6 Lessons From The First 6 Months Of Retirement

6 Lessons From The First 6 Months of Retirement

6 months ago I retired.

In my final years of working, I spent a lot of time wondering “What Will Retirement REALLY Be Like?”. This Retirement Reality Series tracks my retirement journey for the benefit of folks who have the same curiosity.

In today’s Part III, I’m sharing 6 Lessons From The First 6 Months Of Retirement.  I enjoy writing the lessons from retirement in this series and hope they help as you journey to, and through, your own retirement.

Bottom Line:  Retirement Is Great, and I have no regrets at the 6-month mark.  I’ve learned a few things since my June 2018 retirement, and some of those lessons will be the focus of today’s post.

The Retirement Reality Series shares what it's REALLY like to make the transition into retirement. Today, the view from 6 months. Click To Tweet

At the 180 Day mark, I’ve put together these 6 Lessons From Retirement and will continue to add to the series as our retirement rolls on.  I hope you’re enjoying the journey (I know I am!).


6 Lessons From The First 6 Months Of Retirement

As I said in The First 60 Days Of Retirement,

  • Retirement is exactly like I thought it would be.
  • Retirement is nothing like I thought it would be.

That continues to be the case, and I’m often surprised by this phenomenon called retirement.  Even with 6 months under my belt, I still pinch myself with the reality that mandatory work is a thing of my past.  Life without work is hard to explain, but it’s even better than I imagined.

I enjoy my frequent “Lazy Wake-Up Mornings”, where I allow myself to fade in and out of sleep for 30 minutes before rolling out of bed (our dogs also seem to love those mornings, when they get some good loving while they’re laying in bed with us before the day begins).   After 33 years of waking up to the urgency of an alarm clock, the luxury of those lazy mornings is hard to describe.  Wonderful, really.

Have I become as lazy as a dog?  I think not and have found retirement to be busier than I expected.  I seem to add items to my “To Do” list faster than I check them off, but enjoy the casual pace with which things can now be completed.  As Mr. Smith said in my first One Retirement Question Interview, “What You Don’t Do Today Will Still Be There Tomorrow”.  Seems Mr. Smith was correct, and that Luxury of Time is one of the 6 lessons I’ll share below:


1. Expect Unexpected Opportunities

As I was preparing for retirement, many of my friends advised me to expect a flood of phone calls with opportunities, and they were right.  As I wrote The Ten Commandments Of Retirement, I warned myself to hold off making obligations with Commandment #4:  “Make No Obligations” (I broke that commandment, and would suggest it be reworded to “Be Very Selective In Making Obligations”)

Expect those unexpected opportunities, but be extremely selective on which of those opportunities you choose to pursue.  I’ve done exactly that, and I’ve been happy with the outcome.  The 3 Unexpected Opportunities which I’ve accepted have been:

  1. Joining The Board Of Directors of a multi-national company (minimal time commitment, and a great way to leverage my experience and stay a bit engaged in my area of expertise.  The pay doesn’t hurt, either).
  2. Be On A YouTube Show with Brian & Bo at The Money Guy Show. (My first YouTube Show, how could I say no?)
  3. Be On National Television by accepting an invitation to be on a “Retirement” segment (details tba in 2019)

THIS was certainly unexpected!

I have no idea what the future will bring, but I’ve learned to enjoy the unexpected twists and turns along this road called retirement.  Expect The Unexpected, but be very careful about giving up the Freedom you’ve worked so hard to obtain.


2.  One More Year Was Worth It

Enduring through the One More Year Syndrome is difficult, but the rewards come after you’ve retired.  In our case, the additional money we were able to save by waiting “OMY” have reduced our anxiety in retirement.  As I wrote in 6 Steps To Avoid The Looming Bear Market, the stock market is getting a bit volatile.  In spite of that, we’re anxiety free in our first 6 months of retirement.  We have a cushion, and the daily gyrations of the stock market aren’t a factor in our daily lives in retirement.  Our withdrawal rate is at a conservative level, and we have sufficient cash reserves to ride out all but the most apocalyptic of storms.

