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June 12, 2009

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morrison

Syd,
Excellent post. As always. A point, however, that needs to be addressed is 'age difference'. You're still in your 40's. Most retirees are in their 60's and above and they might not be as agile as you are. You're able to do all those wonderful things: travel, bocce, etc. Most elderly people can not.(thus the TV)

Plus, you're only into the retirement game for 2 years. Wait 10 years or so and we can re-address the issue. I retired 8 years ago at the age of 50 and found myself caught in a strange scenario. I was too young to be with 'real' retirees who where in their 60's. I was too old to be with the 40'ish crowd (most had young children) and I couldn't find any other 50 year old person with time on their hands like I had. Plus, there was the 7 year age difference with my spouse: he was younger than me and did not want to do the things that I wanted to do.
Thankfully things have improved (DH is more open to do things I want to do now) but it has been a long wait.
It's funny you mentioned 'travel'. I'm into that mode also. Somehow, I've just re-gotten the bug and have decided 'dam it all, I'm going to Europe every year and to hell with the retirement fund!' I know I should have gone more in my 20's and 30's and had a blast. I'll just have to make do with going in my late 50's and 60's. I'm still agile enough to walk and climb and see and do. Most 60+ year olds are not so fortunate.
I'm not happy with cutting back, making do with less and downshifting. After a while it bothers the hell out of me. For example: we are going to stay in Monasteries in Europe rather than a hotel to save money. You must be back at the Monastery by 11PM or the doors will be shut and you can't get back in. (the nuns are strict). That means no late nights out, no dancing....why is this happening to me? Because my fundsarelow! And I have to make do with less. or God forbid.....go back to work! No thanks. I console myself and say 'well, at least you're in Sorrento and the view is amazing'. During the day! LOL.

As for watching TV, I gave up cable. But I like to follow the politics of America. Now that I have time on my hands, I have been thrilled to learn all about American History and how our America runs. I find it to be a fascinating subject and I enjoy 'discussing' politics with both my American friends and my Italian relatives. I also follow Italian politics. You think we are crazy? Ha!

I don't like keeping my head in the sand. I want to know what is going on in the financial world as well as our government. I don't want to be one of those people who woke up on September 12, 2001 and wanted to know why we weren't warned or told about the dangers of the world. Nor did I want to wake up and say 'hey! where'd my money go?' I knew in 2000-2001, around the dot com disaster that getting out of debt AND the stock market was a prudent thing to do. Thus, I was able to actually retire young and live a fairly decent life.

I also know that my retirement couldn't have been so successful if my husband wasn't working. I had estimated that I needed $50K in retirement to sustain my somewhat simple lifestyle. I never could have calculated what transpired in the economy despite my intellect. I own 3 properties and their equities have been reduced. Ditto for my investments. Dividends and interest payouts have been drastically reduced. DH works and his salary makes up the difference. But I wonder how many other retirees have the same benefits? Which leads me to conclude that retirement today must contain some employment in order to keep pace with rising costs and dwindling savings.

All combined, we're living on $35K a year and sometimes, it really gets to me. I don't like it! It's difficult. And the only solution would be for me to return to work (NEVER!) or for somehow our investments to improve (not likely so far). DH only works 2-3 days a week. I could never ask him nor would I, to work more.

You can downsize till you turn blue in the face. Eventually you reach the point of no return (literally). Then what?

S. B.

I don't think human beings will stay happy very long if they aren't doing something they feel is fulfilling to them. Whether someone is happier after retirement is ultimately likely to hinge on whether they can find something that they are passionate about doing. If you replace work with watching television for 46 hours a week (very close to the average work week, right?!?) then that sure doesn't seem like a recipe for happiness.

This is especially true if you were reasonably passionate about whatever work you were doing before you retired, or if you were especially cognizant of providing for yourself or your family in spite of the fact that your work wasn't all that interesting. Hence, I'm not convinced that there (unfortunately) aren't a lot of retirees that are bored. However, in most cases, that is their decision to be bored. Nobody is forcing them to watch TV and putter around the garage all day.

The investment advice in the article was not unreasonable, but the general slant about retirement seemed to be that people assume 20 years of free time is a dream, but since it's not, then people ought to continue working longer so that the big block of free time was only, say, 10 years. I think a better slant would be to try to help people understand why sitting around all day is not a dream, and then to help them discover things that they could be passionate about that they otherwise would not be able to accomplish while working 40-50 hours a week. Then start working toward it!

