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So How's Retirement Going for You?

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.

(If you are interested in the TIAA survey, the executive summary is here [pdf], the full report is here [pdf].)


I found myself in much the same situation at age 62 when my teaching job was terminated due to Hurricane Katrina. I had to start over in a new place with virtually nothing. However, I was able to find part time work in my field for the next 7 years and I landed in a place where I was always meant to be quite by accident. In the past 10 years I have scrimped to pay down debt, but still live on a wing and a prayer.

Like you, I try not to borrow trouble and meditation has helped me greatly in keeping my focus on the present.

I see each day as a new beginning and keep my eyes open for all the beauty life has to offer.

I never thought about being 79 & retired. Mostly, I thought about being retired & maybe 69, but that was pure fantasy. At 69, retirement was going fine as was my marriage of many years. Then the reality of poor health hit us around 8 years ago & now retirement is going as I never believed it would. So I have readjusted my thinking, my money management, my lifestyle. My spouse as I knew him is mostly gone, but I have wonderful memories & 3 great adult children who unfortunately live too far away.

So what I'd tell anyone nearing or beginning retirement is enjoy, but plan for some glitches that may totally change your expectations. And I urge all to find a good elder care attorney if things become complicated or even before complications occur. Otherwise I just keep on keepin' & do my very best on my own as you are doing. Dee

Retirement has been wonderful in so many ways. This past week, six people were at our dinner table on the eve of Passover, a festival which commemorates the Israelites' freedom from bondage. I posed the question, "What are you grateful to be free of at this time of your life?" My own answer was, "Office politics."

Mornings have changed.

I used to get up at 5am and be at work at 7am. I don't know how I did it. When did I drink my coffee and shower and put on make-up --- not to mention catching up on what was going on in the world and doing my exercises before work??

Now it takes me all morning to get the same things done. I like this part of retirement.

I would echo some of the comments already made here. Life happened before my husband and I had quite reached retirement age, with his employer suddenly shutting their doors with no notice, no severance pay, no more insurance . . . just short of a year away from Medicare, and with him an insulin dependent Type 1 diabetic for more than thirty years. That set us scrambling, but his veteran status and our severely reduced income qualified him for medical assistance, which was actually the first moment of grace in that big life upset. Since then, we have been managing on a severely reduced income, mostly by letting some things go that we wouldn't if we had other options, but as a wise man I know once said, "People can't give what they don't have."

I'm still on the lookout for sources of supplemental income, but the only responses I seem to be getting are things to which I've not actually applied, like multi-level marketing and sales positions that involve a reliance almost entirely on commission or endlessly recruiting others, to which I have said, "no thank you." Maybe this is shortsighted on my part and it's exactly where I should be putting my energies, but I just can't seem to drum up any enthusiasm for it. So as long as we can keep food on the table (and in our two cats' bowls) and we can pay our portion of my husband's medical care, I'll continue to resist these "jobs".

I'm not surprised about the TIAA. A few decades ago I worked for a few years in a support staff position at a small local college. TIAA-CREF was where our retirement funds were routed. My meager earnings during the years I was there generated very little, but the real benefit I got on the investment of my time there was the completion of my college degree tuition free. Professors, top administrators and others who saved as much as they could and worked there for most or all of their working years did pretty well, especially those who retired prior to 2008.

Limits on spending not only have changed my activity choices, but cause anxieties I never had before retirement 8 years ago. Health was always an issue, but not as primary as it is to my life now. I'm trying to live in the now, but the nagging realities of teeth and an old car vs bank balances that only go down not up...well there are concerns. But the time I spend doing what I love is almost worth it. As an artist that had to work 8-5 in order to live, retirement is opportunity for creativity. And that even puts some pressure on me, considering how much time I have to live in order to perfect my craft. On the whole I'm glad to live where I do and have a community of friends. Life is good.

I haven't retired yet (I'll be 65 in September). For the last year, I've been trying to decide whether to retire this spring and gain two years of calling my time my own, or wait two years because it will leave me in a much better financial situation. Time vs. money: which to choose?

I am 68 and my husband is 69. We are both in good health. I have been retired for 6 years; my husband still works 2 days a week, mostly because his employer begged and pleaded for him to stay at least 2 days a week. Our finances are in good shape. So my retirement is going just fine right now. I have especially enjoyed having time to do the homey things that I didn't have time for before--reading, quilting, cooking. We travel a couple of times a year, sometimes with our daughter and SIL. I know things could change in an instant so I really try to do the good stuff now while I can.

I wanted to retire early at 62. But part of that urge was being worn out and tired of working. However, I was having heart problems. After I retired and started a plant based diet, I started feeling much better. I might not have wanted to retire early if I had discovered that diet sooner. However, I love being retired and can't imagine going back to work. Every night when I go to bed I regret not having more time in the day. I can't believe I ever had time for an eight hour work day.

My husband retired over 10 years ago; I retired 3 years ago. We're both 67. We're fortunate to have pensions as well as Social Security, and financially we are secure, for now. My husband still works on and off, and some of his stints have been quite lucrative, others paying not so much at all, but always interesting; my little earned income would pay my coffee bill for a month. But these jobs mean our savings go up, not down.

I loved my job, left it because I wanted to leave while I was still appreciated, but I agree with victoria: "Now it takes me all morning to get the same things done. I like this part of retirement."

