11 Lessons Learned On The Path To Retirement

I recently had a great discussion on the lessons learned on the path to retirement.

Fortunately, the discussion was recorded.

The conversation wasn’t scripted, and it evolved into a deep and free-flowing conversation on how my wife and I are preparing for our retirement.  Turns out, there were 11 lessons in the discussion, and I’ve decided to extract them for you in this post.  I ran the idea of this post past Dennis & Joe, the guys who did the recording, and they graciously agreed.  Thanks, guys, it was an honor being a guest on your Retirement Wisdom podcast (To listen to the recording, simply click Retirement Wisdom podcast).

For those of you who prefer the written word, I’ve summarized that podcast into 11 Lessons Learned On The Path To Retirement, which is laid out for you below.

Enjoy!


11 Lessons Learned On The Path To Retirement

As I listened to the recording of our discussion, I realized there were some valuable lessons which I could share on this blog.  I felt it was worth sharing with you, my reader.  With that, following are The Lessons Learned On The Path To Retirement, as discussed on my recent podcast with Retirement Wisdom.


1. Retirement Is Freedom

Retirement is, indeed, Freedom.  How we choose to use that Freedom is up to us to decide, but for the first time in 51 years, we have the Freedom To Decide what we want to do.  We’ve done what we’ve “HAD” to do, but now we’re Free to do what we “WANT” to do.  Money is no longer the primary factor in our decision matrix.  Now, what we really want to do dictates our days, but it’s up to us to decide.

What excites me most is having Freedom to do what we Want, without having the #PursuitOfMoney as a primary factor in the decision. Click To Tweet

We are facing a Freedom that’s rare in life.  Treasure your retirement, and use it for good.  Decide today what you’ll do to ensure your retirement is Great.  Don’t settle for Good, Go For Great.


2. You Are Responsible To Fill Your Day

Find a purpose, and spend some time thinking about the “soft stuff”.  What do you want your life to be after retirement?  Ultimately, how well you handle the “soft stuff” will dictate how great your retirement will be.

It's the Soft Stuff that dictates how successful your retirement is going to be. Click To Tweet

Choose something you feel passionate about, and dedicate some time to making a difference. Choose wisely.

Choose you must.


3.  The Common Signs Of A Failed Retirement

There are some common signs that warn of potential difficulty during the transition into retirement. The most common thing I’ve seen is when Type-A, hard-driving types (you know, those folks who have been “Crushing It” their entire careers) keep running right up until the date of retirement.

They Run Until They Hit The Starting Line Of Retirement, And Then They Struggle. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, folks with this personality trait often give insufficient attention to the reality of the adjustment they are facing in retirement, and they often suffer the consequences.  If you’re keeping that frenetic pace run right up until the day you leave, you’re exhibiting a key characteristic for a retirement which struggles.

Take the time to intentionally “ramp down” at the end of your career, and think about what your life will be after retirement, while you’re still working.


4.  Learn From Those Who Have Gone Before

In the podcast, I speak about a boss I used to work for.  His name is Curtis, and he had an enviable work/life balance and a lot of hobbies as he approached retirement 15 years ago.  He’s since retired, and he’s having a great retirement.  I’m still in contact with him (he’s in his 80’s now), and he reads this blog (Hi, Curtis!).  He’s my retirement idol, and I’ll be happy if my own retirement is 50% as successful as his.  Ironically, he also retired in the North Georgia mountains, and I see him from time to time.  How cool is that?

I’ve known others who were the “driven right to the end” types, and while their approach to retirement varies, in general, their retirements don’t seem to be nearly as great as the retirement my boss mentor friend Curtis is enjoying.  Develop some interests outside of work.  Develop a Purpose, or risk the chances of Depression weighing down your transition into retirement.

Depression is a real issue in retirement. Odds of depression are 40% greater in retirement than in your working years. Click To Tweet

The lesson I’ve learned is this:  The best path to a great retirement, based on learnings from those who have gone before, has been to put the same amount of energy that you put into their work into something outside of work that gives you a greater sense of satisfaction, of Purpose.  Pick your cause, carefully.  People that have found a true cause are typically the people that have been the most successful in coming through the retirement transition.

In my case, my Purpose is going to be writing.  And Dog Rescue volunteering. And mountain biking.  And involvement in our local church. And cold water swimming.  And camping.  And hiking.  And fly fishing. And Spin Class.  And photography.  And drones.  And video editing. And….

And And. And.

