The Ups And Downs Of Retirement

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

A few weeks ago I posted “The Joys Of Not Working”. I wrote about both the joy and the responsibility that comes with being retired. Having to fill your time with activities of your own making is the responsibility part. Creating an invigorating, satisfying retirement is up to you. It is like the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing the pursuit of happiness. It does not guarantee happiness; only its pursuit. In a similar respect, a financially secure retirement doesn’t guarantee happiness; only the freedom to pursue it.

To be sure, there are many people who are not financially secure in retirement, yet they enjoy much more happiness than many a well-heeled retiree or working person, for that matter. They take advantage of free or inexpensive activities and joys at their disposal. They get out and DO things. They pursue retirement happiness.

It costs little or nothing at all to:

Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset
Take a walk in a local park or garden
Borrow books and movies from your local library
Join a book club
Attend free events like music evenings at your local library
Write your memoir or family history
Invite a friend over for coffee and a chat
Volunteer to help out with the maintenance of the local garden
Become an usher at a theater and watch plays and shows for free
Go for a wine tasting
Look for an Osher Lifelong Learning Center (OLLI) or University of the Third Age and join
Browse a flea market
Volunteer at the farmer’s market, a hospital or any other organization
Keep a gratitude journal and write in it every day
List the fifty things in your life that are positives for you – yes, you do have fifty (at least)
Look for a Senior Center in your area and go have lunch, meet other retirees, be active there
Look for other free and low cost activities in your area and do them!
Google “Activities for seniors in ________________” (fill in your city and see what you get)
While the financial part of a happy retirement is important, the emotional aspect is even more important. I listed the activities above mainly to point out the fact that there is plenty to get you started on enjoying your retirement with or without money.

One of the downs of retirement is feeling down! Especially if you are newly retired, as in the last couple of years. In this case, inertia is not your friend. Get moving by looking at the list above or better yet, making your own list.

There is not a list of the ‘five most important things to do in order to have a happy retirement’. Believe me, if there was, I would write a book about it. Each and every one of us has a unique path. Different strokes for different folks. One of the other downs of retirement is people who sit around waiting for someone else to figure it out for them. No one is handing you a happy retirement. Get up off the couch. Turn off the TV. Go. Do.

Another down is retiring before your friends do. Martin and I retired young. Most of our social group was still working. Since then some have also retired. In the meantime, we had to make other friends. We sought out venues such as OLLI where we knew we would meet other retirees. We made new friends. Start saying, “Hello” to people and SMILE!

For some, it may be a down if your spouse continues to work. That can keep you tethered to the work clock, work world, wishing you hadn’t retired and living in the past. Make a day schedule that gets you out of the house. Have somewhere to go. Do not sit around waiting for your spouse’s return. Look at the list above and start with some of those activities. On the up side you will have something to tell your working spouse about your day. You may discover a new passion and make new friends.

Retirement started out as an up for me and quickly became a down. It took time, effort and perseverance to finally hit my stride. The biggest up is the adventure of not working if you choose to make it an adventure. I am happier than I ever imagined being. As in my youth every day is filled with possibilities. There is now an excitement to my days. I cannot wait to get up in the morning and get going. There are an unlimited number of new things to try. Work rarely felt like that. I feel like I am re-defining retirement. Now, that is definitely an up!

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20 comments on “The Ups And Downs Of Retirement

  1. Great blog (AGAIN).

    I would like to add the idea of getting physical. It’s great for mind and soul and muscle. Bike, hike, paddle board, swim, golf, yoga, anything that move you in new ways. Most of these things aren’t as difficult as they sound and keep every part of you happier.

    Claudia

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  2. My last day of work was June 3rd. My new life started June 4th. There have been a few hiccups. Events I had no control over. Social Security not quite doing their job, and a last minute request, but they did come through. Setting up Cobra, since I am not 65 yet and other small inconveniences After two weeks of down time, just because I don’t have to go anywhere. I ventured out into my new life. I had done investigating on community functions for retirees. Luncheons, exercise opportunities, swimming classes, so much out there to do. I am fortunate that I have one friend that is already retired and one that retires in two weeks. I’m focusing on my health by going to Weight Watchers. The meeting I attend has about 20 amazing women of retirement age that are fun! I’m starting to cook for myself. Next week I’m visiting an elementary school to talk about one day a week of working with students. Im starting to draw for the first time and taking violin lessons. The important thing is to layer my life with things I will love,and be flexible enough to make changes if they don’t work. Thank God I’m retired!!