I also think people often confuse retirement with vacation. When you have been working 60 hours a week for a few months, you need a VACATION. Having a week or two of totally free time with perhaps no real commitments is wonderful. Lounging at the pool or vegging in front of the TV for a few hours is relaxing and a good time-out from the past exertion (physical or mental). However, you will quickly tire of that. For some people, that comes after one weekend. For others, it comes after a week or a month, but for everyone, it does come reasonably quickly. Then what? The Fortune article confuses things when it assumes that people dream of "20 years of free time". People don't need a 20 year vacation.

Wooly Woman

Yes, I can see that you must have something to do in retirement- or maybe the problem is the term retirement itself? It implies so many things in people's minds. I have found that I need a task to keep my mind somewhat occupied while taking care of baby and am all the better for it. I have kept my hand in my work (am self-employed) a few hours a month, and I notice I am less bored and less frustrated than some other moms I know. In retirement I could see there are even things I would like to do that are work-related but wouldn't bring in any income.

Have fun travel planning!

Retired Syd

Morrison, S.B. and Wooly Woman: Thanks for all your insightful comments. I think you've hit it on the head Wooly Woman--what the term "retirement" really means. I've long held that all it means is not working for pay anymore. All those other things people have attached to the term (i.e., sitting around doing nothing, relaxing, golfing, etc.) those are some people's ideas of retirement, but the only universal that applies, really, is not working full-time for pay.

What you decide to do with all that time, I think, makes the difference between a happy retiree and an unhappy one. As SB points out, you have to feel like you are doing something you are passionate about, something that means something to you, and I just don't think 46 hours of TV will do that for you (at least not for me.)

I will say one thing about Morrison's comments, though. As I said in my post, I am not running in the same circles as the unhappy retirees. Also, I am not running in the same circles as many 40 year old retirees. The average age on my bocce ball team is 70--and that's with me bringing in the low age and June bringing in the high at 87! (And Bocce is only a part-time thing for her, golf is her real passion, which she plays 3 days a week!)

The average age of my writing class is 65, again, I'm bringing in the low age at 45. Bottom line is age is less important than state of mind. My retired dad who is 72 still plays tennis several times a week, works on his own yard AND his own remodeling--added on to his kitchen last year and did most of the work himself! He and my step mom are traveling about 3 months of the year-on a shoe-string budget--I'm learning my bargain-hunting tips from them!

People in their 60's these days (and I would say 70's too) are more active than decades ago. Sure they slow down a bit (don't we all), but I think those that are staying physically active and mentally stimulated are much more likely to be in the happy-retiree group. I DON'T think it's necessary to be in your 40's to be happy being retired.

As far as hanging out with people my own age, that's something I don't even notice. My best friend is (well, gosh, I can't even tell you how old she is--I always forget--late 50's, pushing 60?) and I think of us as the same age. Same with all the 60, 70 and 80 year old youngsters I hang out with these days. Who cares what our actual ages are?

Thanks for the interesting discussion from all of you!

Dennis

Excellent post, as usual Syd. Parallels a lot of my experience. Now that I am in year 2 of my retirement and 52 years old, I too am just finding a different pace of life, especially since my wife continues to work for now. But I find I am calmer, more reflective, more interested in ideas and not rushing around. I am sure things will continue to evolve, but so far, it's like night and day from the artificial world of work. I appreciate the beauty around us every day and I guess I just feel a lot more grateful about things.

Lizzie

My parents are 80 & 81 and I have blossomed since retiring 15 yhears ago. They swim every morning, then potter around the shops, after lunch a little snooze and then some gardening. They go on holiday several times a year (they were the oldest on the plane to Crete for our holidays last year)and out to lunch usually once a week. Seems like they have the perfect routine to me. The just got back from house/dog sitting for my brother for two weeks. I tihk they are just glad of some quality time togther after 59 years married.

Lizzie

Grace

As you know, I had a short period (one month) of "enforced non-working" due to heart surgery. I was rather shocked at how quickly boredom set in. And it scared me for my future retirement (I'm 60). But I love reading your blog and seeing how you're handling your retirement--it gives me hope for mine. BTW, I agree with Morrison that one should do what one wants to do in retirement (i.e. travel) though perhaps in a modified form (staying in monasteries rather than luxe hotels). What occurs to me is that retirement clearly takes more planning than some folks put into it.

Chris

Good post. I love your blog. I think those retirees sitting in front of the TV *are* bringing up those numbers. I have several such retired family members. I believe you're a rare case.

Retired Syd

Grace: I can see how people that retire in ill-health would be bored out of their minds. When I first retired, I kept getting bad colds and did not have the energy to do any of the things I wanted to do. (Although, I suppose if you're in ill-health, working wouldn't be too fun either!)