We’re sleeping well at night.

One more year was worth it.


3.  You’ll Still Be Planning In Retirement

After 3+ decades of planning for retirement, one of our lessons from retirement is how the “planning” changes after you leave the workforce.  The accumulation phase is over, and we’re in the drawdown phase.  We’re no longer saving money.

However, the planning hasn’t stopped.

On the financial front, we’re monitoring Our Retirement Withdrawal Strategy, and we’ve automated our “paycheck” from our Capital One savings account into our checking account.  We’re deciding when to trigger some before-tax IRA conversions to a ROTH given the new Tax Law Loophole,  and we’re paying attention to our Unsolved Health Insurance.

On the fun front, we’re planning our retirement roadmap, and making a course for both short- and long-term adventures.  We’ve decided to launch The Great American Road Trip in May 2019 and will be spending 3-4 months going cross-country to visit our new granddaughter in Seattle.  We’re charting the course, literally, for that adventure as I write this post, and we’re having a lot of fun deciding what we’re going to see along the way.

Planning is underway for “The Great American Road Trip 2019”

The planning is different in retirement, but it doesn’t go away.


4.  Fitness Is More Fun In Retirement

retirement fitness
Weekday Hiking in retirement = “Fun Fitness”

I’m a big believer in keeping yourself fit and encourage all of you to find some way to exercise.  It’s increasingly important as we age, and it’s something we all should do (see the updated fitness guidelines from HHS here).  I want to enjoy as many of my retirement years as possible doing the things I want to do, and fitness helps me get to that goal.

Since December 1994, I’ve been a runner.

I’ve run in hundreds of races, from 5k’s to marathons, and it’s kept me is decent shape for the past 24 years.  I never really loved running, but it was the only type of fitness activity that “fit” with my working lifestyle.  I’d dutifully strap on my Asics running shoes for my lunchtime run, then grab a quick shower in the fitness center available in my workplace.

Running worked, but I wouldn’t call it fun.

One of our favorite lessons from retirement is the fact that fitness activities are now more diverse and a lot more fun.  When we’re in town, I hit the local gym for Spin Class on Mon-Wed-Fri, and my wife and I do a Barre Above class together on Tuesday and Thursday.  When we’re out camping, we hike every day.  Our dogs love it, and so do we.

Throw in some mountain biking, swimming, and the occasional run, and I’m finding that fitness is more fun in retirement.  I’m planning to keep it a part of my routine for as long as I’m able.  I encourage you to do the same.


5. The Luxury of Time

After 33 years of waking to an alarm clock, I love my retirement mornings.  I wake up when I wake up, and I’m not in a hurry to get out of bed.  My dogs seem to appreciate the change.  I know I do.

The Luxury Of Time is our favorite of these 6 lessons from retirement.  As I wrote in Time Affluence,  the ability to use the luxury of time for things that make a difference is one of the true joys of retirement.  For the first time in our lives, we’re able to prioritize our time to do the things that matter most to us.  For us, we’re using some of our time to help unfortunate dogs find a better path through life, and it’s rewarding when one of our “favorites”, like Max, finds his forever home.

Using our time to make a difference in this world, however small, is a true luxury. A cherished lesson from retirement.

Big Announcement:  I’m currently in the Seattle area for 2 1/2 weeks for the birth of our first grandchild.  I wrote the majority of this post prior to our departure, but couldn’t hit “publish” without adding this update that our granddaughter, Octavia Rose, entered this world on November 27, 2018.  Grandma and Grandpa were able to be here for the excitement, thanks to the Luxury Of Time.  I can think of no better example to define Lesson #5 than having the luxury of an extended stay for the birth of our first grandchild.

Ah…Retirement…time for what’s truly important!

The Luxury Of Time with our new granddaughter!