Fill your life with Purpose.  Learn from those that have gone before.


5. Adopt A Perennial Mindset

As I wrote in Be A Perennial, you should define yourself by the mindset you take in life.  Your mindset is more important than the year in which you were born.  A baby-boomer was born between 1946-1964, but a Perennial is one who has the mindset to always bloom, year after year.  You’re challenging yourself, you’re curious, you’re growing, and you’re trying new things.  You’re pushing up new flowers every year.

Being defined as a Perennial is a much better definition than being a “Baby Boomer”, in my book.

Even better is the fact that anyone can be a Perennial.  It doesn’t matter the year in which you were born.  What matters is your mindset, and each of us is free to choose the mindset with which we live life. Choose to have an intentional approach to life, and decide to become a Perennial.  Your retirement, and your life, will thank you.


6. Keep Your Spouse In Mind

Retirement is a partnership and should be approached as such.  Make the time to have some honest discussion with your spouse about your mutual expectations of retirement.  Plan ahead, and respect the changes that each of you will go through.  The reality is that both spouses are going through a major life change.  Talk about it, and adjust together.

Recognize the reality that you're both making major life adjustments, and work together to make your retirement great for both of you. Click To Tweet

Be proactive, and agree on some things you can put into place to ease the adjustment.  Two of the tools we’re using are:

  • A retirement activity jar, with ideas from both of us, which we’ll pull (and do) weekly for 2 years.
  • A weekly retirement calendar, with time together, and time alone.  We’ll adjust as necessary:
Our “First Draft” Retirement Calendar

My wife loves pottery, and I love writing.  We’ve carved out time for each (see “Tuesday” in the schedule above), and we’ll do things that bring Purpose to each of us, individually.  We’re also carving out time each Saturday for a Purpose we both enjoy – volunteering together at The Barking Lot, a local dog rescue that sets up downtown each Saturday to try to get some of our rescue dogs adopted.

Carve out time for spontaneity, and be flexible.   Have time for “Me”, and have time for “Us”.


7. Have Fun

Figure out what “Fun” means to you, and take the steps necessary to position yourself to do fun things.  We consider camping “Fun”, so we bought a 5th wheel travel trailer six months before our retirement date (more on that in a future post, but here’s a preview of the camper we recently purchased for having fun in retirement!).

Our recently purchased 36′ Reflection 5th Wheel, by Grand Design.

Make it a habit to try new things. We’re going camping, and he we’ve made reservations in State Parks sporadically through October to facilitate our transition into retirement.  You might find something “Fun” that you’d never tried before. In my case, I took a free Spin Class at our local gym, which we joined a month ago as part of our retirement strategy.  We love the gym, and all of the free classes they offer.

It turns out that I really like Spin.  Though I’m not sure I’d classify the activity as objectively “Fun”, the intense physical activity is something I value.  It’s on our retirement calendar now (see Monday and Friday in the calendar above), and I just “discovered” it a month ago.

Trying new things is what Fun is all about. Some will score, and some will bomb. Grab those that score, and have some fun. Click To Tweet

Bottom Line:  Adopt a mindset of experimentation.  You’ve got Freedom now, so try new things.  Who knows, you just might find something that’s fun.  Like a Spin class.  Yeah, that’s “fun”, alright….


8.  Let Things Go

You’re Free Now!  Are you really going to let things that don’t matter bother you?  Get A Life!

Do politics really matter all that much?  Facebook spats, really?  You’re retired, my friend.  Get out there and enjoy life!

Don't Let The Idiots Sap The Joy From Your LIfe. Let The Things Go That Don't Really Matter! Click To Tweet

Decide in advance the things that you’re not going to let bother you. The transition to retirement will be hard enough, don’t add any unnecessary baggage by worrying about Political Correctness, or other things that don’t matter in the Bigger Picture of Life.

The baggage fees on The Retirement Airlines are expensive, and they’re not worth paying.

Leave the baggage in the closet, where it belongs.


9. Write Your Own 10 Commandments For Retirement

I wrote my personal 10 Commandments for retirement, and I’m pleased to have them taped to my office wall in our mountain cabin. I put a lot of thought into “my” commandments and I’m going to try to live by them in retirement. Read my article, “The Ten Commandments Of Retirement”, for more insight on the commandments.

At the end of the podcast recording, the hosts suggested that everyone should write their own 10 Commandments.  It was beautiful insight and a great recommendation, so I’m including it here as Lesson #9:

Write your own 10 Commandments For Retirement.

