What to Expect in Retirement

The only way to really understand what it is like to live the retirement life is to do it. You might read books and blogs to get a high level overview of what to expect. Friends and family may have helpful input based upon personal experiences. And there are more courses and classes than you can shake a stick at. All of this information can provide some guidance as you begin to navigate your retirement journey. But no one who has gone before you will have lived retirement in exactly the same way you will.

Our freedom to pursue what we love while building the custom retirement closest to our individual definition of perfection is a gift. Imagine creating a “job” description for yourself that includes only those things you love. As a retiree you can set your own hours, spend your time doing what you want, avoid unnecessary stress, answer to no one and look forward to tomorrow. How does that sound?

Although your journey will not exactly mirror my own I want to share a few noteworthy discoveries made over the last four years spent in the trenches (aka retirement).

Taking responsibility for your own inspiration

It is a sad fact that some retirees all too soon find themselves disappointed. When high expectations are not met boredom and frustration can follow. And yet there are others who revel in their days. They are busy and engaged and often cannot find enough time in the day to get everything done they want. One difference is they do not wait for the world to inspire them. Instead they seek out excitement and new experiences forever on the lookout for new avenues to explore. It is not always easy to find inspiration to live life to the fullest. But waiting for something to come along is not a good course of action. I do my best to use my imagination, explore my dreams, try to stretch beyond any self-imposed limitations and go for it. So far so good.

Feeling more at peace with life

Many retirees find retirement to be a safe port after the storm. There is a lot to be said about finally arriving at the doorstep of our second act. Most of those stresses that consumed us in earlier years are behind us. We need no longer struggle with the pressures of the work scene. The family is for the most part (hopefully) raised and independent. We no longer feel the need to prove our self to anyone other than our self. And we have blessed free time to spend as we choose. Where in earlier days it was easy to let all the little things get to you, retirement seems to thicken the skin a bit – we learn not to sweat the small stuff especially when beyond our control.

For many, retirement can be the happiest time of their lives. Leaving stress behind and enjoying the moment can be just what the doctor ordered. I am learning to go with the flow and try to focus on the positive.

Watching expenses more closely

A reality of retirement is you must live within your means. According to  a recent study by BMO Wealth Management 35 percent of Americans over 55 consider debt reduction their biggest financial concern. If you were budget conscious before you retired the transition should be relatively painless. Just keep doing what worked for you on your way here. If balancing the books was challenging in the past there is some good news. You will no longer have to deal with certain expenses like education, mortgage payments (roughly one third of Americans 55 and older have paid off their homes), commuting costs, business clothes and 401k deductions. The bad news is healthcare costs have the potential to more than make up for many of those discontinued fees. I am learning in retirement the importance of balancing and prioritizing, of spending on what is most important to health and happiness while cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary things. So far it is not that difficult – just takes a little extra effort.

Humoring those friends not yet retired

Although I am retired not all of my friends are so fortunate. It should not be surprising that an occasional pang of jealousy might come into play. The good news is my friends are a great bunch of people. They look forward to their own exit from the working world, most the sooner the better. Still it does not hurt to be sensitive. Some jobs are just fine while others are nightmares. I try to encourage those struggling to hang in there and keep their eye on the prize. I tell them how I enjoy the retired life but don’t rub it in. Keep on track, stay focused and don’t give up. I can personally vouch for the fact it will be worth the wait.

No one knows how their retirement will play out until they begin living it. Expect the unexpected. Prepare as best you can for the financial as well as non-financial aspects of your journey. Do your best. Then hang on for the ride – it should be a doosie!


Get Out and About to Make The Most of Retirement

Once you start to get the hang of life as a retiree it’s easy to find yourself slowing down a bit. There are not nearly so many things you must do. Responsibilities are fewer and farther between. Instead you enjoy the luxury of picking and choosing those activities and interests you genuinely want to pursue. Retirement is a time to revisit passions and hobbies previously ignored, forgotten or left behind due to a busy life. And you can control the pace at which you proceed. You need never go faster than you wish. Contrary to the working world, in retirement slow is an entirely acceptable speed.

A well-established routine can offer a certain level of comfort. Unexpected surprises are kept to a minimum. Doing those things you know so well does not require excess effort. You may repeat the same things but by now you know how to do each just right. And yet with no diversity in the day, if there is nothing new to look forward to, if you find yourself unwilling to try something for the first time you may be selling your retirement short. Should you become too comfortable, if you only experience what is well-known and familiar, you risk missing out. Sometimes along with easy and safe comes an uninvited guest – boredom.

This past week the locals of whom my wife and I are now counted were witness to the annual Carmel Concours. Owners of good-as-new antique, entirely unique and crazy exotic cars come from all over the world to show off what they’ve got. Of course as it is such a big attraction hordes of people show up to take part in the celebration. I am not a big crowd person. My wife might go so far as to say I do not like people. An exaggeration but let’s just say I prefer more intimate gatherings.

If I were to allow my natural inclinations to rule, I might stay home and happily read the details of the Concours in the local papers painlessly enjoying videos of the various best-of-breed automobiles displayed on the evening news. Boring! Instead my wife and I jump into the car and get as close as possible to the event on Ocean Drive – about six blocks as it turns out. We walk casually amongst the many four wheeled works of art appreciating them for their incredible beauty with spotlessly shined chrome engines and magnificently glowing paint jobs reflecting rich colors in every shade of the rainbow. Even more fun is observing the people who attend the event. Talk about a broad swath of humankind – truly worth the effort to get out and about.

Hund on a bench

Getting out and getting into life around you is an important part of a meaningful retirement. Watching from the sidelines may be easy but it is also unsatisfying. Experiencing life firsthand rather than as a passenger makes memories more vivid and heartfelt. Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by the rigors of travel with endless lines for tickets and security and coffee and pretty much everything? Don’t give in. Don’t take the easy path. Try to imagine safely arriving at your destination with the travel behind but your journey just beginning. Be prepared, be aware and most importantly try to be patient.

Do crowds intimidate you as they do me? Sometimes the hassle is worth the wait (although not always). Our solution is to get to events early before the crowds descend and leave ahead of the mass exodus. We always bring a few bottles of water and granola bars to avoid lines and exorbitant prices. Most important for me I get into the right mindset. I prepare myself to accept everything will take longer. I cannot change that reality but I can try to not let it get to me and instead focus on enjoying the good things.

Getting out does not need to be a major endeavor. As retirees we have the luxury of acting on short notice. A show or concert or event can be enjoyed without elaborate planning. A limited time special at that otherwise overpriced beachfront resort can be jumped on even midweek. Driving is a wonderful way to travel to beautiful places across the country without ever setting foot in a crazy airport. All it takes is a little creativity and initiative on our part and we can be off and running.

I often find myself happily seated in the garden watching the birds, enjoying the flowers, happy to be alive and where I am. It is a good thing and I sure don’t complain. But as the years progress I plan to do my best to avoid becoming complacent. I hope to always sustain a curiosity that keeps me looking around the next corner. I hope I never feel too old to try something new, for the first time. I hope that when I lay my head down at days end I have no thoughts of having wasted the blessed hours given me. Retirement is a blast. Finding that balance between activity and rest that is right for you will only make things better.

Our new Boston Terrier Frankie is looking up at me with those big time-for-a-walk eyes. A walk will be good for him and for me too. It’s time to get out and about, to take advantage of what remains of the day with my happy four-legged-friend and to enjoy being retired.