« Why I Would Rather Be Retired Than Run for President | Main | Guest Post: How to Retire in a High Cost of Living Area »

September 29, 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Robert Fowler

"Walter needs a project that engages his intellect and passion."

No one can give this to him. He can't read a book or get someone else to find his passion for him.

It sounds like he knows what he needs to do, just can't do it. It sounds like he is into the status thing a little too much, going from a self described high level administrator to a minion. Retirement is not about title anymore, get over it. We don't go around trying to impress people how important we used to be. Let it go. Start now and try things. Lots of things. Don't try to guess what you may or may not like. Just give it a try and your passion will find you!


My words of wisdom to Walter are to read "How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free by Ernie Zelinski. In addition, meditate, workout, pray, train and compete, set goals and talk to a life coach In other to find his love and zest for life again! Sounds like he is depressed and only by helping others will he snap out of it. Best wishes to Walter.


Hi Walter,
I am a voluntarily retired officer from Indian Army. I am in a similar state as you are. I am not working and don't intend to take up a job.
I was wondering if we could help people to travel to our respective countries. We could travel along the guests and also work as guides. We should be able to help the travellers to see our countries with the least possible budget.
This will not only give us work but an opportunity to meet new people and travel to new places.

John Congdon

BTW: I've been reading your blog for a few months; love it, its great you're sharing your journey with all of us; keep it up when the mood strikes you!

Its true what Robert says, you won't necessarily find your passion in a book BUT, some books may spark some interest for additional thought so check out what your library has, etc. --- I recently 'retired' but had a bit of determination to follow a passion I've had for about 5 years that I wanted to do more with EV's ('electric vehicles' for those not familiar) so I'm working part-time selling them. I've only been doing it for a few weeks now and absolutely love it. You can be more than simply a Walmart greeter (or even 'minion' as Walter mentions) if you put all the energies that drove you in your former business career if you put your mind to it. My path is certainly not for everyone but its what drives me to follow the latest EV trends and talk to others who share my interest both at work to those who want to buy them and elsewhere on the EV forums, etc. Your passion is there -- but you have to have a genuine interest to find out what exactly it is!


SCORE is an organization that helps new businesses through the small business administration- they look for retired business execs to help with that- perhaps Walter would enjoy helping with that-


Walter, there is a good website (forum) for early retirees. It's called early-retirement.org and the issues you raised are discussed there. There is a "life after retirement" subforum.

Paul Anderson

I retired 4 1/2 yrs ago also from a high level position and financially secure. Walter hit on many of the feelings I had as I struggled mightily with the transition. We tend to leave at the peak of our skill sets, we are excellent at what we do, we are recognized by others for our talent, we know our value, its measurable (in revenue, sales goals, income payout, recognition by others, etc.), we had a 40 year routine which had us racing out the door in the morning and returning at dinner. Then we stop. It can be a crash landing. Losing our routine, our measurable value, the admiration of others, is something we can all read about and anticipate but until you go through it, it is tough to adapt.

With that background, I attacked non-profit work to recreate providing value, quit golf and start bicycling to get in better physical shape, tried some occasional consulting to keep my head in the business world, but with the exception of biking, nothing was working emotionally. Non profit work for me was a struggle. Working with volunteers is frustrating. Dabbling in business via consulting was unfulfilling. Some jobs were offered to me but they were very similar jobs to what I was doing when I retired and going back to work after voluntarily retiring seemed like a step back. I knew I had a unique opportunity most people don't get. To reinvent myself in some way and spend the next 10 year becoming good at something vs doing what I have always done in my business career. I wanted to look back 10 years out and be glad for trying a different path. Even if it didn't work, I wanted to be proud of the effort and not be disappointed that I just kept on doing what I had always done in this, the only life we get to live. The challenge or dilemma was, what the hell is the new path that could replace all those things I listed as having been lost?

I read all the books and made lots of lists and struggled daily. I got in great physical shape biking but that was hardly enough. I biked with other retirees so that helped replace the social network I lost when I retired (that's another big deal by the way). I would say 9 of 10 of them loved retirement and hadn't missed work for a single day. Walter and I are in that 1 out of 10 group. I wish I could just sit back, bike, go to movies, travel, watch TV, do whatever, whenever I want. But that is not me. I wanted to be of value to others and therefore be of value to me. About one year ago, I hit on an idea and 3 years into retirement, I finally started to find myself again. That passion and focus I had for 40 yrs at work started returning and my life felt like it was returning.

