This post first appeared on May 6, 2013. It actually took another 18 months to find real satisfaction in retirement. But, this was a turning point.
One of the Rolling Stones most popular hits was a song titled “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. That seemed to be my theme song for the first 6 months after we officially retired. But, finally after 6 months plus, we have adjusted to our new life. So, today I’m posting what I believe are the steps for getting here from there.
Like most people preparing for retirement, we focused on the financial aspect. And, I don’t want to make light of how important that factor is. It’s, in fact, the single most important factor. No matter where you are in life, if you don’t have enough money to at least meet your basic needs, you aren’t likely to be happy. But, as we approached retirement, the big surprise for us was how our enthusiasm gave way to stress and emotion at saying goodbye to a forty year way of life.
Planning your financial security is a piece of cake compared to addressing the emotional components in your retirement planning. Early on I posted The Transition about being broad-sided by the emotional aspect of retiring. We planned, planned, planned for the money but didn’t put a lot of thought into the psychology. I guess that’s because most books, articles and web sites focus on the finances. We had lots of activities, family and friends and a wish list of travel and learning. But, we were very unprepared for the emotion and stress. After 6 months of ups and downs, corrections in mindset and adjustments, I am able to identify what we should have done to make the transition more painless.
What is the saying about hindsight? It’s 20/20. I hope my 20/20 hindsight vision will help anyone contemplating retirement. Here we go…
- When we decided to retire, we looked at retirement as a destination. What I realized about two months into it is retirement is a journey. Hence, the tagline for my blog. There is no one place you are going to. It’s, instead, a never ending adventure. Wrap your head around that because your mindset is very important to entering your journey. You need a forward looking attitude. If your employer has an Employee Assistance Program offering a few weeks of free counseling as one of the benefits, take advantage of it. Even if you think you don’t need it, see a counselor and take your spouse or partner with you. You don’t know what you don’t know. Does that make sense? I hope so. A counselor can help you focus on this next part of your life and how to make the transition less bumpy.
- With that in mind, sever the emotional ties to your old work place as soon as possible. Sounds harsh. But once you really say goodbye, you are free to focus on your new life. So, move on as quickly as possible. Martin was really good at saying goodbye. I had a more difficult time. Staying in the loop on your old employer’s activities, politics and (brrr..shudder) the gossip is counterproductive to what you really want to accomplish by retiring. I’m not saying discard true friendships developed through work. I have real friends I met at work, but we have lots of other things in common, which is why we’re friends. Ditch the relationships based on nothing but the work. You left work because you are looking for a new community and activities. Don’t cling to the past.
- Like many people we chose our date based on birthdays. Sounds logical because, again, it’s all about the finances. Right? Wrong! You can start collecting from your 401K or IRA at 59-1/2. You can start collecting social security at 62. Base your date on these events and you may be making a big mistake. In choosing your date forget the finances and look at your activities. What are you planning to do with your days? Plan for this just like you plan for your finances and be specific. That was our mistake. When people said, “What are you going to do in retirement?”, we gushed about motorcycling, bicycling, gardening, hiking and some travel. Most of our activities are fair weather types. In South Carolina, the weather is such, you can normally do some outside activities even in the winter. However, we had an unusually rainy, cold, long winter. In fact, as I write this, it’s 52 degrees and 3-5 inches of rain pouring down in May! Even our travel destinations were not conducive to a lot of sightseeing during this winter. We went some places anyway but it was not as enjoyable as anticipated. Fortunately, we had plenty of indoor activities and we stayed open to trying new ones. Choose your date carefully.
- Speaking of timing, if you have a spouse or partner, who is also retiring, choose the same retirement date. One of the most difficult transitions was my adjustment to Martin being at home. You see, I left work two years earlier. My routine was mostly just up to me. Once he left the house every day, I did things on my schedule. I’m also less structured than Martin so part of my routine was no routine. Suddenly, I had someone else in the house all day wanting to know what I was going to do with my time or wanting me to tag along with them when I had other ideas. It took the first three months for us to mesh our wants, needs and routines. I’d like to say that occurred without a lot of stress, disagreements and negotiation, but I’d be lying. This is an area where an EAP counselor could have made a difference for us.