I have always wanted to write and to that end I started my blog about 5 years ago, a couple of months after being laid off. Only recently have I started to step away from that to become more involved in local politics where we are engaged in efforts to not only eliminate fracking within city limits and surrounding areas but are currently trying to stave off an energy plan that has both good and bad elements in it. The bad is the decision to build 2 new fracked-gas power plants.

I have also become a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission here in Denton, Tx. and It has helped fulfill another desire of mine to become politically involved.

Retirement has also allowed me to better focus on my health needs through a better diet and more exercise, now riding my bike just everywhere I go these days

I retired voluntarily at age 60, because I could begin drawing a pension. I have been retired almost 10 years now. My DH spent endless hours planning for our retirement, and he still devotes time to managing our finances now. We have stability, but we are not rich. One of the major adjustments for me, has been not managing a paycheck. I had a paycheck and charge account which I used at my discretion. Now, all our finances are pooled, and while this is efficient and my DH is never stingy or grudging, I do feel the lack of personal income.

I do enjoy retirement! My early retirement was a lovely gift which I gratefully accepted. We've had some health issues, and I am grateful for modern medicine. We made a cross country move which has worked out well. We've done some travel. We've made new friends. Our home is comfy and meets our needs. If we are able to live in it for a total of 10 years, I will feel quite blessed.

We continue to have good relationships with our adult children and their families. For me, retirement has worked out well. I cannot believe how quickly these past 9 years have passed!

As you can see by the time of this comment, early mornings are a thing of the past for me, and...what do you know...the sun just came out! (smiley face).

Enjoyed this article and all the comments.

I also retired at 62, and did more of the things I wanted to do. Twenty years later, I'm still glad I took that step. Even though the recession and "zero interest rates" have taken a large bite out of my style. There has been time to pursue the interests and volunteer activities that were impossible during working days. And those are free of charge.
So, all in all, retirement is treating me okay---so far.
Thanks for bringing this up. it was nice to sit back and recall "What was, and now is."

I love reading the comments as it gives me hope that I will find my "groove" in my early, forced retirement.

One thing that I would be really interested in hearing more about is your weekly current affairs discussion group. For example, how many people? How is it organized? How does it work? (Pretty much everything, I guess.)

Thank you for another thought-provoking column.

I left my last full-time job in 1987 and over the next nine years dropped my working hours down gradually, to the point where I was working only two or three days a month. In 1996 I qualified for a pension and have been fully 'retired' ever since. Since then, I've been 'following my bliss', being a writer, an author, an editor, an environmental activist, a 'back-to-the-land' pioneer and an expert on simple living. I've also done lots of travelling. This has been one of the best phases of my life and I'm still loving it.

But did you notice that I started off by listing achievements? I've realized that a really annoying holdover from my years in the workforce is the conditioning that tells me I should still be achieving in some way, even though I'll be 80 in a few weeks. Allied to that is my inability to sit down and read a novel or to play online solitaire games during what used to be normal working hours, even though I can do it guilt-free on Sundays or in the evenings. That social conditioning we get from those six decades from grade school to retirement goes deep and can be very hard indeed to shift. Anyone else notice that?

I've been floundering around in my retirement for almost a year, but I retired about three years ago. The first two years were taken up with caring for my sister. I had a sharp, narrow focus. When she died I felt like I'd been thrown into a black hole. I have a lot of days of just sitting and thinking, but some days I feel some stirrings of life again. Exercise, counseling, and adequate retirement benefits make it possible to do the sitting and thinking. I think I'm lucky in that I do have enough money to live on and an adequate house to live in so my basic needs are met without too much anxiety. Oh, also I have three dogs, two that I inherited, and I give them a lot of credit for keeping me going. It's hard for me to say no to a dancing dog with a ball in her mouth.

Like you, Ronni, I was forced unexpectedly into retirement -- at age 55. I've had my ups and downs, but at least now the downs are in Colorado, where I always wanted to live. I'm near my son and his family. I worry most about how long the money will last, but aside from that, I'm free to do as I please, when I please, and I take great pleasure in that. I loved my work but hated the office politics and the endless deadlines and stress. I love not being jolted awake by an alarm clock every morning, or facing rush hour traffic twice a day. Basically I just love having no demands on my time except those I choose to accept. It horrifies me to see the schedules my son and his wife have with two kids, jobs, etc. I guess that's what youth is for.

Most of today's comments reflect my feelings.
"The best laid plans of mice and men etc."
I hadn't planed to retire at 62.
I didn't plan on never finding meaningful work again.
I never thought a devastating illness would wipe me out financially.
But, as they say, "s--t happens."
Am I content in my retirement? No, but I'm thankful for what I have.
And, for many of us, that's enough.

As the comments above indicate, money, or the lack of, is a huge factor in the quality of life for retirees.

My change from a working woman to a retired one is similar to several of you. I was forced to retire before I had planed on doing so. My husband had malignant brain tumors and was terminal and I lost my job due to the worsening of my hearing loss. I had to go on unemployment comp. to survive until I was eligible for Social Security.

A small insurance policy after my husband died kept me going for the four years remaining until I was eligible for Social Security. I had to take early S. S. and my check was not as large as it could have been, but it was enough to pay my bills and to be free of stress. When that first social security check arrived I was so grateful to FDR for saving people like me,

That time in my life was a great teacher. I am so thankful for the freedom of financial stress that I enjoy retirement. I invested the remaining funds from the insurance wisely and was able to pay off my house and do the traveling I had always dreamed of. So I can heartily confirm that, for me, retirement has been the best time of my life.