I started a business. Small, internet and referral based, and currently not making enough money to cover the startup costs of legal, marketing, website development, and more. Walter said his finances were good. He, like me, can start a business and not worry about making payroll or covering your rent and food bills like anyone else starting a business has to. We have our retirement income. If we can just breakeven at it, we enjoy it, and we feel like we are adding value to our lives and others' lives, that works. Likely if we love it, we will eventually make good money at it.

What my business is irrelevant to this post or the readers. The key is a business should be in a field you've always loved and provide a service or product that is needed by others. My business is in a field I had almost no experience in but loved, music. I have no musical talent but I love music and found a need in that market. I knew nothing about website development or internet marketing but I am learning daily. The point is I finally re-engaged that passion, drive, and focus I left behind when I left a 40 year career at the peak of my game. I spent almost three years questioning that decision to retire but now feel like it was the best thing I could have done.

So, Walter, maintain your patience, keep your eyes open, your brain engaged in what is missing in the marketplace in any field you like, and your opportunity could very well come knocking. And if you don't need the income you are getting from a job that makes you feel like a "minion", quit it. Your finances were secure enough to retire, why work just to fill your day? We only have this one life, don't fill it with something which primarily is just killing time. It will kill you.

Jennifer Cooke

I had a similar experience to Walter when I retired, I went from a very busy (multiple people interactions in person, online, telephone) life to one that was not quite so busy. It was worsened when my pup passed away a month after I retired...I had so many plans for the two of us once I was free of work.

I decided to do some research on the "psychology of retirement" and that was definitely the wrong thing to do. I didn't want to know it was "my last transition" blah, blah, blah. I looked back at what I had been doing in my un-retired life and decided to figure out what part of it did I love the most. So I did. I ended up getting involved with 2 areas that I love - art and tourism. I am a volunteer on two Boards and it is challenging and fun. Sometimes, it keeps me too busy but that is okay too.

You don't need a project...you need a passion - really look inside and see what it is you love. Once you find that, you will discover retirement is awesome! If you weren't a meditater before you retired, you won't be one now without guidance. Join a groups, committees or boards until you find one that tweaks you. If its not about money then volunteering in your community - to help your community and benefit you - might be a way of easing into retirement without the pain.

Retired Syd

Wow, I woke up again to so many great comments. Special thanks to Paul for taking the time to share your experience, seems like you can really identify. I also received some great reader emails which I will post here:

I am in a semi-retired state and may stay here for awhile. Like Walter, I realized that I had to be more pro-active about identity when it isn't about being in a professional role. For me, engaging in very limited yet lucrative training/coaching a few times a month is good. A strong Ah Ha! moment for me was the realization that extreme self care was now my number one priority. I used to scoff at celebs whose whole job it was to be in shape, meditating, eating super-healthy, etc. because I have a marriage, we had two full time desk jobs, kids, dogs, professional associations, social life, excuses galore for too much food, not enough physical activity, lots of wine.
So, no more excuses. Kept the wine but drink less quantity of better quality. Love the social and incorporate it into biking, fitness and water aerobics. Cooking at home much more with high quality ingredients. Exploring meditative techniques. Trying new creative endeavors.
Walter didn't mention his social circle. If he doesn't have one, that should be first on his list toward extreme self care.
It is a journey. I am in the transition and need to reinforce daily my new mindset and priorities.
It's good.
-From Renee

I retired 5 years ago working as an accountant for 30 years with city of San Francisco. My age is 67. Luckily my pension and social security covers 95% of my cash needs. One of my highest priority is my health. So after retiring, I joined the Ornish lifestyle medicine program, as nothing is better than good health. As for Walter, may I suggest that he research Ornish lifestyle medicine program and then see a professional retirement advisor.

I love retirement and the freedom to do what I want everyday.
-From Sam

As recent youngish retiree (age 59) I have had a bit of a struggle with retirement but we moved from WV to SC at the same time so that complicated things a bit. What I've learned is that the 'unhappy me' is the ego of me who gave up being a nurse practitioner, a big part of my identity. Now that I am not 'that' any longer, I've had to work who I am without that external cue. So the answer is for me always a spiritual one (not talking religion here), not a material one. That is not to say work cannot be fulfilling but it can't'/shouldn't be the whole of who we are and that was pretty much where I was before I retired. I am reading between the lines but I think that is at least some if not all of Walter's issue.