6.  Some Structure Is Good For The Soul

After decades of structure in our lives, we were excited as we approached the Starting Line of retirement.  100 Days To Freedom outlined our anticipation at the Freedom to do what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it.

One of the lessons of retirement we’ve learned over the past 6 months, however, is that SOME structure is good for the soul.

Leaving your days to chance risks wasting the precious nature of time.  Time never stops flowing. Wasting a day or two is ok, it’s part of the fun of retirement.  However, providing a bit of structure helps to avoid that wastefulness from becoming a bad habit.

The right amount of structure helps to ensure that you’re spending your time doing the things that you want to do while leaving you free to enjoy the Freedom you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Perhaps an example is in order.  As I mentioned in Lesson 4, fitness is important to us.  Fitness is one of those areas where, if you don’t make time for it, it’s very easy to let slip through the cracks.  By adding just a touch of structure (Spin Class every Mon-Wed-Fri at 8:00 am) we ensure that we’re prioritizing our fitness, while still leaving the balance of the day free to do as we please.

Gotta walk those dogs!

Our dogs are another area where some “structure” is good.  We have 4 dogs, and they’re a priority for us.  Every morning and evening, those dogs get a nice long walk.  1.3 miles around our private forest trail if we’re home (one of the reasons we love our “Great” cabin), and a nice hike if we’re camping.  They deserve it, and it chills them out so we can leave them sleeping if we choose to have some unstructured “exploring” time throughout the day.

Structure and Freedom work well together, making Lesson #6 of our Lessons From Retirement.


Conclusion

The past 6 months have been better than I could have imagined, and we’re continuing to learn lessons from retirement.  I enjoy being introspective during our journey, and it’s rewarding to share the lessons we’re learning for those who are walking a similar path.  In summary:

The 6 Lessons From 6 Months Of Retirement:

  1. Expect Unexpected Opportunities
  2. One More Year Was Worth It
  3. You’ll Still Be Planning In Retirement
  4. Fitness Is More Fun In Retirement
  5. The Luxury Of Time
  6. Some Structure Is Good For The Soul

If you like this “Retirement Reality Series”, you may enjoy Living The FI Life, a compilation post from Fiology which shares posts that other recent retirees have written on the subject of lessons from retirement.

What About You?  If you’re retired, what are the biggest lessons from retirement you’ve learned thus far?  If you’re pre-retirement, are you curious what retirement will really be like?  Let’s chat in the comments…

62 comments

  1. CONGRATS on becoming a Grandad Fritz, so awesome!

    These are interesting observations. I agree, fitness is easier and more fun with extra free time. And structure is a big one for me. On my days off I need to plan a bit – not the entire day, but a rough timeline to do stuff. If not I’ll let my energy levels dictate what I do, and that can sometimes mean laying around and being lazy.

  2. Congratulations again on the birth of Octavia Rose! Such great timing for you and Jackie to be present and not on a work schedule.

    We find keeping to the structure of our mornings walks sets the tone for the day. If we want to be lazy for the rest of it, we can feel good about accomplishing one important goal.

    (I’m commenting while sitting on a lawn chair in our new house — but hey, we HAVE Internet!)

    1. Yay For Internet!! Happy you’re in your new house, it’s been a long marathon for you. I agree that “morning structure” works well. Once you’ve done something early, it really gives you Freedom for the rest of the day to do absolutely anything, or absolutely nothing. Kindred spirits. Enjoy your new Groovy Ranch!

  3. Congrats on your first 6 months! We hit our 6 months post-retirememt on November 4, and don’t miss working.
    The first 3 months were sent riding our bicycles from Missouri to Oregon. I agree that some structure seems to be good in retirement. The luxury of slow mornings and weekday hikes is priceless.
    Will you be taking your road trip in a motorhome or RV?

    I look forward to your TV and YouTube appearances.