- Next up, be sure you have enough activities to occupy your time. If you work an eight hour day with an hour for lunch and a 30 minute commute one way, that’s ten hours of activity per day or 50 hours a week you have to replace. The first couple of weeks you feel like you’re on vacation. Enjoy that feeling of just kicking back and doing nothing. But, after that, you need a boat load of activities to take up 50 or 60 hours each week. Make a list of your hobbies, crafts, volunteer activities and how much time will be dedicated to each one on a weekly basis. Martin and I have also been watching one of our grandkids two days a week. He’s also continued to visit his parents for lunch weekly. We had a few maintenance items, which needed performing on our house and property. Include anything like that as well. If you can’t come up with at least 40 hours of activity to replace your work time, start looking around for clubs to join, new volunteer adventures or classes to take. And, once you retire, keep your mind open to learning new things and taking on new adventures. I’ve read retirees watch way too much TV. Don’t become one of them! This is an opportunity to grow and re-energize your life. Don’t squander it on the boob-tube. We’ve quickly figured out how taking up a new project or learning a new skill adds excitement and purpose to our lives. I want those feelings to continue, don’t you?
- We also found the word ‘retirement’ in and of itself was a negative. The definition and societal view of retirement is such a has-been, life is over connotation. I kept reading every article I could find on the terms used to describe someone who is growing older and retired. All of them so dreary. I also read several articles about others trying to find a better definition for the words ‘retiree’ and ‘senior’. So, I’m not alone. I guess my subconscious was just working away to find another term because a couple of months ago, it just popped into my head. I’m a PIM…Person of Independent Means. The definition is since I no longer need to work for money I can do whatever the Hell I want with my time, including working for money, if I want to. Even retirees who have to work part-time can be PIM’s as they also have some independent means. Being a PIM instead of a retiree is liberating. It gives you a whole different mindset about this segment of the journey of your life. We have choices. We are healthy. We are active. We get to write a whole new chapter on our terms. And, the term is PIM!
So, how do we feel about being retired…errr…PIMs? We could not even begin to think about returning to the work force. That’s how we feel. We’re having too much fun.
We’re enjoying the freedom of so much choice. We’re enjoying the challenge of finding new and interesting things to do. We’re enjoying the exploration and the thrill of discovery. We’re enjoying meeting other PIMs and developing a new community of friends and acquaintances. We’re enjoying not having to make a 30 minute commute to work in the pouring rain and instead, making spaghetti sauce, chocolate chip cookies, snuggling in to read, write, knit, spin on the stationary bike and talk. Then, later, opening a bottle of red and enjoying a delicious dinner.
I guess the final step is just relax, give yourself time to adjust and keep an open mind. The journey to here from there is just beginning.
Thanks so much for this post. I’m winding down, with a year to go before I fully shut down my office. So your advice is timely and appreciated!
I also don’t like the word “retire.” I looked up a synonym, and the word that came up was “evacuate.” Oh dear.
Yes, depressing isn’t it? Both the definition and the concept of retirement are antiquated. Time for a re-write!
I love Person of Independent Means! Thanks for your great blog and good ideas. Classes do help and I’m lucky my county libraries have fun ones, as do the school system and community college. Long walks and, for me, runs and the gym, also add activities to the week, as well as trying to learn to paint. Hoping one can “learn” talent, if one doesn’t possess it naturally. LOL Joy
Yes PIMs…much better than retirees with the dreary connotations. If the painting doesn’t work out, keep going. I wasn’t all that good at watercolor, but learned I had a talent for drawing. Just keep exploring…that’s the key.
Kathy, thanks for this repost and update. I wish I had found your blog a year ago, before I retired. Your site is a terrific resource.
I too dislike the term “retirement” and like the PIM thinking. I also use the term, “work optional” which a financial advisor introduced us to, some years ago. He advised we not plan for retirement, but to become work optional so we could live as we wish.
Thank you for all your thoughtful articles.
Thank you Peggy! I guess better late than never…I’m glad you found me and the blog is helpful. I like the term “work optional” as well. I put that one in my treasure trove. K
My surgery last Wednesday went well. The surgeon got clear margins the first attempt and my sentinel lymph node was clear. Thanks so much for your prayers.
