Ok, now that we’ve talked about what literally gets us out of bed in the morning, alarms, annoying dogs, boot camp, and of course having to pee, let’s talk about what gets you out of bed in that way that RJ was referring to when he commented that “new challenges” get him out of bed. Or as Steve, Suzanne, and the other Steve agreed, having control over their days, planning them out exactly as they want to live them.
It may be hard for some of us to understand why someone doesn’t really want to retire. And it may be hard for others to understand why some of us do want to retire. But the one I’m trying to reach right now, is the one that really does want to retire, but then doesn’t actually like it when he gets there.
As I mentioned in my last post, most retirement planning literature focuses exclusively on the math part of the equation. How much money do you need? How should you invest it? And then once you get to retirement, how much of it can you afford to spend? But what about the how to live your life part?
I read a couple really good books on the subject before I retired, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free and What Color is your Parachute? For Retirement. I made all the lists. Lists of activities I would take up in retirement, tasks I wanted to accomplish, organizations I wanted to volunteer for, and ideas on how I might structure my days.
My list of activities included trying skiing again, making my own clothes, and playing the piano. My to-do list included painting all the rooms of my house, cleaning out my closets, and finally getting some old photos in albums. My volunteer calling would be with doggies.
Now, five years later, I haven’t tried skiing, I’ve made only one skirt, and I finally just called a piano teacher yesterday to set up lessons. I’ve made a very small dent in the painting, closets, and photo albums. My current volunteer job has nothing to do with dogs, and I only started it a few months ago. And I avoid structuring my days as much as possible.
So my point is, all is not lost if you failed to plan for this before you retired. Chances are you’ll feel differently after you retire anyway. And the good news is you have plenty of time to figure it out after you retire. You may even want to enjoy a few months of just relishing the fact that you are not working anymore before you figure it out. Go ahead and relish, like I said, you have plenty of time.
But eventually, you’re going to need some reason to get out of bed in the morning, and now I mean that in a way that means more than just to get your coffee. I mean that in a “new challenges” kind of way, as our wise commenter RJ mentioned.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take some classes. When I retired five years ago, my going-away present was an Apple MacBook. Up to that point I was a PC gal. So I took weekly classes at the Apple store to learn how to use my new machine.
After that, I took a memoir writing class, a magazine writing class, a blog writing class, and some creative non-fiction writing classes. I took a class about angel investing and another on photography. And as I mentioned, I’ll be starting piano lessons soon. Explore as many topics as you might be interested in.
Try a new hobby. I took all those writing classes because I started a blog after I retired. I read Blogging for Dummies and then I set up a blog. I barely knew what a blog was before I retired. Now it’s my favorite way to spend time.
Return to some old hobbies. It took me awhile, but I finally got back to yoga. I join Doug on his bike rides from time to time. And while I don't do much sewing, I found I loved knitting. I can only make baby blankets so far, but luckily quite a few of my friends had babies over the last five years.
Pick up a part-time or volunteer job. I know it sounds counter-intuitive for retirement, but I really enjoyed my part-time retirement job. Mine was in my old field, but maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try that wasn’t what you did for a living. I’ve often thought it would be fun to work in the tasting room of a winery or in a doggy daycare. I figure since the doggies there already have owners, it would be safer than volunteering at the shelter. Too tempting, and I’m not ready for another dog quite yet!
Travel. It doesn’t have to be expensive. When you’re retired you can take advantage of last-minute deals you might not have had the flexibility for when you were working. I save money by exchanging my home on vacations. It’s a little more challenging to set up, but since I’m retired, I have the time to devote to it. Kind of makes me feel like I have second homes all over the world. And if you travel to another country, you can take on the challenge of brushing up on a foreign language before you go.
Train for a physical challenge. Most of the year I get moderate exercise just about every day. But every August, we bike in a community fund-raising ride. It’s only 31 miles, but it gets me out on a bike pretty regularly before ride day to get ready.
For you fitness junkies, maybe following Tamara’s lead training for marathons is more up your alley. Having a physical goal not only gives you a challenge to wake up to, you’ll get healthier in the process.