I retired from education last year at age 62 and had planned to sub-teach or work part time to supplement my income until age 65. However, unexpected health issued have made made that impossible, and my financial situation more tenuous. I am glad that I didn’t decide to wait it out for a few more years, as I may not have many of them left.

My son & his wife & 16 mo. old daughter have been living with me for the past two years; they were hoping to be able to stay in this small town where they grew up and with the two grandmothers nearby, but the rural economy is not thriving. This week they are moving back to Lincoln (2 hours away) where he has secured a better job, which are scarce around here.
Now I am struggling with fact that I will no longer have that baby to play with every evening. If not for the fact that my rather downscale little house is paid for, I would move, too.

Anyway, things did not work out as planned. So my cats & I will be entering into an entirely new phase of life after retirement now.

I'm 64 and still working full time; my husband works part time. I will work until I'm at least 66, which is when I can retire with full Social Security benefits. I have a small nest egg, which will help, but I still worry about money. I co-own a home at the beach with two of my siblings. I'd love to live there once I retire, but that's a negotiation for later. I'm really looking forward to having that time to just be. It sounds lovely!

“Content” is good, and it’s what I hope for in the years to come.

I didn’t choose to retire either. And, I was convinced by what I saw and heard that employers would not be interested in someone my age.

I tend to do what I want, limited only by my energy and resources. I don’t worry much. I read a lot. I explore new places. Keeping engaged socially is a bit challenging, mainly because I moved to a much less expensive locale and do not have much of a network here.

Recently, I encountered a phrase, “the chaos of abundance”. So much information comes my way, there is no way for me to discern all of its reliability, act on it, or often prioritize it.

Even with lower interest rates, I’ve been impressed with how the cash flow works relatively well vs. the years of earned income. Inflation is the great unknown. Several things in my life don’t seem to increase a slowly as the CPI suggests, and I expect that to continue.

I tried volunteering at a few things, but that just seemed like a new set of responsibilities I didn’t want. Maybe I’ll try again later in life.

"You can be young without money, but you can't be old without it." - Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

That phrase of dialogue, first heard by me in about 1966, has stuck with me and has always had the ring of truth to it. Many of the above comments seem to confirm the sentiment.

Fortunately, I am in a much more stable financial situation than I would ever have imagined while young. Like many, I came from a very poor family. Higher education was "the way out" for my brothers, my husband, and me - engineers, all. My husband (and my elder brother, who lives one state away from us) retired at age 57 in 1993, I retired at age 66 in 2004. We are all happy in retirement. Part of my happiness, I believe, can be attributed to the fact that my husband and I don't argue over money, having kept our finances separate for the 28 years of our second marriage. (We were married to one another for 19 years and divorced for 11 years before re-marrying.)

Volunteering gives me enough responsibilities and structure to my days to satisfy my yearning for such. That is even truer for my husband. (My brother does not volunteer, but spends much time analyzing stock market trends!) It does seem that I have slowed down so much that it takes all day to do 30 minutes' worth of work at times; but, we each plug along at our own speed, I guess.

I admire the willingness of elders to do without as required. Seemingly, many have no choice. Unfortunately, our society is not well structured to assure that all are included in the bounties of life.

“Old age ain't no place for sissies.” - Bette Davis

I sort of chose retirement because the big bosses at UCSF decided to lay off the whole staff and put the burden of their work on me. I don't know how many people they laid off but I was already doing the work of 5 people - and being paid at the bottom of the pay scale. When I was told they were NOT going to lay me off but handed me a 36 page job description and smiled at me with shark's teeth, I knew I had to leave or die at my desk. I went back to college, too as many classes in the arts and writing that I could (before elders were also booted out of college) and enjoyed it. I still enjoy my retirement although I watch with horror what's happening to SF and wonder if or when my landlord will try to kick me out for somebody who will pay 5 times what I do . I tried to make contacts with my brother and sister but my brother is indifferent/hostile and my sister does not want to be bothered. So, in spite of 2 strokes, I try to enjoy each day, live frugally and try to do my best. It's the best any of us can do. Now if I lose my apartment with its moderate rent, I will be up the creek without a paddle but I will cross that bridge if or when I have to.

Much of what I would say has been said. I became "involuntarily retired" 2+ years ago, 6 days before I turned 78; otherwise, I would probably still be working. I'd always had an active, work-centered life so it's been a difficult transition despite volunteer work.

Now that I'm pushing 80 it seems more "acceptable" to be retired. My husband (86) retired 10 years ago; now he and I have more time together. Our cats like having us home more. We have some health issues but nothing life-threatening as yet, although shoulder pain limits some of what I can do. I don't like that! I'm doing what I can to avoid surgery.

Financially, Sulibran's comment about no longer having personal income hit home with me. My husband and I maintain separate accounts but pool our resources, and now that everything is online, every $20 spent is visible. We never were "accountable" to each other and still aren't, but I valued my independence and liked having my own (earned) money.

As far as financial resources go, we have "enough" but not a lot more. Our home is modest and upgrades are costly, so we do things incrementally. We'd be pretty much wiped out if we had to spend more than a couple of years in assisted living or with daily in-home care. I worry about that even though I realize that worry won't change anything. It's odd to view our financial projections into the mid-2020s and come up against the hard fact that our assets could be pretty much depleted except for S/S and a small annuity. Hmmm. . .guess we'd better be dead by then!

