My Satisfying Retirement : Twenty Years On: My View of Retirement

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Life without employment seems almost unnatural. From the time we are five years old our parents, schools, grandparents, and pretty much everything we encounter and experience is part of the process of preparing us to support ourselves, maybe a family, too. 

Sure, we intellectually accept that in the very distant future we will not be working. We see our grandparents and at some point, our own parents, getting off the treadmill. But, for us, this is a hard concept to personally grasp. We live in a culture that believes very much in the “no pain, no gain” model of living. 

We believe that people who don’t work hard do not enjoy all the fruits of life. We grasp the concept of a social safety net for those who can’t provide for themselves, but we can see quite clearly that net has huge holes in it; a lot of folks slip right through and disappear. We will not permit that to happen to us! We will stay employed!

Work is important, sometimes gratifying, and absolutely essential to life. However, and here comes the spoiler: not working can be ever so much more satisfying, enriching, exciting, and full of joy. I absolutely loved what I did for a living. Now after two decades of being on the other side, retirement can take you to an entirely different type of satisfaction.

What has happened that I didn’t plan for, didn’t even know was possible?  

Financially Much More Relaxed. There were several ups and downs in the economy and my investments, even before the Great Recession and now the double whammy of inflation and supply chain issues of the past two years. In the first few years of retirement, I was constantly worried that I had miscalculated or forgotten some major expense. 

At least once a week I’d use a calculator to re-check my financial plans. Each time, the numbers confirmed we should be OK. I did not expect health insurance costs to go up so rapidly, year after year. I actually forgot about having to buy new cars. But, overall, the financial plans my wife and I made have held up. Today, I am much less likely to stress over every up and down. We have made over 20 years. We’ll be OK.

Much More Aware of The Passage of Time. When you first retire, the time horizon does seem rather far away. That is an illusion caused by the sudden end of daily job responsibilities. Days of the week suddenly become much less meaningful. Monday is every bit as good as Saturday. There is no rush. 

For me, about seven years into this journey, however, there was a shift. I became more aware of the passage of time. I understood that each day seems long, but goes by quickly and will never be repeated. Anything not done today will never get done today. By pushing it into tomorrow that will force something else into the next day. Time isn’t as elastic as it seemed at first. I turned 73 two months ago; time is blazing by now.

Much More Open to New Ideas. The first few years are spent finding your rhythm and becoming comfortable with the decisions you have made. There are a lot of adjustments as you move through the stages of retirement. I did not have the inclination to take on additional challenges in my life. About 15 years ago I felt the need to begin to grow and take on new projects. I was comfortable thinking about how my life was being lived in new ways. I have shed some old convictions and approaches. In this 21st year, my brain is too full of new things I want to try. I am moving full speed ahead until my time is up.

Zero Interest in What is Going On in My Old Industry. I spent 35 years in my field of choice. I knew a lot of people. I had a lot of former clients whom I wished the best for. I was interested in staying in the loop. About five years into retirement, I began to lose interest. 

I no longer felt I had to check on the latest developments or stay in touch with people I knew who were still working. Now, I have no interest, whatsoever. That was a former life. It was a good one and allowed me to live this one. But, I’ve moved on. What is going on in the broadcasting industry is no longer relevant to me.

Much Better at Saying “No.”  When someone first retires there is often a rush of requests for that person’s time. Volunteering for this or that, heading a committee, helping with the Boy Scout meeting….. the lack of a full-time job must mean you are constantly available to help others. 

As the years pass, the ability to filter out the things you don’t want to do becomes greater. The ability to say “No” comes more easily. You find the strength to say “Yes” to the things that are meaningful to you and most helpful to others.

What about your retirement journey? Regardless of how long you have been without a full-time job, I bet you have noticed differences in that period of time. I’d be fascinated in learning what you have observed. Please share one or two thoughts.

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