now our patience is to be rewarded as we are a few months away from making the move.

It is exciting to realize we are about to start a new chapter in our lives together. We are ready to get to it. We have begun decluttering in preparation for our pending move making good use of our “big pickups” offered by the garbage service. We often visit furniture stores on the weekends in search of that perfect dining table and family room couch. And we are doing all the myriad of little things you must as we get our current home ready for sale.

As we prepare our way we find ourselves reflecting on the whole transition, on what we hope lies ahead and what we will leave behind.

The kids will not be able to drop in for a quick catch up

Three of our four children live within 20 minutes of our current home. It is easy to pop on by for a dinner or movie or Sharks Game. Although 80 miles is not THAT far away, it will put an end to the impromptu get togethers that we have come to love. My parents live about 80 miles in the opposite direction – a manageable distance that allows us to share time regularly. This move doubles that distance. The folks are both in their early eighties and fear driving that increased distance will not always be an option. I have made it clear I will happily pick them up and drive them to our place as often as we want. But the bottom line is it will not be as convenient as it is today.

Decluttering is not that easy

As we work our way through years of accumulated possessions it is not always simple to decide what to keep. Can we really throw away those annual school pictures of the kids accumulated throughout their school careers (even though there are so many)? Although I haven’t used that particular do-hickey for the past 10 years, who is to say I won’t need it at our new home? Our daughter is helping us with sage advice gleaned from a recent book. When her mom explained her challenges she suggested she ask herself: Did it give you pleasure in the past? If the answer is yes, wonderful. Then ask, will it give you pleasure in the future? If the answer is no away with it. We are making progress – slowly. Once done we will have a much more manageable compilation to bring to our new abode.

Change can be challenging

Having lived here as long as we have we know the lay of the land – where to find the best baguette, the best Chinese food, the most reliable car repair service, that perfect cup of Cappuccino, the best movie theater, and the most perfect hiking trail. We will have toWaves at HMB relearn all of these at our new digs. Where will we start? What about doctors and repairmen and dentists and public transportation? We are fortunate in that we met two native couples who are well versed in the general goings on in the area. They have offered to help us get under way as soon as we arrive. And we are discovering there is a variety of social events and activities on a regular basis nearby. With so much to choose from we just have to decide which we want to explore.

What is most exciting to me is along with these challenges comes the opportunity to discover new things. I look forward to heading out the door and walking in whatever direction, not sure what is ahead. An intimate downtown is a mere one mile walk from our door patiently waiting for my exploration. The bigger downtown is a 10 mile drive but offers many new restaurants to sample and shops to browse and little known hole in the walls to uncover. And 15 miles from our doorstep is some of the most beautiful coast line in the world. I can’t wait to stroll and take it all in. Side by side we plan to do exactly that. Relocation has it’s challenges but I think we are ready.