I retired at age 64 (I'm now 75) because I could not stand the thought of another week of flying to and from, here and there, and then sleeping in a motel for the week followed by another week just like the week before. Only the airports and motels changed and after awhile they all became the same. I dreaded seeing the blue airport shuttle pull up in front of the house...
I thought that retirement would be my salvation from a job I had come to hate, and retirement would deliver the perfect life I had dreamed of. Sure enough, the job I hated soon faded from memory. That was a good thing. I had begun race walking (the silly walk) before my retirement and now I could devote myself to the sport. I had completed one marathon and many half marathons, 5K's and 10k's. I planned and competed in 4 more marathons. We were going to explore the USA by car and by marathon. And then, at age 68, my body gave out. Before my office days, I had spent 30 years working in construction (a job I loved) and because of that abuse I've now had 4 back surgeries and the pain is still with me. I take pain meds on a regular basis.
But not all is negative. I returned to art and began to paint regularly. I sold a few paintings and then, 3 months ago, I was given a show and my art was seen by lots of people. I was interviewed for the University newspaper. I paint even more now. That part of retirement has been fulfilling; creating something of value.
Next week I will be having another round of epidural injections. So, I'm not giving up and I feel the positives of retirement simply outweigh the negatives.

With a ill-timed relocation for my husband's job, my last, best job was behind me at 53.

I missed the structure and the identity (and of course, the money) it provided, without a doubt, but I was able to do things (luckily, low cost) that I'd always wanted to do, like finish another degree and volunteer at an animal shelter, so I started really enjoying life.

With the next move, three years later, I thought I still might go back to work after some delayed dental work that took a long time. Too long, as it turned out. Just as I finished, my husband's new office had a big problem when a key staffer departed unexpectedly just as their lease ended. I ended up finding them new quarters, overseeing the move, volunteering there for several years, and finally working there three more years as a paid staffer.

It wasn't, to put it mildly, my "career" of choice, but it certainly stripped any remaining romanticism away from the Lost Career of years earlier. I was reacquainted with all the downsides of work ... the lack of control, the deadlines, the events to plan (and staff), the constant struggles to keep all the technology working and all the stakeholders happy.

In 2015, he retired at last, and we moved to what seems likely to be our final destination. I am really (almost) retired this time. He brought a project from his last office that makes occasional demands, but we can do them in our own house, on our own schedule. And the company where the Lost Career took up nine years has since been sold and largely dissolved.

I LOVE this version of retirement. Soon, I'll have Medicare after ten years battling to keep coverage in the individual insurance market. I only buy non-work clothes, have thrown out most of my makeup, and never use my alarm clock. Life is full of small pleasures, like binge watching favorite TV shows and tearing into good books. I know this is the "good" part (ie, before the doctors) so I am making the most of it.

Like many of you, I didn't choose retirement. I was laid off at 62, and discovered that nobody wanted a computer programmer my age.

I... can't say they were entirely wrong, either. For the last few years of employment I had been noticing a narrower span of code-comprehension, which is critical to being a good programmer. I'd been getting by, thanks to a lifetime's accumulation of tricks, and I was still turning out reliable bug-free code, but it was taking me longer and longer to accomplish this, and I had been working a LOT of unpaid overtime to meet my deadlines. It was getting to the point where maybe I really wasn't worth the salary a senior programmer is supposed to get.

Eventually, I looked around and said, "Huh. I guess I'm retired, then."

I'd been working in the US for eight years, ever since Y2K, on an annual technical visa. I was very glad to move back to my native Canada for retirement. Family, quality of life, and - the biggest load off my mind - medical care. I so wish I could fix the horrifying American system for all of you who have to live under it! All I can say is, I do count my blessings, and am well aware that it's luck, not merit, that lets me not have to worry about losing all my life savings to a late-in-life illness. There are still nursing homes and suchlike potentially lurking in the future for my husband and/or myself, so I'm not home free. Still. I am home, and that counts for a lot.

Retirement so far has been pretty good. I found an online game where the sole developer has recently started letting me give him bug fixes and minor enhancements. This is very satisfying work because I can do it at my own pace, test it exhaustively until I am certain it won't cause any problems, then see the results making players happier. That's always been the thrill of programming for me. If you do it right, you get to make something work better. Permanently!

(Or, well, as permanent as any code gets.)

I began working while in high school and continued into my 30s, save for one year to take off with no work, no plans. So it's many years since my retirement and now, at 72, further reinvention and what I call reorientation continues to evolve, though in smaller ways.

Life hasn't been all I expected nor wanted and sometimes, needed. Fortunately, I learned, from an early age, a lesson to encounter all challenges with conscious, full-on positiveness and openness to change, and with exceptions, this has resulted pretty well, and I imagine will help as new limitations arise with aging.

Presently, I'm missing the camaraderie and enjoyment of friends, as most no longer live in this area. So tackling my dislike of large groups, it's time to reconsider and adjust, or move closer to friends and relatives.

I do believe that one value of aging and experience is the strength and resilience we now have from all those growing pains.

Aside from all this and while having good health, I love retirement, be it from work, or any other time-consuming obligations.