    1. Mr. G, congrats on your retirement, and the cross country bike ride. THAT sounds amazing!! We’ll be taking our 5th wheel RV for the trip, along with our 4 dogs (and my mountain bike, gotta keep that variety of fitness options, right?!). Thanks for the congrats on our new granddaughter, we’re enjoying our time with her!!

  4. Congratulations Grampa – so very excited for you guys and the upcoming summer trip. Now after 3 years of retirement I have found the same to be true as you commented. The OMY has enabled us not to take any cash from our investments – maybe in year 4. We still do a “Strategic Plan” every January as we have for 20+ years our focus has simply changed a bit. Finally my home “To Do List” never is complete, nor is my Dump Truck List of places to see and things to achieve shrinking but they are both so much fun working on. Enjoy the journey my friend!!

  5. Congrats Grandpa! I eagerly await the Retirement Manifesto email to check in on you. Appreciate you sharing.

    As I look out five years (closer to four now), I am looking for a bit of structure also. The sound of a free wheeling, no obligation retirement is great, but, I know deep down I need some structure to keep engaged and stay sane. A couple things to keep the mind, body and soul sharp, mixed in with a freewheeling, spur of the moment attitude sounds like a plan.

  6. Great post and congrats on all. Congrats Gramps and Grandma. Love the cabin link as well. We ‘retired’ the same month. Though I am not in that FIRE stage, I have to earn half a living. Sounds like you have that financial independence part down. I share many of the same experiences and feelings as you though. I will feel more of that freedom when I start to earn back part of my lost income. The sale of our accidental investments – owned Toronto house will all help in that regard and that will change everything. We’ll likely switch to a beach house, or house in the woods. Congrats and keep enjoying and sharing this wonderful real life story.

  7. Wow!
    Although I am only retired 2 months, so much of what you wrote resonates with me. The luxury of a few more minutes in bed, unexpected opportunities (a free trip to Costa Rica!!), enjoying being active, and more!
    I was especially afraid, going into this stage, of not having enough structure. So I started a blog…boy is it keeping me structured! But I am enjoying the luxury of writing again and remembering how much pleasure I take from it.
    So enjoy your posts!
    Nancy

  8. Congratulations Grandman and Grandpa! Octavia is precious! We have one grandson, Tristan, who is now 7. They grow up SO fast! We are blessed in our retired life and very grateful….for all we have to who gave His only Son. You know? Stay humble and grateful Fritz! Sure enjoy your words….your journey is pretty similar to ours. God bless you this wonderful CHRISTmas season!

  9. Congratulations on the granddaughter, Fritz! Happy to hear that the OMY bought you some peace of mind … that’s gotta be such a luxury when you’re retired.

    1. Hey Ty, been thinking of you while we’ve been in your neck of the woods. Sorry we haven’t had time to check in, maybe we can get together when we’re here next summer. We’re loving our time in WA, and the peace of mind from that OMY certainly doesn’t hurt.

  10. I retired 11 months ago and relocated to Washington State. I goofed off all summer, enjoying nature and traveling to Scotland. I just began volunteering for Hospice and find that very rewarding. I loved your description of the dogs liking your routines, and it is the same with mine. It was difficult to go from saving to using money, but I have the hang of it by now. Thank you for your writing!

  11. Modifying your “make no obligations” to being very selective is great advice. Yes, a lot of opportunities come your way and there is more of a need to hone that “NO” muscle, so that you can say “YES” to truly important things like being present for the birth of your new granddaughter. What a great photo! Congratulations to you and your family.

  12. Looks like you are hitting Northern New Mexico on your road trip – are you planning on visiting the Los Alamos area? LOVE your 6 months update!

    1. Hey Sandy, we’re not spending too much time in NM, we’ll pretty much just be passing through on our way to Washington. We’re staying in Santa Fe, so not far from Los Alamos, but expect we’ll spend our limited down time closer to Santa Fe. Glad you liked the 6 month update!

