Interim Report: The TGB Elderbloggers Survey
Senator McCain: Older Than Coke in a Can

Retirement Quandaries Redux

[EDITORIAL NOTE 1: Wow. Responses to The TGB Elderblogger Survey are coming in at a terrific rate. It will remain open for bloggers and blog readers age 50 and older until 1 May. If you haven't done so yet, clicking the link above or the survey badge in the right sidebar will take you directly to the survey. And thank you for passing it on to other elderbloggers and elder blog readers you know.]

Have I ever told you how much I love the readers of this blog? You are fabulous - smart and thoughtful, enthusiastic and filled with good ideas.

Last week, I posted a story, Retirement Quandaries, in which I posited a lot of questions about retirement. It was a new kind of post for me, all those questions at once, and I hoped some of you would use them as a jumping off point to tell us your personal retirement stories, give us some ideas and thoughts about life after full-time work and maybe help lacochran, whose blog post sparked my own, with some useful food for thought.

You came through in a rainbow of flying colors.

Your responses were long, filled with delicious detail and left me with three overall impressions:

  1. Retirement is at least as busy and fruitful as career years
  2. Retirement is as happy and fulfilling a time as work life
  3. Retirement plans are likely to change

Regarding item 3, several people found opportunities they had not counted on:

“…I have actually done few of the things I had originally planned on doing, not because I have been frustrated in doing them or lacked opportunity, but because in retirement I have found new interests and pursuits that appeal to me more…”
“I made a flyer, stuck it in 50 mail boxes and went home. The next day I was bombarded with calls from seniors, people who can't do physical work but want to remain in their homes, and a few celebrities! I already had the tools, LOVE gardening, so off I went on this new adventure.”
“Also, speaking of new interests surfacing, when I began serious retirement planning back in the late '90s, I never once thought, ‘I'm going to devote a part of every day to reading and writing blogs.’ In fact, the word itself was unknown to me.”
“I began to discover that all the things I had thought I wanted weren't what I wanted at all. New ideas and interests were popping up. The ground seemed to be shifting under me.”

Although I didn’t ask about finances, several people referred to living with less money than before retirement, but are able to accommodate the change without undue hardship:

“…we had learned to live so simply that we could manage on a very small income.”
“Money is tight, but I am thrifty. My plan is, I'll spend till it's gone and then maybe get a job as a Walmart greeter if I have to. Or an art school model, that pays better. Whatever.”
“I had calculated that we had enough funds to survive the four years till my pension would be paid - but I got it wrong. However, we have managed with loans from friends and judicious use of credit.”
“An early retirement was forced on me due to a worsening hearing loss. At first I was devastated, but it was mainly because of the loss of income. When I became eligible for [Social Security], it got easier and I gradually adjusted to a new life style.”
“They imagine I'm rich, I tell them I'm not, but they don't believe me. My expectations are a lot lower than most people's and I did set aside every spare penny I had when I was working, so I probably saved more than a lot of people at my income level did.”

Some miss the camaraderie of the workplace (but, hey, what are blog friends for?):

“I do miss the people at work and have to be careful that I don't become a hermit (it is SO easy to be too comfortable in pajamas at home) so I keep in touch with friends…”
“…there were times when I cried. I felt a bit sad, missing my colleagues…”
“The only thing I miss is having other retired people to play with, most people I know of my age are still working.”

Joy radiates from most of your comments; many retirees appear to be living on the far right end of the happiness scale:

“Retirement has gone well for me and I almost feel guilty till I remember the 28 years of service time I put in to earn it.”
“As time went by I reveled in the freedom that comes from not having to punch a clock and of being master of my own fate.”
“How could anyone be bored? TV - what is that? Retirement - what are you? Am I retired and do not know it?”
“I love being in charge of my own time and my own direction. I focus on being a good and peaceful person in the present...I find that the health and rhythms of my mind and body signal what the time will be like, and I delight in the freedom to do what is creative, loving, and contributing in that space. I try to be easy on myself and on others.”
"I LOVE being retired! The word doesn't bother me at all because I earned it. I taught high school and younger gifted students for 37 years and also had part-time jobs. I enjoy the silence, no bells, no schedules, sleeping late, staying up late, and the freedom. I try not to do anything I don't want to."
“…for me, 'retiring' from work was kind of like 'retiring' from the dining-room into the drawing-room, like the ladies in old-fashioned novels used to do. Simply going from one room of my life into another. And I love this one. It's wonderful.”