Two years ago I accepted that i was "retired" when my accountant so informed me. Having been self-employed (usually, tho not always) as a "consultant" this was not crystal clear. I was ready. I had already gotten to Medicare (yay! -- yes, we need it for ALL) and the terrible intensity of my kind of work really was too much, though I didn't know that til I got some distance.

We are unbelievably fortunate: unlike so many, we have "enough." "Enough" is a great thing.

Like Nancy, watching the terrible things happening to my much loved San Francisco as too much money chasing too little housing and public services with too little willingness to pay the price in taxes is depressing. Can't, yet, imagine going anywhere else, but we might if forced and it is feasible.

My story is similar to yours, however I am in the Washington DC area. I never want to move from inside the Beltway, however, if one of us precedes the other in death, which is likely, he or I may have to reassess. I am a city mouse, and don't want o ever live beyond the end of a mass transportation route. Nor do I want to ever leave the little urban garden we have built over 34 years. However, as John Lennon wrote, 'life is what happens when you are making other plans.'

I'm 55, with significant back problems. I "retired" from the corporate world (as in "take this job, it's glass ceiling and it's unequal pay for women, and shove it" retired) and have been self employed since age 41. I love what I do, but this ol' spine of mine has different ideas than my brain does about when we'll be done with the working world. I'm not bringing in the money I want to, and feel guilty about it. I have absolutely no hope I could ever find a corporate job again, and since Walmart no longer has greeters...well, I'm not sure what the next 10-12 years holds for me employment-wise.

I'd love to stop dyeing my hair and let that very pretty white stuff shine, and put that money into savings, but some idiot in my head keeps telling me "wait...that may be the only thing that helps you get another job." Some of the comments from TGB friends has me telling that idiot to shut up and save the money.

My step-dad (75), every time I see him, asks if I have a pension - and then tells me I'm stupid when I say no. As if workers my age and younger have had a choice! The company my husband and I worked for ( met there, he just hit 30 years there) merged our pensions into our 401k accounts in 1994. I've run our retirement finances 2 ways - with SS and without. It's grim without the SS, but then then so is everything about our government right now.

I have an index card on my desk bulletin board that says " peace, security, leisure, contentment, creativity, mobility." These are what I strive for when I do my morning "planning and solitude," but I realize now these are not all simultaneously achieveable, and to keep one, I may have to give up another.

My experience parallels yours, Ronni, to a considerable degree. I was 64 when the company I was contracting to went toes up. I spent a year looking for a job without success. Although it was never stated, I had the feeling they were thinking "What does this old fart know about I.T.?"

Actually, looking for a job was a novel experience for me – the last job I applied for was in 1971. Since then people would contact me and ask, "Would you like to work for us?" "Sure, why not?" Alas, by this time they had pretty much all retired, so no help there.

Thanks to Ronni's silver tongue (or silver fingers on the keyboard) I was also already writing for her column.

One difference between us is that my apartment was fully paid for so I didn't have to move.

I'm fairly content with life now, apart from my hands (and other things) hurting all the time due to arthritis. I just put it out of my mind.

One month shy of 25 yrs retired, I'm doing well. I'm lucky that, evejn though my working years were short and in an under paid "woman's" profession, I'm doing OK financially. I got half of my ex's TIAA-CREF retirement credit at the time of our divorce, pllus my meager SS and a very lucky, well timed inveestment in an IRA . My Mom left me an amount enough to be my long term care insurance. I remarried 26 yrs ago and bnefited from the marriage effect: two retirement incomes and tax advantages.

It's been a mostly fun 25 years -- well, 20 yrs, until the s*** magnet switched on and physical miseries piled in. We travelled, first by sailing catamaran for 9 yrs and then by RV off and on the rest. I got to return to my Native Land, No. Cal, for 7 wonderful years. Then we exiled ourselves to Iowa to be closer to kids and for other reasons. The RV took us to So. Texas for the winters until this year when our eyesight has failed and hubby needs oxygen. But, we are eagerly anticipating moving into our co-op apartments in a month. We look forward to the friendly community living it will provide.

I've been pretty darn lucky most of my life, so I shouldn't complain anbout the tavails of old age. I live in a nice college town with many amenities, not far from one of my daughters and with good friends around. Good life. Contentment rates a 7 on a 1 - 10 scale. Not too shabby.

I really have enjoyed reading all these comments-I think this is one of the best comment sections of almost any of your posts Ronni. And thanks everyone..your sharing has made me feel much less isolated by retirement and picked on by the company.

I had worked 33 years for Ma Bell and all her ugly step sons..I was both a dedicated worker and a union steward and advocate. In 1997 I had an OTJ back injury..fell from a telephone pole into a bunch of blackberry bushes. The'normal' recovery time for back surgery is 6 weeks..but my job wasn't quite the same as a person with a desk job and I was forced to return to work with a weak back. 2 years later I reinsured my back carrying a ladder downstairs. Again I had back surgery and was in terrible pain. I took a large dose of pain medication to be able to function and was quite sure I wouldn't be able to safely do my physical job, much less drive a company van until I was off the meds. After 4 months the company offered me another job 300 miles away from Portland, Or. I turned it down-My husband also worked for the company in Portland, I had a senior in high school at home and she was going to a Portland college, we owned a home and basically didn't want to move.