  13. Hi Fritz,

    Congratulations on being a Grandfather. I am sure you will be spending some of your “Free” time with your Grand-Daughter.

    You will have lots of fun of your Great American Road Trip!! I spent some happy times in the summera when I was in college. Saw lots of the Western US and Canada.

    Dave

  14. Fritz,
    Congratulations on becoming a grandparent.

    Great summary, thanks for sharing. I’m experiencing some of the same things as we enter our third month of retirement.

    Bet you would have never believed some of your best opportunities were going to come from your “hobby”. Wishing you continued success with your journey

    1. Congrats on your third month of retirement, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as we’re enjoying ours. It is interesting how the opportunities seem to come from my hobby, which is fine with me since the hobby is something I CHOOSE to do, and have a Passion for the work.

  15. Congratulations on being a Grand Pa. Sounds like a really good road trip.
    I second: ” Expect Unexpected Opportunities.” They come from highly valued connections.
    It’s more important to recognize a good idea than to have one!

    Enjoy the slow travel.

  16. Fritz, Thanks again for a great post. I have a couple comments:
    1a. Fitness is a lot more enjoyable when you’re not trying to fit it in.
    1b. Fitness is a lot more enjoyable when you’re doing it when everyone else is working.
    2. I like having structure and still maintain my planner. I still try to have 3 things I want to accomplish every day. Examples are: take care of the trash, fix the loose door knob (maybe tomorrow), or schedule a dental cleaning.
    Seriously, I like my day somewhat structured. We schedule day trips, library visits, and other things so we know where we have flexibility.
    As you have now discovered, there is no love like the love you feel for a Grandbaby. But be prepared for the little one to be the ultimate determinator of what your Grandfather name will be. I went for Pepere, and have been anointed with Popeye.

  17. It sounds amazing, Fritz! I am so happy for you. And big congratulations with your first grandchild 🙂 interestingly, my wife and I are currently on a mini-retirement and while it’s of course not similar to your retirement, I can definitely support that lazy mornings are the best and that you still need some structure and planning.

    1. Carl, congrats on your mini-retirement. No, it may not be anything like what I’m going through, but you also didn’t have to wait until your mid-50’s to experience a bit of the Freedom which this lifestyle provides. Enjoy your mini, and keep writing (you’re good at it!).

  18. Great summary Fritz! I clocked up my 7th anniversary a few months ago! I’m healthier, wealthier and while I hesitate to use the word wiser, I think I am that too. I am happier with my current life choices than I was under those imposed on me by a punishing work schedule.
    I loved the words earlier in the comments about flexing your NO muscle so you can use your YES muscle! So very true.
    Congratulations on your lovely granddaughter too.

  19. Hey Fritz – Congratulations on all this but especially on becoming a Grandpa! Enjoy that experience – it only gets better. Truly retirement is different for everyone but you are a great example of the importance of having a “balance” among activities that mean something to you. I can personally relate to the aspects of “Fitness being More Fun” and “Some Structure is Good for the Soul” – absolutely. Thanks for teaching and sharing your journey and insights!

  20. Hi Fritz,

    I just found your blog and love anything called a “manifesto” 🙂
    I am not retired yet myself but I am taking a mid career pause after hitting financial independence and am not working for the near term at least so I am looking forward to tapping into your knowledge. via the blog. You’ve mentioned exercise being more fun, I’ve also found that there are fewer excuses to put it off which is a good thing. My question for you as someone who has had a long and successful career is, if you were me late 30s and didn’t have financial reasons for needing to work would you continue and for what reasons? Great blog and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    1. Chris, wow, that’s a tough question, and one only you can answer for yourself. Plenty of folks have decided to “RE”, plenty of folks have decided to continue to work. I think you’ll enjoy my next 2 posts, both on the FIRE Movement and what we can learn from it. I hope it helps you decide. Congrats on achieving FI at a young age, a truly admirable achievement!

