Retirement, Its Upsides and Downsides

I retired at the age of 65 after a good career with a good company.  It was a choice I freely made.  My work required quite a bit of traveling and I was tiring of so much travel.  I knew I had saved enough in my 401(k) to retire on so I could afford it.  But I was apprehensive about what I would do with all my spare time.  I had no hobbies I felt passionate about nor other outside activities.  I was concerned that my wife and I would drive each other crazy spending so much time together.  I had heard that many retirees died of boredom after five years of retirement.  So I was a bit concerned about the future.

Unfortunately I was diagnosed with cancer 2 months after retiring (read The End of Life or Beginning of Living?) so my retirement was timely.  I say unfortunately from a health perspective.  I did come away from the experience with a better appreciation of life and how fortunate I really am.  However the 3 years that I underwent treatment gave me time to think about the future.  The first priority was regaining my health.  I hired a personal trainer at home and started going to the gym several times a week, something I still do.  I improved my diet and tried to look more at the upside to life.  I had conquered most of my fears of dying so was more focused upon recovery and living.  This was actually a major change in my outlook on life (read It’s a Wonderful Life).  It allowed me to focus upon the upside of retirement instead of its potential downsides because there really is a tremendous upside.

I worked hard all my life for two primary reasons: 1) to successfully raise a family and 2) to enjoy my retirement.  I have to the best of my ability accomplished the first objective.  The second started decades ago with saving enough into my 401(k) to afford a comfortable retirement.  That I have accomplished.  Now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.  Though retirement is far more than having enough money to afford it, having enough money is an essential component.  It allows one to spend on things one wants without worrying about whether one can afford it or if there is enough for the future.  I have no regrets for putting more into my retirement than seemed necessary at the time.

I now look at money this way.  When I was a wage earner I was in the accumulation mode of saving up for the future.  Now that I am in the future I am in the distribution mode of spending my retirement savings.  I was somewhat of a spendthrift during the accumulation period and had to learn how to spend my retirement money now that I am in the distribution period.  It actually took almost two years to make the paradigm shift from accumulation to distribution.  But I’m now just about there.  I do much more impulse spending than I have ever done.  I by no means live a lavish lifestyle but I no longer have to spend so much time and effort justifying an expense.  I figure that I have 10 more good years ahead of me to enjoy so I might as well do all the things I want to do now rather than later.  Time is more precious than money and time doesn’t stop for anyone.

I need to keep my mind busy and my body active to avoid mental and physical atrophy.  It is so easy to get into a routine when retired.  I try not to and attempt to vary my activities daily and challenge myself to new things.  This blog is one of these mental activities, trying to think of new topics to write about a couple of times a week.  I have dyslexia and hardly read so writing is not an easy or natural activity.  My spelling is also atrocious.  Without online spellcheckers and dictionaries my writing would be completely unintelligible. I force myself to do some things that are uncomfortable since they provide a challenge to me both mentally and physically.  For example meeting new people is a very uncomfortable thing for me since I am autistic (read An Autistic’s Personal Perspective).  I have joined several environmental and hobby groups and help some local candidates running for political offices.  I sometimes volunteer to do thing very unnatural to me such as knocking on doors to tell strangers about a candidate I support.  I have a very thin skin and hate rejection which does occasionally happen.  But I have found most people quite considerate even if they don’t like my candidate.

As for my physical well-being not only do I go to the gym a few time a week but I also walk, hike, and bike.  Mixing my physical regiment in between days of rest are physically challenging however some can be fun.  But there is no gain without a bit of pain so I sometimes push myself so I won’t slip backwards.  I made sure first that my cardiovascular was good by having a stress test done by my cardiologist.  He said I didn’t have to come back for 5 years so my cardio is still in good shape.

I’ve also connected with some long forgotten friends and relatives I was too busy to communicate with.  I try to keep in touch with them on a regular basis by email or otherwise.  We are all getting old and staying connected is comforting.

When I get bored I do some yard work or clean around the house.  I am trying to build a drip system for our scanty garden and my wife’s plants.  There is always raking to do and weeds to remove.  I can go to bed as late as I want and get up anytime I feel like it, typically around 8 AM or later if I feel lazy.  I do have lazy days in which I simply do nothing.  After all I am retired.  But I don’t make a habit of it

Overall I have found Retirement quite interesting, challenging, rewarding, relaxing and just occasionally boring.  I don’t miss work at all because I am now my own full-time boss accountable to me.  I actually wished I had taken retirement earlier so I would have more time to enjoy it.  Life is good.  I see little downside to retirement and look forward to each new day.  It is almost as good as I had always imagined.


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2 Responses to Retirement, Its Upsides and Downsides

  1. Pingback: Autism and Life as a Senior | ouR Social Conscience

  2. Pingback: Running out of Time | ouR Social Conscience

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