This collection of quotes from the comments doesn’t come close to the full richness of your many and varied comments. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. Some can’t afford to retire and there are other difficulties which are part of the retirement spectrum. But most of all, considering the responses as a whole, there is more that is honest, inspiring and wise about retirement than I have read in any book or any other one place.

I’ve not given names and links to quotations because those I have omitted are equally enlightening. If you have not done so, go back and read all the comment essays. There is much to know and learn there.

And again, thank you all for your enthusiastic participation. You are the best.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior explains why she's no longer interested in fishing for Smelt!]


Here's the deal: No matter what you do for $$ during working years, you are doing it for someone else, with someone else calling the shots and someone else reaping the benefit of your labor. Even those of you who work for nonprofits - you are making someone else rich, unless you are that person, or persons at the top getting rich.

When you retire, you are on your own clock. Anything you do is directed by YOU and you alone. Sure enough, just like when you worked, you have to live on a budget, but you don't feel that omniscient pressure of someone else's schedule. Monday morning has a new kind of fresh freedom!

For example, I have what I think of as a deluxe job (one of them). I have a 100 ton license and deliver (very big) sailboats for people who don't want to waste their time moving their boat from the Bahamas to, say, the Keys. I only work when I want to. Pretty cushy, right? Nice boat, a crew to boss around... But, here's the rub. Once I sign that contract I am now working for The Man. It is not MY boat, it is under a schedule and I get on a plane and fly home when the delivery is over.

Now.. When I am sailing MY boat, a little 34' catamaran, I am on my schedule. Ahhh, sweet liberty!

Where do you think I am the happiest?


The Captain

"But for me, 'retiring' from work was kind of like 'retiring' from the dining-room into the drawing-room, like the ladies in old-fashioned novels used to do. Simply going from one room of my life into another. And I love this one. It's wonderful."

What a lovely thought from Marian Van Eyk McCain. Wonderful sentiment.

I agree with Cap'n Jan about being on someone else's schedule. For instance, I dread this coming Friday because I committed to a meeting with the head of the physics department at the local university. I am doing a project for him (he needed an alum to do it and here I am!) and must accommodate meeting with several of the people on campus, serially, to accomplish the project. When will I learn to say "No"?

All I can say is now that I`m here and more or less settled in, old age is better in uniquely special ways than I thought it would be. And on your blog I review with pleasure those uniquely special ways again and again.

I'm delighted so many have responded to the retirement survey. Just went to read any new posts I might have missed on your original survey announcement post. Haven't gotten around to writing answers to your questions at my place as I thought I would, but I did post encouragement and a link for others to come here.

I haven't worked for the past 5 1/2 months for a variety of reasons, and find I'm constantly busy with one thing or another, mostly enjoying myself. Finally, agreed to start back to part time work next week, as I can't shake the idea I better keep going as long as I can.

Should the day come when I give up the work I'm confident I won't lack for ways to spend my time, involve myself with others and in my community more, if I choose. That's what I like best of all about even this semi-retirement, or when the "semi" goes -- I relish choices, being in command of what I do or don't do, with whom, when and where. (May portend an adaptability challenge should I ever have to become more dependent on others.)

Meanwhile, I've involved myself the past couple of years with some activities that allow flexibility in degree of involvement -- I can attend or not attend, do as much or as little as I like, in a writing class and a local computer club. Part of this was a result of coping with my husband's death almost two years ago now, but these activities also provide a seamless transition from working status to non-working -- full so-called "retirement."

This weekend having resolved some long-pending and more recent issues resulting in positive outcomes the previous week (including a clear bill of health on a matter that arose the first of the year; and repairing my car mysteriously, but probably accidentally damaged by others in my driveway,) I potted around the house and never even got out of my P.J.s until this Mon. morning. My husband and I on rare occasion would sleep-in on a weekend, arise late, and do the same -- but never the whole weekend like this. It was wonderful!

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