Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

Time sure does fly. The other day I took a look at the first blog I posted for “Retirement – Only the Beginning” way back on July 4, 2010. I had been contently working away at various start ups across Silicon Valley for over 30 years raising a family and setting aside a little something for the future. At age 52 I figured I had another ten to twelve years to build that nest egg and get ready to depart the working world. Then suddenly I found myself out of a job.

After a reasonable amount of panic and some fruitless searching for an immediate replacement job, I stepped back to catch my breath and put some thought into the future. It was a bit scary but I had faith I would re-enter the business world within a reasonable period of time. In the meantime I thought about what I would like to be doing and what I definitely wanted to avoid. Of course it was a real possibility I might not have the luxury of making a choice if I needed to return short order to the competitive job market

With my job search under way I began to think beyond my career and look to what might lie ahead. I had never given any real thought to retirement but with time on my hands and the years ticking by, what better time than now?

I had come to the realization that although only 52, each passing year brought me closer to retirement age. I had no idea what retired life would look like but I knew I wanted to retire at some to-be-determined age. I just did not have much insight into what exactly I would do with those months and years in my control.

So I asked myself, “What can I do now to prepare for my future retirement?”

And so I began a journey that continues today and remains a work in progress. Here is how I described my motivation for starting “Retirement – Only the Beginning” in my first blog:

I started LoveBeingRetired.com for two reasons: (1) to attempt to navigate the huge amount of retirement information currently available and distill into accurate, succinct information. In effect, create a checklist to identify now those things that we can do so our retirement is the best possible. (2) Equally important to discuss and share what we can do to help assure a quality retirement, filled with fun and adventure and excitement that makes each day worth getting out of bed.

Today I consider myself “unofficially retired.” I still keep my eyes open for that perfect situation where I would want to hop back into the working world. But over the past two years, my criterion has become progressively stricter. I am not finding much in that fast-paced high stress technology world where I grew up that interests me enough to commit 60-70 hours a week.

And so the journey continues.  I want to share a few tidbits I have learned while blogging these past years. Having them in my back pocket helps me feel a bit more prepared for what the future may hold.

Have a plan

I often hear from readers that are nervous about retirement when it comes to knowing what they will do to occupy their days. Most planning prior to retirement tends to be financial in nature. Not too many spend commensurate time preparing for what to do to stay actively engaged and excited about living once they retire. Some first begin thinking about their retired days when they are on the doorstep of making the move. I have learned that waiting too long increases the risk you may not be able to make changes and adjustments that could improve the quality of your retirement. You might run out of runway before you get off the ground. However, if you take the time to look down the road and visualize the life you want to live before you retire, you might add to your overall enjoyment and avoid at least some nasty surprises. Since you will likely be retired for 20 years or more, having a plan for your future should be a priority.

A regular routine is a good thing

I am a very organized person who does not do well sitting still for extended periods of time. Having something to do keeps me engaged and active. During my pre-retirement warm up, I have established a nice daily routine to keep me busy mentally and physically and I enjoy it. I make it a point to get out of bed by 7:00 each morning. Since I am a morning person, this regular starting point helps me kick into gear rather than find myself reluctant to exit a warm bed. With my routine of blogging, exercise, reading, gardening, walking, and watching the flowers grow, I never find myself remotely bored until maybe 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, just in time to think about dinner and a nice glass of vino.

Frugal is fine

My wife and I love to travel but we have learned we do not need to stay in five star hotels to have a good time. We enjoy good meals out without feeling the need to go to the hottest new spot in town charging exorbitant prices and burdened with long lines. We are happiest being together in a lovely location enjoying each other and the moment. It is amazing how affordable life can be if you do not require all those bells and whistles to have a good time. Outside of entertainment, we do not really need anything for the house, the cars should run for a long time, we have all the clothes we need (still fun to shop for those special additions of course), and we really enjoy cooking our meals together and eating at home. It turns out it’s really not that difficult to live well without spending extravagantly.