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  3. Kathy, last weekend I had a paint party at a party venue to celebrate my 70th with friends and family. Eighteen women 16-80 had s silly time. Today I called my 80-year old cousin to check in. She said, “Linda, on the way there I told my daughter, ‘I’m not going to paint. I can’t do that.’ But I got lost in it. I loved it and didn’t notice anything else that was going on.”
    And her first painting was rather good.
    She plans to look for a painting class locally because she said she forgot about herself and her worries completely those two hours.
    Wow, and I just thought it was a fun evening’s entertainment.
    You can find a talent in the oddest places. Truck on.

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  4. Boy, this is where I am right now. Been retired since May 1 and my husband is still working for another year and I haven’t finished the projects I swore would be the first things I got done! Most of our good friends are 5-10 years younger than us and still working and very busy. I did early on make myself where regular shoes at home instead of house shoes. That helped a little. I will enjoy your writings very much. Thanks

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  5. Well said! Love the comparison to when you were a kid and your day was filled with possibilities.
    Actually I think your posts could be put together and they would be a very helpful book.

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  6. Kathy, I share your sentiment of retirement being a blessing and a responsibility. When I announced my retirement, I was often asked, “What will you do?” I would reply, “That stuff I did 5pm, I’m going to do between 8am and 5pm.” The truth of the matter is that I do it between 10am and 5pm! Now, I indulge in reading from awakening until ~10am unless I have early time commitments. I often ask people to think about those things that you always wanted to do if you had the time. Retirement has given me the gift of time – no more punching the clock. I have more time to say “yes”.

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  7. I’m 18 months into being retired and feel like I’m still finding my way. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but as you said in this post, Kathy, is does take a little while to get your retirement “sea legs.” Last year I focused on getting house and yard projects done that had been neglected for too long, getting re-acquainted with cooking every day, upping my exercise program, and spending lots of time reading, relaxing, and doing jigsaw puzzles. This year I’m more into expanding our circle of friends and social outings, launching a blog, and learning about all the free or inexpensive things there are to do in our area. I have no idea what my “theme” for next year might be, but I can see how it all begins to come together until it stops being retirement and becomes just the rest of your life.

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  8. yes, yes, yes. I love how you’ve, once again, told the message so clearly. And yes, I am happier now than I have been in years. Even when things get bad, like the past couple of weeks, I can say that because I did the work to figure out my pursuit of happiness vision. So even when things got down, I just needed to pull it back out and re-activate some things. Which I have done. Not saying I am through the grieving, but having a personally-defined retirement vision has really helped me get moving forward again.

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  9. So true!! Never thought in a million zillion years I’d be gardening and beekeeping – after all, I’m from Arizona! Also in the DAR – never time for that before.

    I only get frustrated that I don’t have time to do all the interesting stuff! J

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  10. Thanks Kathy for another really thoughtful and interesting post. I have found retirement difficult and am still trying to get motivated without work. Your blog is always an inspiration to read and really gives plenty to think about.

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  11. Kathy, thank you for sharing your story and providing realistic advice and expectations for retirees or those about to retire. People need to understand as much as possible about the facts and the feelings that go along with retirement. You’ve put it out there very clearly. Thank you for this post!

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  12. Pingback: The Ups And Downs Of Retirement – What is the meaning of my life?

  13. Kathy, thank you for the “real” advice about taking time after retirement. I will begin my new adventure in 6 months. Interestingly my husband also suggested it would take 2 years to settle into retirement. I have been making a list of things I want to do and places I want to go. It will be fun choosing from the list, most of which cost only gas money! I became physically ill for about an hour last week when I submitted my formal intent to retire! It is hard to reverse your thinking and do so on a particular date! I’m fine with the decision now and am becoming excited. Like you I enjoy life long learning and luckily can attend my local university for free. Thanks again for your insight!

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    • I found as the time approached for my last day in my working life it felt as though I was stepping into an abyss. Waiting to see if my Social security would actually come as promised. There were issues that were not addressed by the Administration until two weeks before I was expecting it to come. Now that hurtle has been crossed and completed, I’m building my new life. I’m hoping that I never completely settle into retirement. Yes I want the money to come as planned, but I want my life to be exciting and fluid. I do not have unlimited funds, but you don’t need that to have excitement in your life. I go to lunch with friends and sometimes by myself in out of the way places. I sit in my sun room and just breath a sigh of relief that I am exactly where I should be at that moment. I’m so happy to be where I am now!

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