Anyway, I think you'll find actual retirement to be VERY different than recuperating from cardiac surgery! When you are healthy and have the energy to do what you want to be doing, I think it's much harder for boredom to set in.

Retired Syd

Chris: Now you've made me curious about the retirees I AM meeting. I may have to do an informal poll among my bocce ball team members and my fellow writing class students to see how much TV they are watching (I'm guessing they are bringing DOWN the average!) Thanks for reading and especially for your comment.

fern

as always, a thoughtful post which i enjoyed reading.

Judy

My mother used to say, most people are about as happy as they set out to be.

Thanks for a great post and discussion, Syd.

Leslie

Morrison,

We stayed at a monastery in Rome and we were locked in at 11:00 pm. But we were too tired because we walked for 5 hours straight and were jet lagged so we didn't even feel like staying out late. (we were in our 40s then). The price at 40 dollars a night was well worth it. I could tell you the story of loosing track of my Mom at the airport in Rome and then having her pounding on the monastery door at midnight but that might be for another blog. ;) The nuns kindly took in in their stride. Traveling is fun and unpredictable.

Bon Voyage.

Translation Chicago

Hi! I like this post. And I can't help but share my thoughts. My Dad retired at the age of 60. For one whole year, he just stayed at home and had quality time with my mom and some of his children who are not yet married. But then , he started to feel the boredom. He decided to have something productive to do. And oh by the way, he also likes gardening. But then he wants more - so he opened a small convenient store near our house. And then he likes it and enjoyed every minute of it, my Mother sometimes joins him. And they were both happy. My mom now is in heaven. My Dad is 85 years old now, still straight back, strong grip and vibrantly healthy. But he gave up his convenient store when my mom died. And now, my Dad enjoys travelling from one country to another. When I retire, I wanted it to be like that too. :-)

Retired Syd

@Translation: Thanks for sharing that. It's great to hear stories of retirees taking control of their happiness by figuring out what they need to have pleasure and meaning in their lives. It's often hard to know what that will be until you live in retirement for some time, getting your sea legs, but if you go where you hear yourself wanting to go, there's no telling where it will take you.

Translation Chicago

You're welcome Syd! Thanks for your post too. Enjoy your life, you only have one. Be happy and stay healthy. :-)

Air Jordan 5 Grapes

I think this is a great idea! I am in and I will link to it in my next blog entry. I hope that will be before next Sunday! Hope you are having a good weekend!

Leon C

Syd, your retirement forum is right on ! I 've recently retired at age 60 after 40 + years of laboratory work. Although scientific work was challenging, I knew I had to expand my horizons beyond the laboratory. I started to explore financial planing 12 years ago and started to plan my retirement. I am on target for a reasonably comfortable retirement and find that the retirement goal is more than financial. Using my scientific experience, I understand that retirement is like research which requires time and patience. I will try things that I did not have time while working and like research, find new ones that I might be interested in. Life is too short to get bored after working 40 + years earning the right to retire !

Antivirus_man

You write well will be waiting for your new publications.

JOBS_frend

The new year is already knocking at the door, let it will bring only happiness and joy.

Ginette

I planned my retirement for years. It was my dream. It turned into a nightmare. One bad happening after another, practically from the minute I got home on my last work day. My 2nd career did not work out. I tried volunteering, but they really took advantage of me...I was doing the work while the secretary was surfing the Net. I had a rough time getting my pension, a rougher time getting health insurance. There were other things that happened too. Worst of all, my mother died of, basically, untreated osteoporosis. She was active & sharp; we looked forward to doing many things when I retired. She became ill on Jan. 26, 2015, and died 3 months later. I am lonely & depressed, and just want to be with Mother and be at peace. You can plan retirement for years, but stuff happens that you cannot predict or even imagine.

Clifford Rothband

Forced retirement 10 years ago. Limited funds yet still did some travel, Nothing to brag about. . Demanding Family obligations, including Grand kids needs. Parents in nursing homes. Religion is non existent. Volunteering they don't need you. TV is not my thing, books and movies have lost there thrill. Dementia or an inactive mind that is lost in a earlier generation mindset has nothing to offer. Exercise with limited mobility has it's short comings. I can count my blessings all day long and still be bored. I used up my hobbies when I was younger. Jobs are for young active minds. Friends, where are they now? It's a new world, where oh where do I belong?. I can not be alone in this existence, There are others worse off, and some live the life we see in movies, wealthy or young, busy and striving for enlightenment or a better life. True happiness. May our dreams be good.

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