Post them on your wall.  Live by them.


10. Raise Your Children To Fly

Last July, I walked my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.  It was a milestone in my life, and something I’ll remember for the rest of my days on this little marble we call Earth.

Marriage is a celebration, a celebration of raising your child to fly.

Oh, the emotion I felt at the time this pic was taken.

On the podcast, we talked about this picture and the emotion I was feeling as I walked my daughter down the aisle.  It was a big moment in my life, the life of my daughter, my wife, and my son-in-law.

To me, it was a moment of celebration, a true milestone as my daughter and her husband spread their wings together, and took flight.

Your kids will be leaving the house.  Every day that your child is with you, is one day closer to the day they’ll fly.

Your job is to raise up your child to become an individual adult.  Our responsibility has to be to prepare our childen for ever increasing roles of autonomy, of responsibility.

Train Up Your Child In The Way He Should Go, And In The End, He Will Not Depart From It. Proverbs 22:6 Click To Tweet

The walk down the wedding aisle was, in my mind, the epitome of achieving Free Flight. Sure, it was sad to know our daughter was no longer entirely “ours” (was she ever?).  Instead of focusing on that, however, I took pleasure in knowing our daughter and her soon-to-be husband were launching their lives on the 6′ wingspan of Eagles. I chose to celebrate the fact that they are flying.

Our Mission Here Is Complete.  Our daughter has learned to fly, and she’s pretty good at it.

Raise Your Children To Fly.


The Tennessee River from Lookout Mountain – Chattanooga, TN

11.  The #1 Thing To Do When You’re Preparing For Retirement

The most productive thing we did during our preparation for retirement was to take a 10-day mini-retirement. We “pretended” we were retired and took time to think about what our life would be in retirement.  We forced ourselves to think about what life is about after retirement.  It was a valuable experience.  The exercise of a forced “mini-retirement” drove us to do the very thing which has been most correlated to a great transition into retirement.

That “thing”?

Thinking about your retirement before you get there. 

Live retirement for a week (or two, if you can swing it with the boss).

Don’t make it “just another week of vacation”.  Make it a Mini-Retirement.  Try new things that peak your interest. Pretend you’re retired. Be introspective.  Have some real discussions with your spouse.  Take a day trip together to a nearby destination. A mini-retirement, with focused introspection, is the best thing we did in preparation for our retirement.

Who can’t do that?  We can all take a week off work, right?  I can think of no better thing as you plan for your retirement.

For that reason, I consider taking a mini-retirement as my #1 recommendation for those preparing for retirement. Click To Tweet

Put your mind into retirement mode.

Prepare yourself for the reality of “Life, Retired”.

Write your 10 Commandments during your mini-retirement, and post them on your wall.


Conclusion


 

What Did I miss?

Which Lesson most resonates with you, and why?  What lessons did I miss that you’ve learned on your journey to, or through, retirement?

Let’s chat in the comments (my favorite part of blogging, but you already knew that…).

38 comments

  1. Great list Fritz and great advice on the mini-retirement too. It’s like anything else in life, if you can try to sample the goods beforehand you’re likely to have a better idea if they’re right for you. Going part time like I have is another way to “kind of” sample retirement. I say that only because it isn’t really the same – I still work 20 hours a week at my W2 job. But having the extra 20 hours a week back in my life and finding out how I want to enjoy them is allowing me to taste what a full retirement might be like.

    And this – “Choose something you feel passionate about, and dedicate some time to making a difference. Choose wisely.'”

    Very important! Have passions, have hobbies, – if you don’t have them then work on acquiring them!

    1. Valid point about part time work being a potential approach to the retirement transition, AF. Thanks for agreeing with the importance of Purpose, as you know it’s something I feel quite strongly about. Thanks for being the first comment in today!

  2. Your 5er is beautiful. The hubs and I looked at one very similar at the most recent rv show. What are you going to pull it with?

    This is a great post. I like the 10 commandments and think its a great idea to have some type of framework for retirement. These are all great points and I plan to share this with the hubs. I’m already in “retirement” mindset even though we have at the most 8 years to go. Since we plan to sell the big house and work camp, we might be able to get our a year or so earlier.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. We’re pulling it with a 2017 Ford F250. Our first camping trip (to a local State Park) is this weekend, we’re excited!

      Take a deep breath. 8 years is a long way to go. Take some time to enjoy your life as you live it, retirement will get here in time!

