There is a new survey of 1,583 retirees about what makes them happy in their post-employment years. In general, I don't find the the poll useful for several reasons:
• All the respondents are long-time customers of a financial services company, TIAA, that commissioned the report
• The respondents disporportionately hold advanced education degrees
• 74 percent have made only “minor or no financial adjustments” in retirement
That certainly does not reflect the real world and most of the 100-plus questions in the survey are about satisfaction with TIAA products – retirement planning and financial packages. That makes a good sales tool for the company but not much interest ordinary folks.
Nevertheless, in reading the survey, I realized that I have never, in 12 years since my last paid employment, given any thought to how life is for me now in comparison to before. Apparently, I just slipped into retirement, kept going and here I am.
At first, I intended to show you a couple of charts from the TIAA survey – one about lifestyle changes and another on activity levels - but for reasons in that list above, it doesn't seem useful and I'm more interested in how you, dear readers, whom I suspect are a better cross-section of elders than the survey respondents, are enjoying your retirement.
Me? I never decided to retire. In fact, I didn't think about it when I was working even into my sixties. I just assumed I would work until I didn't want to anymore, whenever that came about in some indistinct future.
And so it was. Until it wasn't. I was 63 when I was laid off and even giving it a year of intensive searching, I never found another job.
However, during my last year of employment, I was already publishing this blog so I just kept at it. It is what I do now quite similarly to my life when I once produced TV shows and websites, and I am no less engaged with the blog than that other kind of work.
The worst of retirement is that I couldn't afford to remain living in Manhattan where I had been for 40 years. It is the only place I ever felt at home and not being there means that I am not living in the right place, always feeling slightly off-kilter.
But so what. Shit happens in life. There's nothing to do but deal with it and god knows I try in a hundred little ways.
Since this blog bridged my working and non-working years, it is almost as though I haven't retired – except that I luxuriate in the freedom now to schedule time at my whim and not an employer's.
Aside from TGB, the days are filled with fitness workouts, community activities, friends online and in person, reading, cooking, keeping up with politics and a couple of other areas of interest, a weekly current affairs discussion group, and the boring parts of life – shopping, cleaning, etc.
What I have come to appreciate now is something I had not anticipated – time to be. Time with no purpose. Time be quiet and alone with myself. I recall having that kind of time as small child, lots of it, but it got set aside for the most part in the mid-years and I am pleased to have it back.
Life is more fluid and open-ended these days. Without demands from employers, the only obligations are those I choose to make and although “happy” is not in my personal vocabulary, I am essentially content with life as it has come to be now.
So that's how retirement is going for me. How about you?
ADDENDUM: I finished this before realizing that even though I read the entire TIAA survey which is concerned almost mostly with money, that subject didn't occur to me while I was steeped in writing this.
Certainly money is important in retirement. It takes on greater meaning in old age, I think, because most people are stuck with whatever we've got – it's never going to change much, and far too many elders live in poverty. (We'll talk about that here soon.)
For now, do I wish I had more money? Sure. Are there things I go without for lack of money? Yes, but nothing crucial.
I budget carefully, I put aside money for emergencies and worry that it's not enough. And in a world economy as volatile as the one we live in, I wonder what might go wrong before I die that will leave me in financial dire straits.
And then I remember that there is no point in buying trouble, particularly the kind I cannot control.
With that, we're back to the end again: How's retirement going for you? And if you are not retired yet, what do you expect or anticipate from it when the time comes.