So, now I am working out the retirement issue by really asking myself deeply 'who am I?', without the externals, titles, certification, kudos from good evaluations, praise from my patient set, etc. I've tried several things here that didn't work (quit those) and some that have (still pursuing them). What we 'do' does matter but the key thing is it should follow a grounded sense of knowing ourselves and Walter is in an excellent position to work this out for himself just as I am. Takes humility, honesty, courage and letting of go of any 'blame' or self-condemnation/regret, though :-)
From Kaye

Hi Sydney,
I’m sure you agree that external events or habits do not have to rule us. Would you recommend my book to Walter and your readers?

Living Yes is a way to choose clarity and joy at any moment.
Events occur in life which challenge us to say "yes" or "no." Living Yes is an ongoing choice.
Living Yes is a handbook which helps us clear our minds, so we may say "yes" in a healthy and connecting way.
The result of Living Yes is a peaceful mind and a fulfilling life.
There is much more at www.LivingYes.org

And I wrote a handout about dead end jobs which may be downloaded on the website for free along with a workbook and an emotions chart. Here’s the link to the handout:
-From Mark

I retired six years ago! I miss some of the people none of the B S. I work parttime. I also play cards (poker, euchre, spades etc.). Work on my home and travel a little. For me the joy is in not being beholding to anyone or thing. Everyday is different. It took sometime to get to this point. I retired from a job which often required 96 hours a week. My social life is my choice governed by what I choice to do! I like it this way!
-From Craig

Hi! I would say if you hate a job that much, why do it, particularly if you obviously don't need to. Quit! And use the time to look for something you at least don't mind while you look for the something you REALLY want!

I find it hard to understand why someone does something they hate if they really don't need to. Especially in retirement. Go on. Quit. Find the something you don't mind while you find the thing you really want.
(Unless I'm missing the point here in which case I apologize!)
-From Jo

Retired Syd

And fron Marilyn:
My advise to Walter is to be patient. You have to work at retirement just like anything else. Truthfully, it took me 3 to 4 years to really accept retirement. I was used to being important. I was used to people listening when I spoke. When you retire, it all goes away. But with the decrease in importance also comes less stress, less responsibility, and most importantly freedom. Not just physical freedom but freedom to do and to say what you want.

After 5 years, I don't think I could ever go back. Freedom is too important. I haven't been this happy since I was a kid!

harry franklin

Yes, I can echo most of these comments with a minor twist.

I too retired from an all-consuming, full time serious job that created my identity. And I had all the issues identified by Walter and followed the path suggested by many of the subsequent posters.

My only wrinkle is that the "something" you need to accomplish doesn't need to be important and to use all your skills - it just needs to be something. I no longer have an impact on public policy but I enjoy accomplishing my little tasks: I'm a clerk in an architecture schools store a few afternoons a week, I coach writing for 14 year old junior high school boys some Friday mornings, I prepare taxes for people under AARP's volunteer program and things like that. Nothing earth shattering - or even important - but its fun ! Its the accomplishment that matters, I think.


Every human’s personality is made up of 3 pillars.

1-The need to achieve Goals. 2-The need for Affiliation. 3-The need for Power.

Whether retired or not, we all go through life trying to satisfy whichever of these is most dominant in us.

If your dominant need is to achieve Goals, you might go through your working life as an accountant. And then follow this up in retirement by learning to play the piano…or who knows, maybe even writing a blog.

If your dominant need is Affiliation, you go through your life as a social butterfly. Whether retired or not, we all know these types.

And if your dominant need is for Power, you go through life getting great satisfaction from telling others what to do. These types tend to love job titles, positions of influence…., and might tend to define themselves in retirement by having once been a "high level state administrator”, etc.

It is this last category that has the hardest time finding satisfaction in retirement. Because they can’t boss anyone around at work anymore, they become restless. They might find partial relief by sitting on their neighborhood Board or yelling at a waitress for poor service. But somehow these activities are just not as fulfilling as getting paid to be the “boss” over others.

Walter is a text book case of a guy who is driven by the need for Power over others. He self defines himself by his job title, status, etc….

Nowhere in his self description do you hear him telling of his great accomplishments (e.g. Goals achieved) or pining on that he misses his coworkers (e.g. Affiliation).

So what should Walter do?

My recommendation is for him to buy a small business.

Doesn't really matter what it is because his "real" motivation will not be the usual stated reason of wanting to provide a great product or service to the community, blah, blah, blah...

Nope, what Walter will get from owning a small business is simply a place to productively fulfill his need to boss others around while perhaps also giving a little relief to that poor waitress discussed earlier.