  3. Another great post Fritz! Thank you. I am into my 3rd year of retirement (I was 49 when I retired) and next week will be trying something new. I will be doing a volunteer vacation thru the National Hiking Society. (maintaining and building trails) I accidentally found this on a North Country Trail newsletter I get.

    This past Sunday I had my 1st ever piano recital. I’ve been taking lessons for 4 months and I love it. Talk about trying new things. YAYYYYYY me! Retirement is freedom and NOW is the time to try new things.

    As always I LOVE your posts.

  4. Exceptional post my friend. I have to admit I was in the #3 Bucket … ran all the way to the end and even looked back when I retired 2 1/2 years ago. Your “Spot On” with your advice there, wish I would have taken it. However there is hope for guys and gals like me as I am living the dream retirement now but there were some rough bumpy days / weeks / months to get through. I really like #4 as well “Learn from those who have gone before” its great advice. I would also add speak with the younger crowd – those in the 20’s and early 30’s and ask what they have been doing / enjoying. Many of them live a very different life than we did as young adults and have taken lots of adventures. Enjoy these last days of this “season of life” the next season is magnificent!!

    1. Haha, confession is good for the soul, Kirk! I’ve learned a lot from you over the years we’ve known each other. You may be a bit ahead of me on the trail, but close enough that I can see the potholes. Great point about connecting with younger folks. I love getting into real conversation with folks in different generations. Makes life fun, and in retirement we have even more time to build those relationships! Let’s meet for lunch soon!

  5. I really love this, Fritz! You might be the most well-thought-out guy when it comes to retirement planning that I know. That was hard for me to say since all we do is bust each other’s chops! 😉 But it’s true – you make me think a lot and bend my planning in a way that makes sense as we get a little closer to our own FIRE date.

    — Jim

    PS I didn’t see “Visit Jim in Panama” anywhere on your schedule. Maybe that’s the following week?

    1. “You might be the most well-thought-out guy when it comes to retirement planning…”

      Of course I am! Wink. Oops, need to revise that schedule, was waiting until you actually got there first! Thanks for your friendship, nice chatting with you last week.

  6. This is a great list. I love them all, but I want to comment on “Keep your spouse in mind”. My husband and I both quit early, but I did it 3 years before he did. When he retired, we had to get used to both sharing the space at the same time and having the luxury or possibility of doing things together or apart. We truly enjoy doing everything together, but still, it took a while to get the right balance. For some couples it’s a problem and that’s why Man Caves were invented!

    1. Thanks for bringing a “real life” example into the discussion, Susan. No doubt about it, this is something both spouses go through. Some do it well, and some get relegated to the man cave. I hope I don’t, at least not in winter or summer. I love my shed, but it doesn’t have heat or A/C, and it gets pretty hot in Georgia!

  7. I took a recent 5 day vacation with my family (including all my nieces) to Ft. Lauderdale, and I treated it as a sort of “mini-retirement.” Granted I just turned 26 and am a long way off from retirement, but I couldn’t help but view this trip as the start of what my retirement could look like.

    – Living close to the beach
    – Waking up in the early morning to catch the sunrise on the horizon
    – Read in the morning when all I can hear is the waves hitting the shore
    – Workout when I WANT TO, not when my work schedule dictates
    – Spend more time with my family, and less time with work

    All of these activities I did while vacationing, and I am saving even more now so that I can achieve retirement faster!

    Great post Fritz

  8. Retired in 2005…
    Don’t Retire FROM something, but rather Retire TO something…
    Ramp up with the new activities BEFORE you Retire – This allows for a smooth transition…
    Thanks,
    Denny

  9. Hi Fitz! I think all of your suggestions are great. BUT 🙂 I think they are equally important for planning a life path. So many people put off living well and happy thinking they will get to it once they retire. Why not find that freedom and happiness within work? My husband and I semi-retired because we love what we do and still have the freedom to do all the things you suggest. My approach to semi-retirement is called “rightsizing.” People can “rightsize” their life at any time and begin enjoying many of the rewards of retirement right now. ~Kathy