The company retired me in 1999 medically which enabled me to collect Social Security and they agreed to give me my little pension. Of course all my stock savings (invested in the company I worked for) were gone in the 2 stock bubble bursts..but my husband was still working and daughter agreed to get a part time job and help fund her college. We sold the camper and boat, didn't buy the new car I'd been wanting nor did we put a new roof on the house..lots of things you have to put aside when you retire unexpectedly.

We were doing ok..In fact I lost 150 lbs in the 2 years after retirement..I weighed almost 300 bs on my then 5'10" frame. Working out daily, not eating fast food lunches and being home to prepare healthy dinners made a big difference. I also went on a starch/plant/grain diet with no dairy or meat. Hubby didn't however and he passed away 3 years after I retired.

I receive 50% of his pension but none of his social security..meanwhile I was still supporting my daughter in college and hubbys mother who lived in an adult foster home.

My lifestyle has changed radically since retirement and hubbys death. I couldn't keep up all the repairs to my 80 year old farm house and it was falling down around me. Daughter got married and changed her life direction- She decided to go to massage college-it was a wise but expensive decision but she and her husband made things work.

Now, 16 years post retirement I can wish a few things were different, but those are things

I don't have control over. I have an apartment in a new house built on the acre of land I owned where the old farmhouse was but is n longer. I make a minimal rent payment to daughter, do most of the shopping and cooking, help ferry grand daughter around and have my little Scotty dog for company. We live in a family setting- we usually eat together and occasionally watch some movie on TV in the evening-but TV nights are few and far between
because granddaughter, the gymnast who wants to go to Cirque de Soilel School when she's 16, has classes every evening until 8PM. So dinner is on the table at 8:30 and then it's homework etc etc.

I have enjoyed my garden so much this year, pain or not, I make myself go out and crawl in the dirt..I planted a 20 x 50' corn/pea/squash bed..took me 5 days but already I have early leaves coming up. I hope to volunteer more again next fall-several injuries have made me not volunteer so I could recover. I enjoy volunteering at a local small theatre company as well as at the large theaters downtown Portland, at the Oregon Historical Society and at Dress for Success. I think I'll start at the local hospital though..or perhaps at the Veterans Center where my #2 son and d-i-l volunteer every week.

I enjoy watercolor painting, and have begun to quilt again.I lost my desire to create when hubby passed away, for some reason.

At 73 I am finally enjoying life. It took me a long time and much therapy to 'get over' husbands death. Or at least to have more acceptance about it. I'm luckier than any woman in both my maternal and paternal life span..My mom lived to 62 and that was longer than her mother or either grand parent. My dads mom lived to 50 and again it was longer the either of her parents. Ithink I'm going to have a much longer life (knock on wood) as Im much healthier than any of my ancestors, having never smoked tobacco, been a vegetarian since 2000, keep my blood pressure in control. Now all I have to do is bo back to the gym!

Be well everyone and Ronni, thanks again for having your blog be your job!

The comments to this entry tell a pretty universal story. None are quite like that of my friend Phil who entered the Senior Olympics and won various golds in his 90's, or like my grandfather who golfed till he was 99 despite his Lumbago.

I'm 74 and arthritis is winning, but I am darned if I am going to stop dreaming. I workout in the water every morning for an hour. I blog, I Facebook, I read, I write, I love learning, I go to meetings, and I am losing weight at last. I too retired at 65 involuntarily, but I volunteer two days a week for the Cancer Society Discovery Shop here . I keep the Shop Facebook page updated every day too.

If I stop dreaming or reading or keeping on keeping on, I won''t be here long.

One of the downfalls of "retirement" is the loss of lifelong friends. I lost 3 in 8 months. I'm not fully retired as I have to supplement my income with whatever I can do. I host AIRBNB for instance which I enjoy. I am in an unpaid position as mayor of my town and I love this opportunity to be of service to my community. But overall I am content. Living by the ocean and with a full life.

I retired early from secondary education at the age of 58 due to increasing health issues AND an unfriendly work environment with mounting office politics at the head of it all. I applied for and was granted Social Security Disability because of Progressive Multiple Sclerosis which helped supplement a small teacher pension. Two years after that, I was automatically placed on Medicare at the early age of 60.

My medical expenses, especially outrageously priced medications, are our largest budget items. We have decent investments, but not much of a cushion if things go south.

I fear that our 17-year age difference that wasn't that big of a deal when we married years ago has caught up with us. My husband is my care-giver instead of the other way around. I will probably outlive him, but I won't be able to live by myself. Mentally I am just fine, but I can't completely dress myself, can't stand for more than five or ten minutes at a time, and am at risk of falling. I use a walker and/or a wheelchair when we go out, and can't use stairs easily or at all; actually, I can't take a single step without assistance.

Our travel has dwindled to almost nothing since it is so hard to find hotels with roll-in showers. Apparently, to be handicap-accessible, places only have to have a grab bar in the tub! We used to go to Maine every summer for a couple of weeks, but we haven't been since 2010.

All the above is the negative. The positive is that I haven't had debilitating headaches since I've retired, have had time to volunteer weekly in a university library archives, have spent more time with my family, have had more time to read, pet the cat, read interesting blogs, and spend quiet evenings with my husband.

The only negative is this awful, awful MS!

I was force retired at 62. The following month my mother died and for 10 months or so I was caught up in related activities. Then my brother in law was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I spent a couple of months helping my sister, who was working, take care of him so that he could die at home. And then my partner required a hip transplant which required a couple of months of nursing/caregiving support. I didn't have the opportunity, nor the need, to say now what. It felt something like The West Wing... What's next?

