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June 07, 2011


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Syd, spot on very insightful. I find myself now in that position trying to figure out what it is that makes me feel fulfilled. I never enjoyed my job so I dont miss any aspect of it apart from sometimes I miss the intellectual challenge of it, problem solving as you say. What feeds the soul Syd, that's the key isnt it?


I did enjoy the mental challenge for many of the 23 years I worked. This was in the actuarial profession which included a lot of computer work which included writing and maintaining programs I wrote as well as testing larger system programs written by others.

But in the last few years of working, this enjoyment faded quickly, as it wore me out and often made my head spin and give me a headache. The negatives of working, especially the commute, could not be offset by any dwindling positives of the work (and that included the good pay, even the part-time pay).

I do not miss at all anything about working. I have found ways over the last few years to channel my computer skills into my hobbies and volunteer work. For example, in my school Scrabble volunteer work, I created a fairly complex spreadsheet which quickly and efficiently determines the each round's pairings for the teams in the tourneys I run.


I think maybe you'll find that retired people have a lower estimation of the value of work than you think! What I miss about work is 1) the paycheck; 2) the social aspects; 3) the sense of accomplishment you get when you produce something that other people value.

But ... those social aspects also included going to pointless meetings, forced friendships with people you didn't like; humiliating encounters with your boss. And "performance appraisals." When I gave them, they were meaningless; when I got them they were frustrating and embittering.

And then there was the stress. The headaches, the bad back, the carpal tunnel, the arguments. Don't miss any of that!

I'll take retirement. Can fill my days on my own, thank you very much! But good post -- you can see you've touched a nerve!

Retired Syd

@Dreamer, deegee, sightings: I'm with all of you. I never missed work when I wasn't doing it, and I won't miss it when I stop doing it this time. Too many other great things to be doing, work does get in the way.

What's pretty interesting to me, though, is that it took this new part-time gig for me to figure out the elements of my previous job that I did like (the making myself do hard stuff and the social aspect--I was lucky, I had really great people to work with.) I wouldn't have said I missed either of those 2 things when I retired because really, I didn't miss anything!

But having them again has made me realize that I need to keep those two things up when I retire full-time again (like deegee, perhaps with volunteer work, or perhaps doing temporary work from time to time, or maybe taking a class in something totally new to me--one that requires actual homework!) The point is it doesn't necessarily jump out at you, you have to find it and go for it on your own. Especially if you're like me and are perfectly comfortable doing perfectly comfortable things.


As of this morning the national debt was $14.4 trillion, and growing. Perhaps we baby boomers should put our collective brain power into finding a workable solution to this huge problem, without sacking our children, and great grandchildren. We may be under the illusion that we're sliding into a comfortable retirement lifestyle, and I hate to spoil the party, but it's all going to come crashing down, unless we get our act together and solve it.


Adam - I'm in synch with you...Have been working like a dog for the last 25 years to earn the final reward of "retiring"....And just as I get here, along come the Obama/Pelosi/Reid &%$^! who are spending us into oblivian! For all you early retiree's looking for something to make you feel "fullfilled", how about volunteering to help with educating voters on the cancer that the current liberal regime is spreading...We desperately need someone other than a 47 year old "community organizer" to solve our real economic problems...Spending another $1T on more government health care entitlement programs apparantly wasn't the answer...Ugh!!!

Retired Syd

@Adam: Political activism is a great way to find challenge and meaning--if you've got the stomach for politics.

@Ugh: Honestly, I believe in freedom of speech, but how is it a nice little post about finding your own happiness in retirement gets spun into a platform for spewing political vitriol?

Sometimes . . .

Rich Berger

Ugh - I am largely in agreement with you, but there is an advantage in keeping political differences in the background in order to discuss topics of general interest.

I know there are aspects of my job that I would miss when I leave it, but I am starting to look upon retirement as intervals of self-directed leisure separated by temporary employment either full-time or part-time, rather than this endless vacation stretching off until death.


Syd - Just pointing out the absurdity of sitting around pondering why your not "fullfilled" spending 24x7 as as a gardner, reader, etc when the country is crumbling all around us...Do you have any idea how disconnected it sounds...? My point is there is a lot of work to be done...And while those who are still working at jobs are too busy to attend to it, you could trade a little time spent rooting around in the garden for a little time rooting out these arrogant liberal politicians who are spending us into oblivian!

Retired Syd

@Rich: I think your vision for retirement is becoming pretty main stream as people are living longer, healthier, more active lives.