  10. Hey Fritz,
    it looks like you have got retirement cracked well in advance. What a great list of suggestions. I love your 5th wheel, it’s bigger than some apartments! Our roads here aren’t big enough to take them though! We’re just back from the Hebrides, loads of narrow single lane roads and passing places only. Our very small car, felt quite big enough, thank you!
    I took longer than a 2-week mini retirement, more like a 5 month one – it was a major breakthrough for both my husband and myself. We realised we should just retire. So as soon as I went back, we started our own countdown to retirement – 14 months. (It was supposed to be a bit longer, but the sums worked out, so we just said – what the heck!)
    The only thing I disagree with, is the opportunity to slow down before you leave. You don’t always get that luxury. I was working on a major IT programme with challenging deadlines, so I ended up working full tilt up until the last couple of weeks. Some was self imposed, the rest was making sure my replacement was fully up to speed on every aspect of the work I was handing over, which had pretty critical dates attached. I felt it was unfair to cut and run. I also knew that the week after I retired, I would be on a plane to New Zealand, which would force a hard but very enjoyable break between work and retirement.
    I really agree with Kathy’s comment above about ‘rightsizing’, and Denny’s – Retire to something.

    1. Haha, Erith – I can’t IMAGINE pulling that beast down those narrow Scottish roads! I have to admit, driving those narrow British roads are some of my best memories of our UK vacation a few years back. You’re fortunate to live a great life in a great part of the world.

      Good point about not always having a choice in your “ramp down” at work. I’ve got 3 trips in my last 5 weeks of work, so I’m falling a bit of a victim to that myself. Mentally, I’m adjusting, but physically I have to run just a little bit longer. Thanks for your loyalty to my blog!

  11. Fritz,
    I love your 11 lessons, it is obvious you have been looking to those who have “gone before” and summarized some great learning into those lessons! I really appreciate the religious aspect (can I say that without offending someone?) that you have incorporated into your 10 commandments. Those who can achieve FIRE are among the most blessed people in the world, likely in the top 1% of all humanity. I too feel it is only right that we give back, that we remain generous and have an attitude of gratitude for those blessings that have been given to us. The lasting joy and fulfillment that will come from our service to others will far exceed any momentary pleasure derived through purely selfish endeavors. Thanks for your inspiration and the thought and care you put into your blog. May God bless as you and your bride retire great!

    1. Sometimes it’s worth the risk of offending folks, David. 😉 We are, indeed, among the most blessed people in the world. It’s important to remember that, and treasure the reality of how significant that is. I appreciate your kind words about my blog, I do put a LOT of “thought and care” into it, and I thank you for recognizing my efforts.

  12. I am not near retirement age, but enjoy reading your blog. I actually worked for the same company as you until recently. Keep up the good work and I hope you have a great retirement.

  13. I’m having a problem with the concept of ‘purpose’ in retirement. Does having purpose mean we should become like Mother Teresa and try to save the world? Is doing good for others the only way we can find purpose in our lives? Meaning?
    Your list of your purpose sounded like a list of things to do.
    I’ve got tons of lists of things to do BUT it doesn’t give me purpose.
    A conundrum for sure.

    1. Nothing worse than a conundrum….

      I think Purpose is whatever you define. No need to be Mother Teresa, but finding something that means a lot to you in retirement is a worthwhile pursuit, regardless of where it leads. The Journey Is The Destination.

  14. I think you are ready Fritz. Retirement better watch out cause you’re gonna crush it! Will you promise me one thing tho? Will you continue to write even when you are retired? I mean don’t get me wrong, I want you to enjoy your freedom and I can deal with a little less consistency, but I can’t stand the thought of you getting so enthralled with your retirement that writing takes a back seat. Please and thank you!!

  15. I love the post great ideas for life in general especially about trying new thing, I recently started going to body blast and has become one of the highlights of my week, glad you like spin, not sure I am in shape enough one of these days I will try it again. Many people in the fi area might so it unnecessary but I love my gym, $30 / month is will worth it
    Love the camper, congratulations, was looking into a 30 ft grand design models if I become a traveling medical professional (just me and dogs so don’t need anything too big) I hope you have many good times in it

  16. These are some great lessons. I like the one about Type A hard driving type. A lot of them are stuck in that mode and they can’t relax. Life will change and you have to adapt.
    Your RV looks awesome!

  17. Too bad you don’t live here or I there. I think it’d be fun to bike around and hike around with my big brother Fritz! Great words of wisdom.

    You got me to thinking about one of the key moves I’ll need to make next year: finding an outlet with social interactions – most likely volunteering part time on a regular basis.

  18. Another great post, Fritz. I loved the raising your children to fly; however, I don’t have any children to do that with. Regardless I can get behind that concept!

    I just love the perennial mindset and that is the one that resonates so deeply with me. We are all either dying or growing. Why not push out a bloom or two in the process?! “You’re pushing up new flowers every year.” Yesss!

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