It has been a year since I retired and I have got to tell you, I thought I was ready but I was not. I am not referring to financial matters, mind you. I am referring to the lifestyle and emotional sides of the equation and what I knew was coming but was ill-prepared to deal with. No one warned me that getting up each day without deadlines would not be easy, nor did anyone tell me how leaving the working world (or in my case the full-time blogging world) would seem like my own personal fall from grace.
Whether you are young and simply dreaming about retirement, or older and just beginning to dip your toes into the possibility, I hope you can learn something from my experience and find your own path to a fulfillment during this new and wonderful phase of your life.
Retirement: The First Few Months
1. You are going to want to do nothing and in doing that nothing, will feel like something is wrong with you.
During those first few months, you will likely banish deadlines from your daily task list and may even banish the task list entirely.
I did and with it came a lot of guilt. I felt like a good-for-nothing slug and even though I got up every day, dressed and made up to the usual nines, I could not help but feel worthless. I later found that feeling this way is normal. Embrace this time and enjoy it. You have worked hard for a zillion years, so take a nice long staycation and recognize it for what it is.
2. Household chores and the never-ending backlog of to-dos will consume every waking hour.
Notwithstanding those abandoned deadlines, at some point, you will need to start tackling those household projects that have been on the backburner for months if not years.
In my case is what a remodel of my Rim Country home in Arizona. Although it had good bones and an acre of forested land, it needed some major updates to the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as to lighting, fixtures, and appliances. The outdoor space had to be cleared and Firewise-d and glorified to enhance outdoor living.
With the lack of other meaningful work, this remodel became my mission along with other household chores. Having a major project was, for me, a blessing.
3. Once you retire, don’t expect the friends you made in the workplace to keep in touch.
As much as I reached out to my former colleagues, most ignored me. One special person, however, did keep in touch. Daisy Luther, you are the best and I am so grateful you have stuck by me during this transitionary period in my life!
4. The things you thought would be great are MEH.
The Urban Dictionary defines MEH as “Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care”.
That pretty much sums up those things that I thought would be great but turned out to be non-issues. Examples? Things like sleeping in, spending hours in the kitchen producing gourmet meals, and making a daily trip to the gym.
All I can say is this: be flexible and more than a little bit adventurous. The things you had looked forward to may fall by the wayside but new things may take their place.
Retirement: Six Months Later
5. Recognize that if you are going to have a fulfilling retirement, you are going to have to put yourself out there and make new friends.
Part two of this is that you don’t have to be a social butterfly if you do not want to. The choice is yours so listen to your inner self and stick to it. Don’t let yourself be guilt-ridden by new acquaintances who chide you for not taking advantage of the amenities your HOA and community may offer. These people are not your friends if they do not recognize that your needs are different.
Put yourself out there until you find friends that are more simpatico.
6. There is a huge divide between retirees that were self-employed or worked for small businesses, and those with big, fat monthly pension payments.
Since my retirement is self-funded, I am very careful with my money. That said, it is demoralizing to be around people with big fat pensions who live high on the hog, even in retirement. Perhaps the last laugh is on them, though, since my home is paid for and theirs is not. Still, it is easy to become envious from time to time.
Thank goodness I still prefer DIY and frugality over conspicuous consumption.
7. Pursuing your passions in terms of hobbies becomes the secret key to finding your personal happy place.
Ballroom dancing, adult coloring, and essential oils are my passions and spending time with these hobbies takes me to a happy place that is quite fulfilling.
Of the three, ballroom dancing has taken on new meaning since my husband Shelly, and I have started performing at senior homes and retirement centers in the Phoenix valley. There is something about music and dance that wakes something up in everyone, and I am so blessed to have connected with a production company that allows us to volunteer our time in this manner.
When it comes to adult coloring, I am finding that over time, my skills have expanded exponentially to the point where some of my drawings are truly beautiful. For someone who was never artistic in any way, spending at least an hour a day producing beautiful artwork is both a privilege and joy that I could never pursue while working full-time. Here is a link to an article I wrote about getting started with adult coloring.
And then there are essential oils. Like a kitchen chemist, I make up my own first-aid and healing concoctions as well as DIY skin-care care products. Truth be told, some things I try are fantastic and some not so much. One thing I have learned, though, is that many of the essential oil recipes you find online and especially on Pinterest are a total waste of time. money, and effort. Doesn’t anyone test these things?
When it comes to essential oils, to this day my go-to is still Miracle Healing Salve (that you can make yourself) using inexpensive Rosemary, Peppermint and Lavender essential oils.
Retirement: One Year Later
8. The reality of less cash flow begins to sink in.
Eventually, money matters can and will bubble to the top as you think about your cash flow. If you are a Baby Boomer, you might recall that as recently as ten years ago, financial gurus were basing retirement cash flow projections on an 8% to 10% return on your savings. Anyone who suffered during the crash of 2008 and 2009 can attest not only to the fallacy of those projections but to the tendency to now focus on capital preservation rather than growth.
Although I own two homes and both are free and clear, I have started to worry about cash flow and the effect of inflation on the purchasing power of my savings. It is a legitimate worry and one that should not be ignored by retirees regardless of how comfortable they are financially.
9. No matter what, you must find your own path and do what you want to do and not what others tell you.
I wish someone had told me this before I retired. Life is going to change. It may be better and hopefully, will not be worse. One thing for sure, though, is that it is going to be different.
Be prepared to set your own path and create your own journey. Perhaps you want to travel (I don’t; been there done that), or perhaps you want to learn a new skill. Take some time in advance to create a bucket list to use as a starting point during those first few months and give yourself permission to change things around as you see fit.
The last thing you want to do is to go into retirement blindly, without a sense of what comes next. What comes next is important, even if you only have an inkling of what that next thing will be.
10. Depending on your age, you still have 20 or 30 productive years left. Don’t waste this time thinking you are at an end game.
Think back to where you were twenty years ago. Then think about all of your accomplishments during that 20 year period. See what I mean? There is still plenty of time to do, to be, and to achieve. It is all up to you.
Summing It All Up
Out of curiosity, I entered the title of this article into Google and the entire first page of search results had to do with finances, investing, expenses, and all things money related. Whereas money matters are indeed important, there is so very much more to retirement planning than that.
I am lucky. I have found a number of hobbies that I love, a way to volunteer in my community while doing something I love and have sufficient savings to be able to sleep at night without worrying too much about running out of funds. As long as I am careful, that is.
Life, for me, is very good and now that I am over the initial shock of retirement, I embrace the fact that there are 24 hours in my day and that I can do whatever I please. If there is anything missing, it is the joy I found in blogging about preparedness and the ancillary topics of self-reliance, wellness of mind and spirit, and essential oils. Wait a minute! Isn’t that what Strategic Living is all about?