Adam - Agree completely. But sometimes they overlap. If people really are sitting around pondering why they are not fullfilled, call me crazy but maybe the answer is to do something fullfilling.


Oops, meant to address my last comment to Rich Berger...

fred doe

Not thinking about the blanks they fill them selfs in. I cultivate; lately I've been cultivating apathy and I'm loving every minute of it. I've never felt so free:) but don't think it's easy,no you must strive to disengage it's a work in progress. Now it's 1:26 pm in new jersey time for my nap i shall dream of that beautiful lawn in this picture syd. i could sleep on that lawn?

Bob Lowry

Let me attempt a comment that is generated by the point of your post. I have been retired for 10 years but haven't missed what I used to do for a living. I have missed interacting with different people and stepping out of my comfort zone enough.

Recently I volunteered to work just 4 hours a week in the office of the prison ministry organization I am involved with. One of the guys desperately needed help in keeping all the paperwork and files up-to-date, letters written, and applications dealt with.

His systems are complex. I felt extremely uneasy for the first few times in the office, almost as if I was costing him time instead of helping him. But, now I am more comfortable with all his systems and ways to doing things and can see my efforts making his job easier.

This has nothing to do with money. It has to do with the satisfaction of making something better and being with people in that office I really enjoy. Only with the freedom allowed by retirement could I have taken on this commitment.

Retired Syd

@Fred: I'm with you. Political activism will definitely not grace my blank. Politics has become way too polarized for any meaningful exchange of ideas. (Or maybe it's always been that way, I'm just starting to notice.)

@Bob: Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!


I think the key is to understand that in order to continue to feel fulfilled, there must be regular periods of discomfort built into one's retirement life. Just like coming home from a stressful day and slipping on a pair of flannel pajamas used to ensure an evening of pure bliss, I think one needs to have similar (but less stressful!) offsets in retirement as well.

I didn't come to this on my own . . . I've been reading a lot of books about how to manage this life transition well. But as a result of learning from the wisdom of others, I am pushing myself to do something slightly outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis. It's slightly scary, but it's an amazing offset to those portions of my day when I'm squarely in my comfort zone. Some of the ways I'm doing this are by joining various clubs and working to build my apptitude or skill level within each, enrolling in a Lifelong Learning program for retirees at our local university and taking classes that are both within and outside of my comfort zone, taking up backpacking and its corresponding physical discomforts and challenges, and continuing to pursue my running passion by signing up for races in places I haven't been before for the pure fun, and continue to train for one marathon a year for crazy reasons only fellow runners would understand!

This may all sound like a lot of work, and it is to a degree, but the payoff has been so big that it has more than offset the effort. I just wish I'd figured this all out sooner. I've honestly never felt better about my life than I do now.

Bill Birnbaum

I guess I'm kind of like your friend Jeff. I too like problem solving so I enjoy working on one project or another. I enjoy the intellectual challenge. That's why I said, "Yes" when an old client offered me the opportunity to do a bit of consulting. And that's why I enjoy writing and promoting my books. Bill

Retired Syd

Tamara: I know from reading your blog you are way ahead of the game in figuring it all out, you've gone from zero to 60 in no time flat! And while I don't get the running thing, I do get the physical challenge thing--I'm working on that right now, a post to come later on that . . .

Bill: On our own terms, I think that's why it's so much better. Clearly you figured out the secret sauce.


That's OK Syd, very few people get the running thing. My husband is a new fan by the way . . . he appreciates your succinct way of pinpointing the financial aspects of retiring pre-SSN benefits. Plus he was a 30+ year US News & World Report subscriber and therefore finds your credentials to be stellar!


Great post! I enjoy(ed) fixing or building things at work. Having to renovate the house has been quite a lot more fun now that I've had the time to do it at a more relaxed pace. Plus the dynamic has changed from "must get this done in the shortest amount of time" to "how do I make this more pleasurable to do?"

Retired Syd

@Jacq: Actually you bring up a good point. If you can do that thing that you enjoyed outside of the constraints of a job, you might even get even more enjoyment from it.

Michael Wright

Good info. This answers one question of mine but it raised two more. Back to google. Thanks for the info.

How to Relieve Stress

I've always thought that I would never want to be retired as I thought that when we stop being active we lose faculties.

Over the years, however, my thoughts of retirement have changed to where I think of retirement as not having to report to a daily job but still doing things to be active and useful in life.

Thinking of it this way makes it seem far more attractive than in my previous way of thinking. Wouldn't you agree?

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