I did all the "right" things. Downsized, restructured the budget, etc. once I got to 65 things smoothed out. But I just kept doing things. A wide variety of things. My partner stopped nagging me about what was I going to do when I retired. I was magically there and it was ok.

I find that I value my own approach and my own time vs the artificial work plans and schedules. I value tai chi on the beach, my garden trees, and the local greenway woods where I volunteer. If there's a political game being played, I go somewhere else that is more fun. Life is too short for politics.

I'm in an ok place. It's not jet setting glamorous and running off to the ends of the earth. It's a place where my inner introvert is finally happy with me.

How'm I doin' at this Retirement time of my life? Really well, actually. I'm slowly learning to not measure my happiness by 'how much I can get done' in a day. We're both relatively healthy, (at 80 and 76), and we expect to last a lot longer. It is rather rewarding to learn to compensate for onset of various weaknesses and debilities. Challenges at this age are a good thing. I've written before re: my various activities, sports, so let's set that aside while I wish for you All many future years of contentment!

Great post and great comments.

My husband was forced into early retirement, AKA long-term unemployment, by corporate nastiness in 2006. The timing was such that he collected extended unemployment insurance over several years, so that helped mitigate financial disaster (our son had just started college). Agism and the crash combined to keep him unemployed, and he suffered from depression and anxiety for three He stopped calling himself unemployed and start saying “retired” when he applied for SocSec at 62.

The day he applied for his benefits - three months before collecting a penny, he changed. The. Very. Day. The liberation and lightness he felt was palpable. He started writing and joined a local writers group. He got on Facebook to find old friends. He learned about all sorts of computer art tools, and makes gorgeous collages and kaleidoscopes from his many photographs. He embarks on 30-day challenges to see if he can start new habits. He may be the happiest he’s ever been.

I was our sole support for seven years, retiring in two years ago at 59, exhausted from years of bullying from my boss. What made it possible was that my father, a retired teacher, retired our mortgage in 2010. Financially we are thus coasting on the fumes of the older generation's bounty. Once I was retired I turned attention to things like insurance and media bills. Our expenses are considerably lower than they were when we first saw a financial advisor, who already didn’t believe we could live so cheaply - as if we are all supposed to be vacationing at Swiss chalets and golfing in the Caymen Islands every year. Clearly, many retirement advisors cater to upper middle class to upper class life expectations. We barely made it out of lower middle by retirement time, and our seeing one was almost comical.

We are old hippies, and love to just be. Both night owls, we let our natural rhythms resume themselves. We are up until midnight, then he reads aloud to me in bed for a bit, and we sleep until 9 or 10. It feels so right. Coffee drinking has always been a ritual for us. We now do it with the (recorded) morning national news, and make a coffee-drinking game out of Norah O’Donnell’s frequent use of "incredible" and any reporter using the words "icon" or "iconic."

Current cultural assumptions about retirement, apparently, include that we are all traveling and “so busy we don’t know how we had time to work.” I didn't retire to be busy. We are both introverts. Our days are spent quietly, with little conversation unless we read aloud and discuss the topic, both of us engaging in our own computer explorations, reading or writing. I'm catching up on the golden-age of television happened while was working. Also music (I just started learning about this local guy named Prince). We see friends - usually individually instead of together - once or twice a week, and see movies at the neighborhood last-gasp $2/person theater when we need a night out. We go to museums when there are exhibits of special interests. The Twin Cities area is full of opportunities for nature escapes. I attend a 9-day Vipassana meditation retreat every summer as my big treat.

There are so many books to read, so much art to see, so much nature. We can't understand how anyone can be bored.

Another reason I retired at 59 is because my husband is five years older than I am and men in the older generation of his family didn’t live much past 72. The members of our generation who didn't smoke are now in their mid-late 60s with no coronary disease, which those who did died of heart attacks by age 55. Fingers crossed. What we thought was a genetic propensity might really be genetics-plus-smoking.

My only gripe this far in is about medical people. They seem to 1) assume we are constantly on the verge of heart disease because statistics ( my family history of NO CAD, in either family, even in 30-40+ year smokers notwithstanding, and I didn’t/don’t smoke), and 2) assume I must get more socially connected (so I lie to them to keep them calm). Did all those studies about aging and health only survey extroverts? Surely so much social activity would shorten my life and make what life I do have ahead more exhausting.

I haven’t been this happy since summer vacations at the family cabin, when I was a kid.

I've been "retired" for 8 years. But I was always an independent contractor. I worked when I pleased; I had to be frugal and had always been (from working 30 hours a week during college) and still am. I read stuff like that TIAA/CREF questionnaire and don't relate at all, nor do I relate to most of the comments made above. You were blogging and that gave you continuity. I've always been writing and still am, my self-definition as a writer has not changed. I have never expected much financial success.

I am appalled that so many people put money ahead of every other concern --not that I don't understand the completely financial emphasis about almost everything in our society today -- and THAT is utterly appalling. Does what we can buy need to be the criterion for happiness? Does it make us unhappy to realize we really should buy the less expensive brand of ice cream? And it is articles like the TIAA questionnaire that tells us we need all those things for a 'comfortable" retirement. The YOUNGER people are asking these questions and they're defining our happiness, mostly in terms of money.