I don't mean to minimize those wonderful retirement activities like napping, reading, and enjoying more time with friends and family. But finding your own reason to jump, or meander, out of bed each morning is key to creating a retirement that you’ll love for decades to come.
Retirement as a Balloon Animal
Planning for Retirement: It’s Not All About the Money
Can’t keep track of my non-existent posting schedule? Subscribe—it’s free!
What an inspirational post! I love the ideas you give to get people thinking about how they want to spend all those new, shiny free hours.
I recently reached my dollar goal for early retirement, but I'm still at my job because emotionally I'm not ready to make the jump and because I've been at my current, ramp-down job less than 6 months. I don't feel quite right leaving so soon after starting, I guess. I know I won't be bored when I make the leap, though. While holding a J-O-B over the years, I managed to write and publish 3 books, run 25 half marathons, and learn how to play drums. For now, drums are on the back burner because I simply couldn't dedicate myself to them the way I wanted to, but I can't wait to pick them back up. I also want to get back into cooking and write and knit even more than I do now.
Boredom in retirement? For me, not a chance!
Posted by: Cara | February 27, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Cara: Well, you don't strike me as someone that has ever known boredom! Three books--while you were working. You might have to tell me how to do that. I'd like to write one but don't know how to get started.
Posted by: Retired Syd | February 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM
My teaching positions took my all. My classroom was filled with creativity and flair. When I wasn't teaching I was researching. Often time I would find just the right fit for a student at two in the morning and try it out the next day. After years of working at a crazy pace, summers working on projects, continuing education, vacations to learn something new, I found a principal whom I could not trust as a leader. She could not read or write. She degraded great programs because she did not understand them. We went quickly from a school of learning to one of athletics and pats on the back.
Why do I write all this?
Some of us just need to destress.
I have entered retirement with a whoosh and now just simply need to veg out. Why are there no blogs out there that say that it takes time, loads of time, to destress enough to move in a different direction?
Retirement is a time to slow down my life, get ahold of my inner me again, and move forward. Passion, sometimes it needs to be placed on the windowsill so you can just look out the window and enjoy being whole again.
That is where I am- appreciating the view with low blood pressure.
Posted by: Jan | February 27, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Hi Syd, I'll drop you a note with my real e-mail address over the weekend. Honestly, I would welcome some time to just chill instead of feeling like I have to go-go-go on my activities outside of work because the job leaves so little time and energy for my life's dreams (and I have a lot of them). Some may see me as energetic, but my schedule is also driven by fear. I'm hyperaware of time passing and I'm afraid I won't get to live the life *I* want because I spent too much of it doing what other people want/exepct me to do. Does that make sense? I wish I could shake my teenaged self and tell her to quit wasting so much time moping and pleasing others because I'll never get that time back.
Posted by: Cara | February 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Jan: Well you bring up an excellent point, that many of us are quite happy simply de-toxing from work at an unhurried, comfortable, relaxing pace. Nothing wrong with that. But then again, I don't think you are one of those folks that got to retirement and are disappointed with it. Seems to me you're loving every relaxing moment.
Cara: Thanks, I would really appreciate your tips!
Posted by: Retired Syd | February 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM
May I make a suggestion for killing some free time, Syd? How about adopting an elderly person? There are plenty of us who know seniors whose kids don't live nearby. Simple things are so helpful to them... like rolling the garbage can back up the driveway on garbage days, or throwing their newspaper closer to their door on snowy days... or shoveling snow. Some may have macular degeneration and can't drive anymore, but would love to go hear that wonderful speaker at the library you planned to attend anyway. The list goes on and on. The best part?... You feel really young when you hang out with older folks!
Posted by: Angela | February 27, 2013 at 03:24 PM
The game plan you described, Syd, was one I put into place not when I fully retired in 2008 but when I switched to part-time work back in 2001. Having some weekdays and evenings free, I resurrected an old hobby (square dancing) I had not done regulaly since 1988. I also began my colunteer work with the National Scrabble Association's School Scrabble program. I had actually planned to do that 6 months before I semi-retired, saving an application form I received early in 2001 because I knew something was going to happen later in the year which would enable me to bagin with that volunteer work.
