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Retirement Your Way

Joined: 1/2/2012
Posts: 118
My husband and I have been retired for several years, but we just recently figured out how to be retired. It didn’t happen over-night and we learned through trial and error the things that make us feel happy and fulfilled. Our days are a collection of simple pleasures and surprising moments jumbled up with the responsibilities of homeownership and an occasional spontaneous day trip or well-planned vacation. We make short term commitments that are meaningful and manageable and we pay a respectable amount of attention to friends and family. Once in a while we manage a “crisis” for our daughter, but mostly we just enjoy watching her life evolve at arms length. We look after our health by eating well and getting plenty of exercise and rest, and we manage our money carefully in hopes that it will last longer than we do. Life is leisurely and unencumbered most of the time and we like it that way. It is a simple formula that works for us.

Even though we have managed a successful retirement thus far, there have been no demands for us to write a “How To” manual. In fact, I am sure that there are enough of those already in print - many of which are as useless as anything we would write. Here’s the thing – our formula is not transferable. It is unique to us, just like your formula is unique to you and your situation. Finances, health issues, our individual temperaments, and long term financial obligations influenced how we approached retirement. What made sense for us may look ridiculous to you.

If I could offer a piece of advice (and of course I will) it would be to sit down and thoughtfully assess what you want out of retirement – do you want to grow vegetables on a farm in the country or to live on a sailboat and drift from port to port? How about driving an RV across the nation and writing about your experiences along the way? Do you want a life of service to others (there are lots of organizations that would love you) or do you want to do absolutely nothing but sit in a rocker on the porch (no judgment implied)?

Once you have established the what in the equation, next comes the how. That usually involves money. I am not a financial expert, but I know enough to understand that you have to be realistic about your expectations, so you’ll probably need to sit down with someone who is an expert and figure out what your idea of retirement will cost.

The temperament thing is almost as tricky as the money issue. Some people just are not cut out for retirement. I truly believe that. People who have never cultivated interests beyond their work seem to have a hard time settling into a different pace and accepting their altered self as still being viable. In other words – they get depressed. I’ll offer another disclaimer here – I’m no psychologist, but I have witnessed this condition in the newly retired. If you have a choice, maybe you should consider a leave of absence or an extended vacation just to give it a trial run.

Now that we have talked about money and temperament, the last thing I believe to be really important to consider before retiring is your health. That was probably the most compelling reason that my husband and I had for retiring early. We wanted to enjoy an active retirement that includes golf, tennis, biking, hiking and the like, and since good health is as coveted and illusive as a black pearl for anyone over fifty, we wanted to improve our odds by not waiting until things started falling apart. Good thing too – in just six years we have both noticed tremendous changes. The joints, oh man, the joints. They ache from morning to night. Neither of us can see without “cheaters” and we are getting more forgetful with each passing day. Hopefully by the time senility sets in we will have accomplished our dreams and be ready to sit on the back porch blissfully rocking in tandem.

Anyway, that’s how I see things today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Every stage of life offers up its own set of special challenges. Live well. Be happy. Make good decisions and keep writing.
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Congratulations on a smooth retirement! As you say, retirement is certainly a unique venture. I would have gone batty if I had started as young as you did. Keep up the good work--retirement and writing.
Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:21:00 PM
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Comment by mcoly618

Joined: 5/2/2009
Posts: 472
I wanted to let you know that we featured your essay on the Stage of Life Facebook page today. If you would like to check it, out go to Feel free to share the news with your friends and family. You're famous! :)
Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 1:40:56 PM
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Baby Boomers (and older!) blog on StageofLife.comAbout Us is a blogging community for "Empty Nesters" and those in (or near) retirement to share stories about the adventure of life in an online journal via their free Stage of Life account.  Read the blogs and stories from Baby Boomers (and older), or check out the writing contest for Baby Boomers, quotes about retirement, etiquette advice, videos about retirement, discounts for retirement, and other resources for those in the Empty Nest and Retirement stage of life.  Register to start your free profile, share an essay about your life experiences, and pass along your wisdom to help us change the world, one story at a time.  If you are a college professor, teacher or educator - review our literacy, blogging and writing resources.

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