Elizabeth, I'm so glad you commented. Especially... Yes, yes, YES! to just sleeping when sleepy and waking when rested. Such a wonderful luxury to, at long last, be rid of the alarm clock's daily tyranny!

I've been retired long enough now that sometimes I forget to be grateful for this blessing, but you are right. As with you, the last time I felt this free was when I was a kid, in the summer holidays.

Thanks Sylvia. Nice to be here with you.

I was in the employee benefits world for most of my working life, so I know a little something about pensions, investing, taxation of retirement benefits and all of the people who make money from your 401(k), IRA and the like. I also know that our pension laws are a gigantic mess that have resulted in a lot of people having to work, either until they drop dead or become too disabled to hold a job. If you work as a teacher, museum worker or for another nonprofit employer you are probably being fleeced by an insurance company through your 403(b) plan. If you have TIAA you're lucky - it's too expensive but it is probably much better than other options your employer may offer.

For more information. I recommend John Bogle's books, such as The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.

I love this blog and the comments. I retired at age 60 because my department's faculty were so uncivilized to each other, because my office had no window, because I wanted to work on MY projects, and not theirs. It's been wonderful. I would have had more money if I'd stayed longer but I heard too many stories of folks waiting and then having health challenges preventing their traveling or working in the garden.

I'll be 75 this June so I decided to celebrate the entire year of 2016 by having many more adventures. And by writing a blog (a new intellectual challenge) to tell folks what I experience and learn. Last week I went on a wildflower pilgrimage and am writing about it, posting photos.

I had my 4th concussion after I retired so I am using technology to supplement my short-term memory problems after the TBI. I chose to write the blog to practice word retrieval, which can also be an issue. I love walking in the woods. Hiked 7 1/2 miles Friday in the mountains -- a personal best.

After working for 50+ years, I planned on retiring at seventy-and-a-half, but the company I worked for closed down with 6 months notice. I applied for SS, and put every penny of it into paying off the mortgage while I still had income. (This was 2011 - spouse had retired from the Feds in 2008)
We are living in the DC suburbs, so there are plenty of things here to keep us busy -- but, as an introvert, I am enjoying the blessing of just saying no.
Money is a little tight -- I've stopped going to conferences and festivals -- but life is quite enjoyable. I looked into Senior Centers, and quickly looked away. The people there seemed so sad and -- how can I express it? -- warehoused. I'd rather be home reading or connecting with people on the net.

How do I feel about retirement? Retirement is bliss. My alarm clock is almost never set. We go to the midweek matinee movies, and there's never a crowd. I've got time to experiment in the kitchen, take classes in whatever interests me at the Community College (free for seniors in VA) and actually GROW things in my tiny back yard. We host a couple of Meetup groups and attend two more. Thanks to acupuncture, my arthritic knee is mostly pain-free, and I've avoided replacement surgery.
I'm at the age my mother and sister were diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but I am symptom-free. Life is good.

HeronFeather, I had the same reaction when I checked out a local senior center several years ago. Everyone there (on that day at least) seemed extremely disabled and--as you say-- "warehoused". I wasn't ready for that then and I'm still not 5 years later. I'm sure that not all senior centers are the same; also, it may have just been an off day at ours.

I'm not sold on retirement, but as I say quite often these days, "it is what it is". I do enjoy not having to set the alarm clock or fight our totally gridlocked roads anymore.

I hadn't rlly thought about retirement until two things happened. A 45 year old co- worker died unexpectedly and another one, who agreed to stay "just one more year" to finish a project, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. That was the day I made my decision. I'm out o there as soon as I can apply for Medicare. I wrote a resignation letter and began the countdown. I will be 65 on 10/23. My last day of work is Halloween.

I live a simple life. I'm an introvert and not all that fond of traveling. I raised 2 children by myself for 14 yrs so I know how to stretch a dollar. I have a decent 401k from work. I talked with my kids about moving into some type of housing where rent is based on income. A couple of weeks later, my daughter called and offered to build an apt for me off the back of her garage. To do this, it would mean downsizing a great deal and uprooting from my home town in Massachusetts to move to Maine (Falmouth, which is a few minutes north of Portland...a fun city!)

The structure is up and I am meeting with the builder on Sat to discuss the interior. I'm a mess of emotions. Happy but sad...excited but scared. Mostly I am looking forward to donating my alarm clock to Goodwill and hoping my cat lets me sleep past 6.

My husband is younger than I am, and is still working. Our finances are good. What I like best about retirement is not the lack of expectations, or having to go to work, etc. I loved my work. What I like is the extra time to return to past sorrows, or gaps, and make them up. The extra time to find peace, to think through issues I hurried past, to find a moment of, well, Zen? That's what I like. The time to practice - whatever.

Blah blah blah. I an SO happy being retired. Oh my god, it is SO good! I have a life. My time is mine? No, Indon't spend my days babysitting grandchildren. I am having time for all those things I love so much, that I never had enough time for before. NO, I owe no one my time now. Time to keep my small flame of life for myself.

Remember that old Michelob beer commercial that said “Put a little weekend in your week”? I’m doing that with retirement. I’m 54 and my wife is 58. We’ve decided to put a little retirement in our working years. Two meaningful trips per year. Several 4-day weekends to spend time with out of town family. Volunteering our time to local non-profits.
I own my own business and my wife is an employee, so we can manage our schedule to accommodate.
My question is when will we know it is time for full retirement?

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