I've delayed retirement for a year, until December 2017 for the same reasons. I FEAR being bored, getting fat and slovenly, unhappy. Money isn't the issue.

I know I will love not having to get up at 5am, being able to go and do as I please, stay up late, etc. My husband has been retired for 8 years and seems to enjoy it.

There will be NO further monetary incentive to continue working after next year.

I think the problem is that the unknown is scary. New routines, new choices. I'm in a nice little box with my life now, safe, routine, no suprises.


I think it can take longer than a year to adjust to retirement. I also think that there is no point doing a job you hate, that you don't need financially, purely to avoid feeling miserable at home - it's not working! So I would suggest that you give up the hateful job that's making you feel even more unhappy. I have no magic answer, but perhaps some sort of planning so that you have things to look forward to: book a few weekends away, book a few theatre and music tickets, focus on taking care of your health - some exercise with other people, a few pampering sessions (massages, Turkish bath etc), try something new that you have a bit of resistance to trying.

I feel it's important to get out of the house most days to go for a walk, visit a cafe, travel to a different town or village. You clearly have been successful in your professional life, so think about how you achieved that success - did you just drift along or did you set yourself goals? Sitting at home ruminating can be quite depressing.


Before I retired, I did some research and learned that most people average from 1 to three years to fully adjust to retirement.

I will have been retired for three years come December and have found this to be true. It took a couple of years before I stopped judging my worth by what I had produced at the end of the day. Highly driven people often do not feel an intrinsic sense of self-worth. "We are what we do." Re-learning this takes time.

Knowing this when I went into it, I told myself that what I was feeling was normal, to just ride it out. I'm I glad I did. After a rocky year & a half, I've finally started exploring all the things that had always interested me but that I never had time to do. I took a couple of writing classes and am now working on a book. Dusted off my sewing maching and joined a quilting guild to learn how to make something both useful and beautiful. Am tackling sewing a dress or two...to learn new skills. Goodness, the learning curve is steep and it feels great give the brain a workout! I never want to go back to the regimented schedule I was on during my working life. I wouldn't have said that two years ago.

So my advice to you is to quit the job you hate and give retirement a try again, this time well-informed. Give yourself permission to be bored sometimes because it will pass. If money isn't a concern, fill some of those early months with travel. Get a campervan and go explore the country. Visit national parks & museums. Go someplace you've always been curious about. If you don't have a bucket list, make one and start ticking things off .

And really, is there absolutely nothing you are interestd in at all? Lack of interest in life is a sign of depression, and should be taken seriously.

It's worth repeating: it takes as many as three years to fully relax into the new lifestyle. Knowledge is power.

Retired Syd

And from Jonathan:

We have all been there after retirement--especially those of us who retired "early." A couple of suggestions for Walter:

1. Volunteer at a local school: public, private, or community college, in particular. It would be great to have a guy with his experience show up now and then to talk about the government and how it really functions.

2. Run for local political office, or at least work on a campaign that stirs his emotions. This is, after all, an emotional issue he is dealing with.

3. Quit the present job. Dude, no one needs a crappy job if they don't have to have it. This should have been #1.

4. Apprentice yourself out. Is there something you always wanted to know more about? Maybe auto mechanics, vineyards, bakery, plumbing, coffee barista, hospital, computer repair, guitar making, piano tuning, radio station, read to nursing home patients, etc. etc. etc.
There has to be something connect to his former job that he liked that he can continue.

5. Hike part of something epic, like the Appalachian Trail. Don't be silly and try to do the whole thing. But learn about the risks and rewards, and pick a section of some trail nearby, and get after it.

That's a start. Maybe he won't like any of these. That's okay, too. But getting out of the house is extremely important. Best wishes to Walter as he finds himself.

Barbara Bomberger

First, as many people have said, it takes time to adjust to retirement. My retirement was forced as after I quit work to care for my husband, I did not work again.

That said, it sounds like the poster is rejecting "hobbies" and "volulnteering" out of hand, it sounds like without evaluating the options. Unless Mark needs to make an income for his self worth, there are many so called hobby opportunities and volunteer gigs that can be as challenging as an executive job if he is willing to search them out. voluteering can be as full time or as part time if you want it. Depending on what the business experience is, I know folks who teach and mentor full time for the small business administration, someone who is a regional director for a poverty project and more.

Im also going to suggest that there is "leisure" and "leisure", "Just relaxing" sounds like sitting around the house. My "relaxing" includes sitting out on the patio with the dogs while reading, walking or bike riding, meeting people for lunch, and more. It does not mean sitting on the couch and watching TV.