It’s okay to do nothing

As I have shared more than once over the years my biggest fear of retirement has been running out of things to do and potentially finding myself bored. But it is important to balance meaningful activities with time off. I have come to realize that a happy retirement for me will be a combination of doing things and doing nothing. I am learning to be okay with cutting myself some slack and enjoying downtime, no longer feeling guilty if I am not accomplishing something every moment. It has been a process to free myself from this self inflicted guilt. After so many years hurrying through incredibly busy work days where there was never a moment to spare, I have come to accept that I have earned the right to do nothing. And I like it!

Good health should not be taken for granted

As we get older we are constantly reminded of what challenges the future may hold from slower reflexes to reduced strength to precarious balance negotiating the roads we walk. We witness it every day in friends and family or read about it in AARP and see it on the news. It won’t be easy but we have committed ourselves to do our best to stay healthy along the way. Working out regularly, walking together, watching what we eat, and generally being aware of our physical and mental state is our conscious contribution to staying healthy. Every healthy day is a blessing and we appreciate it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

An uncle of mine living in a retirement community tells the story of a retired bigwig CEO who feels he is better than the rest of us mere mortals despite having departed the working world many years earlier. My uncle gently informed him that he used to be a CEO. Now he is just another retiree like everyone else in residence. I think as we age it is important to maintain a sense of humor. Those readers who despite challenges they encounter as they age are able to maintain an optimistic outlook have the best chance of living a happy retirement. A smile, a little laughter, and a relaxed optimistic view of the world can go a long way.

I want to thank you readers who over the years have shared candidly details of your personal journeys into retirement. I have learned a lot from your honest feedback, real world experiences and sense of humor in the face of challenges. And I look forward to sharing more as together we continue navigating the retirement jungle that makes up the landscape for our second act.

Good luck to us all and let’s enjoy.

Why Retirement is Well Earned

Getting yourself to retirement is no easy task. Many individuals who reach retirement age are finding themselves unprepared for their second act. For some people it is a matter of not having enough money to support themselves in the future. Other people discover they have not put any real thought into life after the job and find themselves ill-equipped to fill their day with enough activities to occupy the hours. Across the board seniors are realizing there is no guarantee of a fulfilling retired life.

For those who are fortunate enough to finally join the ranks of the retired, the journey to get there is often a story worth telling. But the story of those who are unable to retire is equally worth listening to and paying close attention. We don’t just happen into retirement; we have to earn our place.

What exactly is required of would-be retirees to increase the odds of realizing a happy retirement?

Most people who arrive safely in retirement can relate to long hours spent on the job and plenty of uninspiring duties. While there are some people who are blessed with a career they truly enjoy that inspires them each day to get out of bed and get to it, there are certainly others who work primarily for the paycheck. Most people learn to put up with the annoyances and stress that comes with the job because they are compensated for their troubles. Some people may not agree the compensation is commensurate with the trouble, but no paying job can be taken for granted these days. We stick with it and move forward.

Along the way, successful retirees likely learned to do without today in order to prepare for the future. There are many stories of delayed gratification and past sacrifices. Without putting off our immediate wants we would not have been able to meet the demands of raising a family and steering them down a safe course. Many successful retirees sacrificed short-term rewards in hopes of better long-term security.

Personal wants and needs become secondary to those of our children. Years of providing for schooling, doctor visits, braces, clothing, food, cars and weddings can sap the energy of the strongest, to say nothing of the impact on savings. But we soldiered on with a stiff upper lip and love for those we hold closest in our hearts. Faith in what the future might hold allowed retirees-to-be to keep their noses to the grindstone.

Many of us had a spouse who accompanied us on this life journey. Together we shared successes and failures and hopefully were able to support one another when things got too tough to handle alone. When you finally enter retired life, the two of you have earned the right to focus on each other and your future together.