I now have 3 incisions that are each about 3 inches long. One incision for the cancer, one for the lymph node, and one for the atypical hyperplasia cells. So I’m a bit sore.
The next thing to pray for is the Oncotype DX genome test which will determine if I am high or low risk for return of the cancer. If I’m high risk, I have to do chemo before radiation. A low risk score is 1-18. http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/oncotype_dx I will get the results of this test in about 2 weeks.
Loved that article. Husband and I are retiring together in a few months, and I loved that you put great emphasis on life beyond finances. Looking forward to being a PIM!
Yes, the finances are important, but I’ve found the emotional and psychological preparation for retirement is probably even more important. I wish you the best with your new life as a PIM. K
Retire Inspired is a great term coined by Chris Hogan, a Dave Ramsey personality. I loved your retirement advice and as someone who plans to retire by 55, it was very informative! I’d never considered the EAP counseling post retirement but at age 50 I have a list of activities and goals to keep me busy! Wanting to keep up with coworkers after my exit is not even a remote possibility!
I love some of the alternate terms readers have sent me. I’ll have to add Retire Inspired to my list! You are definitely on the right path with emotional planning as well as financial planning. Best to you. K
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I read this article when I first retired and it was just the boost I needed!! Love the PIM and will share with my monthly teacher retiree group. By the way, that group is talking less and less about work and more and more about our present lives.
Serendipity to just come upon this Kathy. My husband has been retired for two years and is loving it. I’m the new kid on the block so am reading your posts with great interest…and trepidation .. PIM is a wonderful alternative. It has such a positive ring to it. Thank you!
I’ve got my new goal…. finding a community of PIMs! I’m to the point of really enjoying the freedom of not working and the joy of filling my days with various things of interest. But still working to fill the gaps in all those “friendships” lost – really just acquaintances, but I miss the conversations. Someone last week called it the camaraderie of smart women. Yes, still missing that. As always, your posts speak so well about the transition!
I’m Jo, artist, writer, traveller, wild west nut and renaissance soul. I’ve recovered from depression after thirty years and I’m now writing about the rebuilding of my polymath creativity on my blog, Creating My Odyssey.
I’m hoping to reach people with mental health issues and creatives in general to give encouragement, inspiration and hopefully some enjoyment.
I wondered if you’d like to see it. Thank you!
Thank you for the invitation. I’m always interested in what others are writing about this adventure. I’ll take a look Jo. Best to you. K
Kathy, I just found your blog about a week ago and I am learning more every day as I prepare for independence in about a year. I agree in regards to thinking of “retirement”. I think that the problem with our use of the word “retirement” is the way our culture divides life into phases. That is Childhood, Adulthood and Old Age, corresponding to Education, Work and Retirement. As other commenters have pointed out, the definition of retirement in the dictionary uses words such as “withdrawal”, “withdraw from action”, “a retreat for seclusion or privacy”, etc. In earlier times, this was literally true; retirement was a short period when a person could no longer work, and was essentially a waiting period prior to death. We do need a new phase of life between Work and Retirement. “PIM” works, as does “Independent” and there may be others. I’m sure if we all keep talking about it, a term will find its way into our language that we all feel comfortable with. Looking forward to being a steady reader, and thanks!
Kathy, Thanks for re-posting this. It really resonates. Even though I had thought a lot about the social and emotional sides of retirement before I took the plunge, I still found that I needed to be open to new possibilities. In many ways, my retirement activities have unfolded differently than I anticipated, but I’m finding it a wonderful adventure.
Catching up with some blog reading, so my comment comes a little later… in 15 months l’ll retire from a career that has been rewarding, stressful, and a “call.” I’ve planned well financially and am looking forward to this next phase in my life. However, I’ve not liked the word retirement!!! For now I’m using the word, “uptirement,” in the same vein as recycle – reuse – upcycle! To upcycle is to take something worthwhile and use it differently or re-create it into something useful. I’m hoping to take the life I had as a professional woman, and move on doing things that interest me and engage me in new ways — that don’t require going to work, but satisfy my creative spirit, allow me flexibility, and bring a continued sense of satisfaction.
I love your blog. I retired 10 months ago and have just started a blog which I call “retirement vs rewirement”. I am loving figuring out how to ‘rewire’. My site is: http://www.retiredphysicianassistant.com