  21. I hear ya! I also had a similar kind of nervous excitement during the first week, but mine journey for the first month was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It was partly because my separation from my company was not exactly planned – oh well.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your retirement journey, as I’m going through something similar!

  22. Congratulations on the granddaughter! Our first one also lives in Seattle (now 5 years old) and since we live in Atlanta, I can assure you the distance is too-far. Since I’m still in the “working” (time-obligated) world, a great road trip isn’t in the offing for another year. The flights between here and there have helped me realize that there is a reason we have saved so much money for our retirement: first-class tickets are the best way to get there and back. Pleasant and comfortable and relaxed. East coast travel, regular cabin is fine; west coast travel, first is worth the (not unreasonable) price hike.

  23. Congratulations Gramp! 😀
    It sounds like you’re doing retirement right. Nice job so far. I agree that some structure is good. It keeps you grounded a bit. Interesting move with joining the board. That’s great. Good job exercising too.

  24. Nice blog! started a blog 6 months ago at 67 and am looking for blogs that I can learn from. This is certainly one. I know it is hard work and often frustrating.

  25. I have been retired for about the same time as you and a lot of what you have written resonates. I also got offered, out of the blue, a good job within weeks after leaving but I turned it down – right now I want a complete break from paid work.

    My big increases in the last six months have been:
    1) Sport. I love playing sport and can now do it more often and during the day. Totally with you on the spin classes – great fun and really good training for other sports.
    2) Reading FI blogs. Six months ago I had never read a blog. I googled something on withdrawal strategies and discovered all you wonderful bloggers and now I have a minor addiction! I have only just arrived at your site today but already thinking it is up there with the best. Thank you.
    3) Sleep. I always thought I was a natural early riser. Now not so much!

    The thing that I planned on doing that has not happened (yet) is starting new hobbies. I had a list including music and languages – things I paid little attention to in my youth or working life – but I simply have not made the effort to do them. Maybe I need to ration my blog reading to give me more time or maybe they are simply not meant to be?!

    1. PJ, congrats on your recent retirement, and I’m pleased to hear that my words resonate. I’m impressed with your “minor addiction” to FI blogs, it’s amazing how many truly talented writers are “out there” writing about this stuff! Glad you’ve chosen me as one of the blogs to read, much appreciated. Good idea cutting back to pursue a few hobbies, just don’t cut mine out of the mix! Wink.

      1. Ha – I will keep reading. In fact I did a historical binge of your site today!

        I have always rated myself pretty good at finance matters but I am very happy to admit that over the last few months I have had some of my preconceptions well and truly challenged leading to some deep thought. For writers to be able to do that in an engaging way does indeed demonstrate true talent and I am very grateful to be having the grey matter challenged in this way.

  26. PJ, congrats on your recent retirement, and I’m pleased to hear that my words resonate. I’m impressed with your “minor addiction” to FI blogs, it’s amazing how many truly talented writers are “out there” writing about this stuff! Glad you’ve chosen me as one of the blogs to read, much appreciated. Good idea cutting back to pursue a few hobbies, just don’t cut mine out of the mix! Wink.

  27. I am excited to hear/see the network TV thing in 2019!

    Great lessons. Beautiful granddaughter. Adorable dogs.

    I really like how you talked about a little structure being good for the soul. I’m a very structured person and I’m not sure if it’s out of necessity and/or just my personality type (probably a combo of the two). Anyway, I’ve always thought that it is healthy. Sure, I imagine I’ll scale back on that in retirement but I will definitely still have it.

  28. I agree with many of your comments. For a year prior to retirement i was worried about “who i would be” after “being someone” for 40 years. Guess What? Doesn’t bother me a bit! I am able to volunteer in the areas i want to and where i can add some value, and I enjoy a day off once in a while when i don’t have anything planned. I still feel “lazy days” are wasted, but i am learning to get over it. Travel has become a priority, but never enough time to go. Still working on my retirement after nine months, but in less of a hurry than i was before it did it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.