Most of the baby boomer generation understands the importance of maintaining good health if you hope to enjoy a quality lifestyle as you age. Time spent in the gym, the pursuit of healthy eating habits and avoiding the many practices that are bad for you are all essential to maintain good health into your later years. Having paid dues for so long, retirees hope to enjoy a healthy second act well aware that those good habits will need to continue.

It is not easy to understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice, work and focus it takes to arrive safely at retirement until you personally make the journey. Only then can you justifiably look back on the incredible accomplishment you have achieved, knowing you survived a journey shared exclusively by fellow determined retirees. Consider yourself part of an elite group that charges a steep price for admission. You earn every moment of your retirement. Once you are there, enjoy.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Dad And His Trumpet – Proof Music Can Keep You Young

Alas for those who never sing but die with all their music in them ~ Oliver Wendall Holmes

It is easy to be passionate about music. If you close your eyes right now I bet you can quickly think of a favorite song and before you know it find yourself happily singing along. Music is an integral part of our lives from our earliest moments bringing us happiness, calming us, inspiring us and getting us ready to boogie. Particular songs can rekindle memories of life experiences both happy and sad. It is uncanny how a few notes or a brief stanza can trigger a crystal clear vision of a significant moment or a special face as if it was yesterday. Certain songs spontaneously trigger a knowing smile while others invariably bring us to tears.

Music has been a part of my dad’s life since he was just a kid. I cannot remember a time growing up when I did not hear the piano keys jingling or the ukulele strumming while he sang a spirited song. Dad has a knack for all things musical with a passion that requires constant feeding. But his greatest passion has to be the trumpet.

On occasion dad shares stories of playing at local pubs and events to help pay his tuition while in college. Later after marrying mom he still made his way to neighborhood dive joints where he joined with mariachi bands playing into the night as smoke swirled and dancers twirled. Although mom may not have been overly keen about these moments she realized how important it was to dad and remained ever the good sport. And today at eighty, dad still practices weekly with a local band that spins their music on special days such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. Once a lover of music always a lover of music!

Dad’s passion for music has kept him active and engaged for over sixty years now. The constant challenge to learn new songs and get each part perfect is a labor of love. Practice makes perfect and dad knows exactly how the music should sound so there is always room for improvement. He is pursuing his passion each time he picks up his trumpet and for him there is nothing better or more satisfying than playing that next song.

What is it about music that makes it for some the passion of a lifetime? Robert Ingersoll said, “Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.”

In my book “Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?” I dedicate a chapter to music and how it can drive passion and inspiration in many. Here is a section from the book:

The music we listen to impacts us in different ways. That song we sing along with can trigger emotions at many different levels causing us to more fully experience the moment:

- A thoughtful remembrance of an opportunity missed;

- A momentary escape from a situation otherwise beyond resolution;

- Inspiration in a confusing world;

- A fleeting moment of ecstasy as subtle harmonies mix to create a magical interlude;

- Sheer exhaustion as every ounce of our being becomes caught up in the energy that is the ballad;

- Enlightenment as lyrics expertly convey just what we were feeling but unable to verbalize;

- A sudden realization that things are not as bad as we thought or perhaps that they are;

- Respite from a world spinning out of control;

- An uplifting emotional experience;

- A sudden blast of energy propelling us onward with a rush that puts caffeine to shame;

- An awakening, a rebirth after hiding;

- A gift to share with someone we love;

- A release for pent up emotions when no other outlet exists freeing withheld tears, fears, and laughter;

- A crutch when little else can fill the void;

- A friend when we need one most.

I believe that love of music has truly kept my dad happy and younger than his years. He passed on to me my own passion for music that I am beginning to appreciate more and more each time I sit at the piano. And my brother’s love of music may even surpass dad as witnessed in the wonderful songs he has written and performed over the years.

If the rest of us are to learn anything from his example, my advice is to keep on singing, keep on playing, don’t stop dancing and keep on living a long and happy life with music a part of every day. If you seek additional encouragement, take a look at this YouTube clip forwarded to me by dad and now from me to you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGnD13pcTwc