In 2003, I begn some more volunteer work, helping out my square dance caller teach a square dance class at a local college.
What happened when I fully retired in 2008 was to expand my two square dancing activities. I had more weekdays free for the dance class and more evenings free (can't dance after a long, tiring day at work and commute home) for my own dancing.
It also became easier to schedule my two volunteer activites because when I was working I often had scheduling conflicts between work and the two things. Those conflicts have virtually disappeared once I ERed.
Posted by: deegee | February 27, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Angela: That is a very sweet suggestion.
deegee: Your staged entry into retirement is a good model for people who don't quite know what they would do with their time. Before you know it, part-time doesn't feel like enough time to do all the things you want to do and you're ready to jump in with both feet.
Posted by: Retired Syd | February 27, 2013 at 07:01 PM
One big thing we can do for friends/acquaintances who might be finding retirement a struggle is to put them on to life/retirement blogs such as this one (Syd, you are one of my valued sources of mental massaging!). There are so many ways to see that our respective experiences and concerns are not unique, nor "wrong". Just a normal variation on a wonderful process and opportunity.
Posted by: Banjo Steve | February 28, 2013 at 05:49 AM
Retirement is in all of us. We just have to apply our selfs. Put our hand to it and do it with all our might so to speak. As I write this I have the TV on in the back ground ( kind of like white noise) and guess what? The pope just retired. If he can to it so can you and all of us.
Posted by: fred doe | February 28, 2013 at 08:12 AM
Banjo Steve: Yes, please! Tell all your friends. The more the merrier!
fred: Yes, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!
Posted by: Retired Syd | February 28, 2013 at 10:07 AM
If I may add to Angela's great comment, pretty please?
Ten years ago I took my folks to look at a retirement community. I absolutely fell in love with it and bought a home in a Del Webb community at the ripe old age of 45! Next week, I will finally be old enough to live there.
The home I purchased has a guest house, so the main house has been rented to "seniors" while I used the guest house as a cheap, sunny getaway. The results of this impulsive purchase have enriched my life tremendously. I have learned so much from my older friends that will help on my path through this life. It is so true that while you are (comparatively) young and strong, you can effortlessly do things for your older friends that are difficult or impossible for them to do. Costco runs? Changing lightbulbs or smoke alarm batteries? Changing air filters? Checking under the sink to make sure there are no leaks? The list is endless. It gives both of us pleasure to help each other out in these big (for them) and tiny (for me) ways. As a result, I have a much clearer picture of what my challenges will be as I age. I also have a renewed appreciation for how young I still am.
I recently married for the first time. My new husband and I spent his vacation week working on the desert house together. We trimmed two large trees by climbing up into them with chainsaws (he chainsawed, I dragged limbs). We picked up, hauled and spread out over 4 tons of decomposed granite to refresh the landscaping. The neighbors got a huge kick out of the fact that we were doing it ourselves. We got an even bigger charge that we were probably the only owners on the block who could do it ourselves.
Yes, in preparation for your own golden years, find and befriend seniors now. They are full of stories, wisdom and gratitude. They will enrich your life in ways you could never imagine. I am living proof.
Posted by: Diane | February 28, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Diane: That's a great addition to Angela's comment. Similar discussion going on over at Satisfying Retirement blog: http://satisfyingretirement.blogspot.com/2013/02/pay-it-forward.html
Posted by: Retired Syd | February 28, 2013 at 11:50 AM
When I retired almost 12 years ago I had virtually no to-do list of things I wanted to tackle. I was so burned out from constant travel for my business I needed serious down time.
It wasn't until my 3rd year of retirement things started to come into focus and i found activities and interests to pursue.
To your point, I have continued very few of those initial interests. My passions have completely changed in the last 4 years. I wouldn't be surprised if 4 years from now finds me with another set of interests.
That is one of the best parts of retirement: completely reinventing yourself and your activities as the mood strikes.
Posted by: Bob Lowry | February 28, 2013 at 07:54 PM