I agree that Ernies book is a good idea,as is is the What Color is YOur Parachute book for retirees,

Doug @ The-Military-Guide

Aloha, Syd, I'm happy to offer suggestions. After 14 years of early retirement I've seen this question a few times.

Walter, I don't know what caused your departure from state government. Maybe you can't go back to it-- but are there other jobs which resemble it? What gave you such passion, and where else can you replicate it? When you find that then you'll never have a reason to retire again. Figure out those parameters, talk to your contact network, get on Linkedin, and find the job you want. If you were 27 years old at your current sucky minion job, then you'd already be searching for a better job.

"Not a hobby or volunteer guy"?!? That's a dismissal worthy of further reflection. Did your state job give you challenge and fulfillment? Did you enjoy helping people? Then you're a hobby & volunteer guy, too. You don't have to serve food at a homeless shelter, but you can look for non-profit organizations that offer the same things you enjoyed at your state career. If you don't find one you care for, then start your own. It's as simple as filling out a few tax forms and asking people to support you with donations.

Maybe you're seeking more inspiration. Seek within your own memories using Ernie Zelinski's "Get-A-Life Tree" at http://bestretirementquotes.blogspot.com/2009/10/get-life-tree-great-retirement-planning.html

You mention that you identified closely with your state job. I've seen that in a lot of senior military officers. If you identified closely with having a staff catering to you and entertaining you in the pursuit of your goals, well... that's a problem. It's also an opportunity for personal growth at learning to be challenged & fulfilled without having a staff doing it for you.


Paul Anderson, I’m touched by your compassion for Walter and the business you’ve created.

Walter, good for you for trying out a job with less responsibility as a solution to the problem you faced after a year of retirement. After two years, you’ve given it a good try. Whatever the reasons are, you know it doesn’t work for you. It is good to know the truth.

So now what? The thought of returning to the feeling of being lost is indeed daunting. You’re facing the void. If you can find a way to bear its nothingness, it can offer creative gifts. At a minimum it will likely help you develop compassion for yourself and others.

That said, for many of us despite colossal effort, there's no avoiding the pain. We’re coming face to face with all that it means to be human.

For me, philosophical writers combined with a particular kind of connection with another makes all the difference. When I can find that rare individual who can bear the pain with me instead of listening from a distance or offering solutions (despite my longing for solutions), paradoxically, I can begin to experience light in the darkness. That experience in and of itself can be profound and sacred.

Glimmers of possibilities can begin to emerge--pointers in the dark. I specifically use the word “can” instead of “will.” There’s a reason we are terrorized by the void. It puts us in contact with the razor’s edge of life and death. Paul Tillich called this the courage to be.

I applaud your courage to reach out and share your vulnerability and humanness.

As Rilke advises, “Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart…” Know too that you are not alone.


Hi, Syd - Thank you for both yesterday's and today's posts. They both gave me much to think about. I'm not sure that I can offer any further advice to Walter, other than reiterating to take the time to explore what inspires him and take it from there.
Looking forward to your next post.


When I read Walter's comment yesterday, it broke my heart. What a shame to retire into unhappiness. Even worse to work at a job (when you don't need the money) you dislike.

I'm one of those who took to retirement like a fish in water so I don't have any great words of wisdom - but many other commentors do so I hope Walter finds some answers there. Walter might also want to seek out a group of men his age and with similar backgrounds (or start a meet-up). He sounds a bit lonely. If I missed anything from my working world, it was the easy social network I had. Creating a new one in retirement was so important to my happiness.

Good luck Walter!


Walter should start a business. Print up a bunch of cards that say "President".

Go to a bunch of trade shows and conventions and impress people . Network with a lot of other presidents and feel important again.

Angela Nicolini

May I suggest Walter look into Kiwanis? It is a civic organization intent on 'changing the world, one child, and one community at a time.' Every week there are meetings with people who care about the community. And usually there are speakers on very interesting topics at each meeting. It's a great way to learn new things, and to feel connected. Plus you help children. What could be better than that? I agree with Jennifer… It can take 3+ years to learn how to unwind after go, go, going. Some counseling might help with identity issues. That's my two cents.


I recommend Walter read the book The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement by Robert Delamontagne. I've read many books on retirement, and this one is written by and geared toward, the retired executive.


Walter, I hope that you're finding the info here useful.

I've enjoyed reading this blog from here in the UK. I'm sure he said that it took him two years to adjust to early retirement.


The comments to this entry are closed.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter