retirement is nothing like I thought it would be

Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be

Retirement is nothing like I thought it would be.

That’s a true statement in my fourth year of retirement, as is the following:

Retirement is exactly as I thought it would be.

An interesting dichotomy, and one to which I dedicate this post.
 
Retirement, as it turns out, is a little of both.
 
Allow me to explain…
Retirement is nothing like I thought it would be. Retirement is exactly as I thought it would be. Both are true.  Allow me to explain... Click To Tweet

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Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be

It’s impossible to really know what retirement is going to be like until you experience it.  We dream about it in those final few years of work.  We think about what we want our lives to be like in retirement.

But the truth is, try as we might, there’s simply no way to know.  Kind of like…

  • Getting married
  • Having kids
  • Starting a new job

There are certain things in life that you just can’t accurately imagine until they happen. Having been retired for 3 1/2 years, it seems enough (but not too much) time has passed for some reflection.  I owe this introspective look to Al Cam, who left the following comment on my recent post “How I Spent My Time in Retirement.”

how does retirement feel


I read Al’s comment before taking the dogs on their afternoon walk, and his question lingered in my mind:

“How does what you actually do in retirement…compare versus what you thought you would do…” 

I answered Al’s question in my mind as I was walking through the woods (it’s interesting how I do some of my best thinking during those daily walks) and the answer I came up with led to the opening two lines of this post.

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

Allow me to present each of those two realities in turn.


Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be

Had you asked me before I retired to describe my expectations of retirement, you’d have noticed some huge gaps between my expectations and my eventual reality.  Following are 5 specific areas where retirement is nothing like I thought it would be.

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1. Buying a Second Home

Prior to retirement, I’d have said there was little chance we’d own a second home in retirement.  Been there, done that.  Our retirement cabin had been a second home for 7 years before we retired, which we used for weekend escapes and supplemental rental income.  It worked well for us then, but we were looking to simplify our lives and had no desire to manage a second home in retirement.  We love our life in the mountains and have no desire to live anywhere else.

Our second home – a small condo near our daughter in Alabama

Life has a way of throwing unexpected curveballs your way, and as I explained in Why We Just Bought A Second Home in Retirement, our daughter’s military husband was relocated from a base near Seattle to one in Southern Alabama, a mere 5 1/2 hour drive from our retirement cabin.  After evaluating our options, we purchased a small condo nearby and spend a week living there every month, cherishing time with our 3-year-old granddaughter. 

Nope, never saw that one coming.

Side note: we consider the purchase price as an “asset allocation” decision more so than a “spending” one, given we plan on selling the condo when our daughter moves on.  For now, the only incremental expense is the small upkeep of the condo, an expense we’re happy to spend to savor the additional time with family.


2. Being on a Board of Directors

A week before I retired, I received a phone call from a longtime friend who was the President of an international aluminum recycling company.  We’d interacted frequently over my years of work, and I suspected his call was a congratulatory call on my upcoming retirement. 

I was wrong.  

Their company had just gone through a restructuring, and the new owners were looking for a recently retired aluminum “expert” (their words) to become a member of their new Board of Directors.  The other board members were financially strong but had little experience in the aluminum industry.

My wife and I talked about it, and I decided to accept the opportunity in spite of my “pre-retirement expectation” of saying goodbye to the aluminum business forever.  Since then, it’s been a minimal but enjoyable piece of work. I’m having a blast, with the only obligation being a quarterly board meeting (often online) to keep an eye on the strategic direction of the company.  It’s been a fascinating experience to work through the COVID situation and its impact on a global organization. I could dedicate an entire post to the reasoning and the experience, but suffice it to say money wasn’t a consideration and I’m extremely happy I accepted the opportunity.  It’s one of the only times I’ve broken one of my 10 Commandments of Retirement (Number IV, if you’re curious), and I’ve been grateful ever since.  The lesson I’ve learned?  Keep an open mind as opportunities develop and be very careful when doing your due diligence. 

If something intrigues you for the right reasons, pursue it.  You can always change your mind later.


3. Co-Running A 501c3 Charity

My wife and I both knew we wanted to spend more time doing charity work in retirement.  What we never expected, however, was the reality that actually RUNNING a charity would become one of our Purposes in retirement.

Building and running Freedom For Fido has become a true source of joy in both our lives and our retirement is better as a result.  It’s become something that my wife and I love doing together, and it’s led to a great group of new friends,  volunteers, and supporters we call the “Fido Family.”

I’m proud to announce that we just completed our 50th free fence build, giving 133 dogs a better life in the process.  Here’s a post we shared on our Freedom For Fido Facebook page to celebrate the moment our 133rd dog tasted Freedom for the first time:

freedom for fido


4. Building a Workshop

Had you asked me prior to retirement, this one would have never made my list.   

As I explained in The Treehouse Writing Studio and A Tour of My Woodworking Shop, I now have a writing studio and woodworking shop off the driveway at our retirement cabin.  The project was driven in large part by the growth of Freedom For Fido and has become a place I love to spend time in retirement.  A dedicated place to pursue my retirement passions, where I’m free to do podcast interviews without fear of the dogs barking, as well as pursue my new hobby of woodworking.  I’m enjoying building a lot of new things, and recently completed the following tabletop for our laundry room which I shared on my Instagram account:

things I never expected in retirement

I’ve found the pursuit of my new woodworking hobby an invigorating challenge, and very much in line with my 10 Commandments of Retirement (in particular, #2 – Pursue Passions, and #5 – Try New Things).  The investment in the workshop was also in line with my hope to Live Like No One Else, which was a philosophy we espouse as we move from lifelong savers to freeing ourselves to spend (within our means) in retirement.

So…while the specific project wasn’t something I saw coming, it aligns perfectly with the intentions we had established for our retirement.  Establish your retirement principles, then be flexible to follow them wherever they lead. 

They’ll likely lead you places you never anticipated.


5. Not Thinking (Much) About Money

As I mentioned in The 90/10 Rule of Retirement, I had heard from many retirees that they didn’t think much about money once they had retired, but I never expected it to be true for me.  Fortunately, this is one area where retirement is nothing like I thought it would be.

The reality is that I seldom think about money.  I find that a very strange thing to say, and certainly not something I expected.  It turns out that my retired friends were right when they told me that, if you do your planning correctly, you’ll find yourself thinking less about money and more about enjoying life after you’ve retired.

Do yourself a favor.  Spend quality time before you retire making sure you have a sound plan.

Your retirement years will be more enjoyable as a result.


Retirement Is Exactly As I Thought It Would Be

Fortunately, there are many areas where my expectations of retirement line up well with the ultimate reality. It’s interesting to find that most of the alignment revolves around my philosophical approach to retirement, whereas most of my misalignment comes down to the tactical means by which that philosophy is manifested.  I’ll share some examples as I work through the five areas below where retirement is exactly as I thought it would be.

1. The Joy of Freedom

I had high expectations of how much I would enjoy the freedom from having other people tell me what to do with my time, and I’m pleased to report that the enjoyment aligns with, or exceeds, my expectations.  I never liked having “micro-managers” at work, and now I know why.  I prefer to do things my way, and retirement shifts 100% of my time to be self-driven.  With that freedom, obviously, comes the obligation of finding the right things to do with your time.  Turns out I enjoy that challenge, and my retirement years have been the best of my life to date.

For the example on this one, I point to my decision to join the Board of Directors.  With all of the leverage on my side, I was able to establish firm ground rules on my level of involvement prior to agreeing to the position.  As a result, I was at the hospital when our daughter gave birth to her child in spite of the fact that a Board Meeting was scheduled at the same time.  The Chairman and I had agreed that if I had a personal conflict with any of the meeting schedules, I was free to choose which I would attend.  #ProtectYourFreedom


2. Exercising The Mind

Free from the shackles of mandatory labor, I’m able to dedicate my mental energies to areas that bring me fulfillment, and I’ve embraced it with open arms.  It takes some time to shift your mind after decades of being told what to do.  It’s a “mental muscle” that’s out of shape, but mine has responded well to the challenge.

As an example for this one, the running of Freedom For Fido has given me countless opportunities to exercise my mind.  One of my roles is determining where and how we’ll run the fence line during our preliminary site visit with a new recipient.  With 50 fences completed, I’ve worked through some interesting puzzles in our mountainous region and I enjoy the challenge.  Moments after walking the property,  I can now “see” how a fence will most effectively weave across a variety of terrains.  I can see where the slope changes, where those posts need to go, where the fence would best run its course.  It’s rewarding when my vision comes to reality through the work of our volunteers.  I could add many examples of how retirement has led to new opportunities to exercise my mind, and it’s one of the areas of retirement I really enjoy. 


3. The Benefit of Exercise

I always envisioned my retirement to be an active one, and the reality has matched that expectation.  From my scheduled morning classes at the gym to the variety of outdoor activities we pursue, the replacement of my previously sedentary lifestyle with one that has me moving all day has led to great results. 

I feel better than I have in decades, both physically and mentally.  I seldom walk less than 10,000 steps per day and frequently hit double that recommended target.  I’ve found a nice balance between being active during the day and taking it easy in the evenings.  The evening relaxation is even more enjoyable when it follows a day full of physical activity. 

I’m looking forward to my next landscaping project of building a railroad tie wall adjacent to my shop to level out a bit more of our hilly land.  It’s rewarding to be able to move those 200+ pound crossties around by myself at 58 years of age. 

exercise in retirement
My current landscaping project

Plan on using some of your newfound time in retirement to focus on getting in the best shape possible.  I’ve made it a priority and expect to reap the benefits for years to come.


4. The Pursuit of Curiosity

I’ve written extensively about the role of curiosity in a successful retirement, and I’ve found it to be true in my own life.  As expected, I’m seeking out opportunities to try new things, to “take that first step,” to explore new areas of interest.  It’s a pursuit I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

As an example, I’ll point to my new hobby of woodworking.  It all started when I produced this “How To Build A Doghouse” video (which has now been watched 9k times). My time in Tim’s workshop sparked my curiosity, and I took that first step.  Now, woodworking has become one of my new hobbies in retirement, and I enjoy pursuing my curiosity as I seek applications for my growing skills. 

I mentioned that building the workshop was an example of where retirement is nothing like I thought it would be, but I’m pleased to realize that it all stems from my intentional pursuit of curiosity and lifelong learning.  I suspect retirement will continue to evolve in this manner, where using my freedom, mental energy and curiosity will continually lead me in directions I never expected. 

It’s a fun way to live life.

#NeverStopLearning


5. An Attitude of Gratitude

I’ll close with this one, which was the first of my Ten Commandments of Retirement.  I made a conscious decision as I was approaching retirement to focus on my attitude.  I knew there would be a lot of things that were outside my control in the coming years, but my attitude wasn’t one of them.  With over 1,000 days of retirement behind me, I’m pleased to report that intentionally maintaining a positive attitude has become a key component of my retirement.  My life is better because of that decision.

For this example, I’ll use the purchase of our second home.  Sure, we could focus on the worry about maintaining a second residence, the additional expense, the disruption of our normal routine to spend a week in Alabama every month.  Or, we could intentionally focus on gratitude, and realize what an amazing blessing it is that our daughter is now within easy driving distance of our retirement cabin.  We are able to have an influence in those critical early years of our granddaughter.  We have the freedom to visit whenever we choose.  We always have a comfortable and convenient place to stay.

Most importantly, we are able to maintain our focus on family and legacy in these “golden years.”  How can we be anything but thankful for that opportunity, regardless of the additional financial cost?  In the words of that credit card commercial, “Priceless.”

Your attitude is within your control.  Decide what attitude you choose to adopt for your retirement years.  Your retirement, and your life, will be better for it.


Conclusion

Retirement is nothing like I thought it would be.

Retirement is exactly as I thought it would be.

An interesting dichotomy, indeed. 
 
Retirement, as it turns out, is a little of both. 
 

Your Turn:  If you’re retired, how has your retirement compared to your expectations?  If you’re still working, what expectations for your retirement are you most excited about?
 
 

54 comments

  1. Newish reader/subscriber. I LOVED this post. My husband and I are trying to decide when to retire. We’re 61, and I’d say we’re within 5 years at most, but I think about it a lot and wonder if it should be sooner.

    Anyway, I found this post inspirational. I identify with certain things more than others—I love working out and love to write, for example, but I’m not handy and won’t be woodworking or building fences for dogs. But it made me think about things I am good at now. For example, I write as part of my job (in fact, I’m a writing professor at a university), but I could see using my writing skills for fun and for charitable work in the future. I especially loved the part about having an open mind (the board of directors and the second home) toward things that you didn’t expect.

    Thanks so much. I enjoy your work and look forward to your new posts.

    1. Dana, thanks for being a newish reader, happy to have you aboard! I’m pleased that you found this post inspirational, I could ask for no better compliment from a reader. Good luck on your final march to The Starting Line, it sounds like you’re thinking about the right things. Thanks for making me a small part of your journey.

  2. My retirement is similar to the author’s in that I am doing exactly what I planned: taking free classes at the state universities (The State of Georgia allows those over age 62 to take classes for free); playing lots of pickleball; taking watercolor classes at an Art Center and seeing family and friends.I did expect to travel extensively when I retired in 2019 but the nasty COVID event happened and the inability to travel has been my greatest disappointment. I believe you should travel while you still have good health so as COVID lingers, I worry how much longer this will go on and will I be able to ever travel?

    1. A fellow Georgian! Thanks for mentioning those free classes, I’ll have to check into that when I hit 62 in a few years. Don’t let COVID get you down, be thankful for what you have, I suspect your ability to travel will open soon. I just talked to a friend yesterday who returned from a cruise, opportunities for travel are definitely starting to appear. Enjoy your retirement!

  3. Great Post – interesting to see your take on the Before vs After relative to retirement. As for me, I would have never dreamed of accomplishing so much, and growing my “Dump Truck List” beyond what I may even be able to accomplish if I have 20 good more years of retirement. We’re absolutely aligned in the money, health areas and grandkids, but that’s no surprise. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

    1. Kirk – great to see my old friend (and guest post contributor) leaving a comment today. When I think of your “Dump Truck” analogy, I picture one of those HUGE semi dump trucks…you have more dreams than Freud. Keep dreamin’, keep living.

      Looking forward to our lunch in a few weeks. Hugs to your wonderful wife from Jackie and me!

  4. You’re right, Retirement brings some unexpected opportunities and discovering new things about yourself. The thought of doing some of the things that now occupy my time were never in my mind. I would never have thought I would be volunteering so much but most of it is in the great outdoors which is a natural passion. Things that were not on my radar included; Trail maintenance in a State Park, Teaching school groups on several outdoor topics, serving as Pres. of the Friends of Smithgall Woods State Park for 4 years, Teaching Junior Ranger Programs on Orienteering in a National Park, Being a VIP ( Volunteer in Park) in the Great Smoky Mountains National park at the highest peak there one day a week from April 1 through Nov. I just completed year no 7. On the way to my last day at Clingmans Dome on Nov 28, I decided to continue through the winter as a VIP at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center/Mountain Farm which stays open through the Winter. . The opportunities just were there and I discovered that helping others learn and enjoy is rewarding. Then there is the only “paid ” job I have fallen into, teaching the University of Tennessee Field School in the Smokies Introduction to Orienteering each April and October. Orienteering was a reawakening of my knowledge and experience way back in 1959-60 when as a 2nd Lt in the Army, I taught Compass use and Topo Map Reading many times and it was the favorite subject I was assigned to teach.
    Also began participating in learning more about family history and became active in my heritage by participating and convening a Clan Stewart tent at various Scottish Festivals. Served as State Commissioner for Clan Stewart Society in America for 5 years. So Retirement doesn’t have to be the end of learning and doing interesting things. I’m not ready for full time rocking chair days.
    Curtis

    1. Curtis, in addition to being the best boss I ever had, you’re also my role model for how to live a great retirement. I can’t imagine how many people you inspire through your volunteer work. Congrats on the Oconaluftee gig this winter, I’m still in awe that you make that drive up to the Smokies every week. You are a true inspiration, not only to me but to the many folks you encounter in life. I’m proud to be an honorary member of the Clan Stewart (though my knees will never compare to yours in a kilt).

  5. Nice post Fritz. Made me think about what was not anticipated about retirement. It was all smooth sailing for me on what I thought retirement would be until significant unanticipated events occurred like the Covid Pandemic and dealing with parents with advanced dementia. The former hit us all. We all have hopefully adapted and move on with our retirement lives as best we can. For the latter, I knew this happened to others, I just kept asking myself when is my turn. These curve balls exist in life. I take to heart a great quote from Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, “The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.” Purposeful retirement which you and others have espoused so eloquently enables us to look at that curve ball as a hanging one and deliver it over the fence.

    1. Eduardo – are you reading my mind? Ironically, I’m currently working on my next post, and that quote from JP is amazingly applicable. I think I’ll use it, with attribution to your comment. Your comment on dealing with parents with dementia hit home, it’s a challenge many folks our age are dealing with, including yours truly.

      Thanks for adding value to the discussion.

  6. LOVE it. Absolutely spot on. I retired 2.5 years ago at 61 after planning for it and was totally ready. After the first year and a half, I decided to get the hell out of the big city with all the traffic and increasing crime and move to a smaller town close to my daughter. It’s an easy drive back to that city to visit my son and friends there. I’ve made new friends, become more active with bountiful outdoor opportunities, and I’m getting involved with the community in ways I never could in a big city. I’m finally building my dream house which I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s been an amazingly fun project. My daughter tells me I’m a different person, much more relaxed! It was never a problem before but my cholesterol dropped 100 points and I’m certain it was because of decreased stress from NOT WORKING in a very demanding job. I tell people who are concerned they won’t “have anything to do” in retirement to start making a list in the years leading up to retiring — my list got longer and longer and I’ll likely never get to it all. The journey along the way is definitely part of the fun. Great reminders in your post on so many aspects, thank you for another terrific post!

    1. Suzette – we’re kindred spirits. I couldn’t wait to get out of “the big city”, and haven’t looked back since. Life, somehow, just seems better in the country. Glad to hear your retirement is going well and you’re enjoying the journey. Well done. Good luck building that dream home, sounds like a great retirement project!

      1. Atlanta to Greenville SC…funny, never a move I thought I’d make but just as you pointed out, life unfolds in unexpected ways along this journey. Still looking for a mate to join me in that dream house and on the bike trail, you’re falling down on the job in what I thought was a new role as a matchmaking site 😁.

  7. Another gem, Fritz. Couldn’t agree more. I especially liked the “nothing like I thought” observations of Freedom for Fido and thinking about money. Those two really resonated. I had no idea when I retired that I would one day be welding a life-sized bison to plop on my front lawn. And I had no idea how little I would think of money. In fact, I think so little of our finances, I stopped tracking our spending over a year ago. Glad to see retirement is treating you well. Give my regards to Jackie. Cheers.

    1. Mr. G!! Great to see you stopping by, old friend. Words can’t explain how much I’ve enjoyed reading about your progress on The Beast. It truly is a work of art, and something beyond the pale of anything I’ve attempted. You’re my hero, Mr. G. I can’t wait to see the pics of it proudly standing in your front yard (though I’m still scratching my head on how you’re going to move that monster from your garage!). Regards back to Mrs. G, we’ll have to talk again soon.

  8. Inspirational is a good way to describe your post today Fritz – I’m a few years away but you make me want to speed things up! Must say I’m really jealous of the Pickleball players I’ve gotten to know that play in the mornings during the week and we have to wait until the weekends to play! I’m truly thankful for my career and health but look forward to the retirement years and try not to get caught up in the “someday syndrome’” but live life to fullest each day!

    1. Wow, the second time a reader has used that word today. I’m flying high with the positive responses to this one. Thanks for the encouragement, Dusty. You’re wise to recognize the risk of the “Someday Syndrome” (hmmmm….I like that…may have to “borrow” it for a future post), always best to enjoy each day you’re given.

  9. Fritz I follow your posts and find them to be very enlightening! at age 58 we have started phase 1 of our retirement, we sold our house and purchased a base house in Northern Alabama. will commute to work, fortunately i work for a airline and commuting is a little easier. your a an inspiration please continue the blog, at your leisure of course!

    1. Howdy, neighbor! Congratulations on the major moves, sounds strikingly familiar to the journey I took in the final phase of my working years. And…wait a minute, is that the third “inspiration” compliment today? Wow. Thanks much for the encouragement, glad my writing is “enlightening” on your journey!

  10. Retirement is weird, Fritz! I’ve got six different things on my calendar today. And yesterday was pretty busy too. From our 5:30 AM morning run to our 5 PM pickleball group with volunteer meetings in the middle, plus dentist and a massage. But it’s all pretty fun, except the dentist.

    1. I can relate. We all got tired of those who said they can’t imagine how they worked, “I’m SOOO busy in retirement.” Yet, ironically, we now find ourselves uttering those same words.

      I once read a study that found the happiest retirees are also those who are most busy. I’m finding that to be a truth in my own retirement. Chalk that one up in the “Unexpected” column…

  11. Another good column, and one I’ll share w/a colleague contemplating retirement from fed law enforcement. I ret after 27 yrs on the job, & he was asking this am about how it’s been as I approach three yrs in ret. Your article sums it up nicely – – it’s been a journey winding down from stress, getting healthy/back into a gym, still serving as a non-profit officer (but no longer President), and trying to whittle down the honey-do list, while finding additional things to do since intl travel has been severely restricted. I remind my colleagues that my early ret was the result of 27 yrs AND investing aggressively since I was 30 (half my age). I appreciate that I have a pension, & can draw well over 4% from my other ret accnts as spouse & I still explore to find ret paths that give us gratitude & joy. I also take a day off each week from retirement to do catch up reading and local walks (vs gym treadmill 3x wk). I like the idea of doing a second home/apt near daughters as grandkids come along… maybe AirBnBs first… but an option I’ll look at now. Merry Christmas to you & family

    1. Jim, thanks for sharing my work. Your comment about “taking a day off each week from retirement” struck a chord with me. My wife and I tried to do that for a while, but we’ve been unsuccessful maintaining the habit. It’s a good one, may have to have another go at it. Thanks for the reminder. Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well!

  12. Very interesting post Fritz. The only thing that keeps us working is the <<>> of being responsible for our time. Neither of us have a passion outside our work and we can’t be still. Work has lost its luster for me, not for my wife. We’re not on the same page about interests outside of our respective careers. I know we’re failing the intelligence test of life because we’ll be better off financially after we retire. We could start distributions from savings (we’re 66 & 69), but there’s no need as we have no time to enjoy the spoils of our longtime savings efforts if we continue to work. We really need to think about our encore plan. Thanks for making me think this morning! I’m thinking we need to face this fear.

    1. Terror is an appropriate word, glad to see you put in a placeholder to think of just the right word. I’d also encourage you to think about it as the “opportunity” of being responsible for our time. It’s a great opportunity, but it does come with it’s challenges. You’re at that difficult stage of being financial ready, but still working on the mental aspects. It sounds like you’re thinking on the right things, and I applaud the focus on thinking about the repurcussions as a couple. Keep thinking, I have confidence that you’ll conquer your fear in time.

    2. Read Fritz’s post about going back to your childhood by resuming activities you enjoyed when you were a kid. It might give you ideas for post retirement activities.

  13. Fritz,
    You continue to keep me entertained, enlightened, and teaching me.
    Retirement is our new career and learning the scope of work of this new career is half the fun.
    The projects that I’ve taken on now don’t have a Saturday- Sunday tackle time table. They are open ended and actually no longer are scheduled and have a open ending date to complete. It is so nice to set any pace I want and know I can, if I want to delay a day, and not be up against a work only weekend schedule.
    So many tasks, projects, volunteer, opportunities, grandkids, kids, helping friends, making new friends, the list is endless and you have time to do what ever.
    The retirement career is like no other.
    High school summers had jobs and going back to school always around the corner, college was the same way, and working life was, well work driven.
    Retirement is the Career it is all supposed to be.
    And I’m Loving it!
    Thanks everything you write.
    Keep it coming.

  14. Thanks Fritz! Been reading your blog for the past 1.5 years. I’ve gotten a ton of value reading, gleening insights and applying them. In my mid-50’s, I hit the Freedom Button last fall so have been on my retirement journey for a year. I am consistently grateful for this opportunity to explore and create a new chapter in life. As the primary care giver for a parent with dementia/Alzheimer’s I am very thankful to have the flexibility to both help while also having quality time. I’ve learned more about my mom in the past 4 years of time together than the previous several decades. I don’t know if others experience this, but I had for many months this kind of save the world mentality with so many facing hardships especially during Covid. I’ve finally realized that’s simply not possible – but instead focus in areas on what I can do to help people, animals, and my community while not feeling guilty about doing things just for me as well. Speaking of which I am planning a 750+ mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail next year with a goal to finish in the next 2-3 summers. A long time dream that is becoming reality! I love seeing what you and your wife are doing with Freedom for Fido. What a difference it makes in the lives of dogs and their pet parents. I did have one question – in reading this post and others I wonder if there is anything you’ve tried that hasn’t worked out since you retired and you stopped doing it and moved on? I am doing some volunteer work in an area I am passionate about but the actual projects are not lighting my fire. I am usually the type that when I commit, I am in and it can be hard to step away. What’s been your experience? Thanks for all of your great insights!

    1. “I’ve finally realized that’s simply not possible – but instead focus in areas on what I can do to help people, animals, and my community while not feeling guilty about doing things just for me as well.”

      Glad to see you’ve gained some wisdom in the 1.5 years since you’ve crossed The Starting Line. Great quote. It’s surprising how many of “us” are dealing with the challenges of aging parents, thankful that we’re able to do it as a retiree and not have that work conflict making it even more difficult. Best of luck on your PCT quest, a great goal. I appreciate yoru kind words about Freedom For Fido.

      As for your question, there are many things I’ve “stopped doing”. Your question actually triggered another post idea in my head on my morning walk with the dogs this morning…stay tuned for a future post on the subject (Hint: The working title is “Retirement Is Like A Deck Of Cards”….but keep it our secret, ok? Wink.). In summary, I think you’re right to consider which cards you’re holding in your hand, and whether it’s time to discard one to make room for a new card. Our goal should always be to improve our hand, regardless of how difficult it may be to let go of the lowest card we’re holding. Hope that helps.

  15. Good stuff dude, especially the exercising parts 🙂 I do copious amounts in semi-retirement already, and look forward to full retirement to up the ante on curiosity, experimentation, and volunteer work. Lots to look forward to!

  16. Seriously, yet another post from you on benefits of retirement that get me licking my chops! Ha ha. I am exactly two years from ER when I will be 54. I am so ready now, but gotta wait till 12/2023…

    Meanwhile, I am enjoying living my life outside of work and can’t wait for more time in two years. The song “The Waiting” by the late Tom Petty cycles through my head during this time. Ha ha.

    Cheers!

  17. Love the deep dives Fritz. Your last point /First commandment is the key. As others mentioned, I found this inspirational and wanting me to take action. I have two points as feedback/request.

    1. In the years leading up to retirement, how did you deal with one more year syndrome. I know you worked one more year than needed, but How did you finally pull the plug? With long term incentives at work and a bit of over thinking, you can convince yourself that you are not ready. As you adjust the future expected returns down (markets are over valued argument), or increase your estimate for expenses (health care), or wonder whether the SS benefits will be reduced or Medicare will go bankrupt, you can convince yourself to work more. If you can take a deep dive on how you got comfortable with uncertainty philosophically that would be great.

    2. To be honest, your section about what did not go as expected is more of a success story and is inspirational rather than lessons learnt or regrets or things you would do differently! It would be great to see a deep dive on things that did not go well or things you would do differently if you would start over.

    1. Inspiration #4, I love it! As for your questions:

      1) No doubt, the OMY issue is a tricky one. For me, I drew a firm line in the sand since I knew OMY would be more than “enough”. I gave up a ton of future earnings, long term comp, pension growth, etc. In reality, it didn’t matter, since I knew I’d have “enough”. Figure out what you need, draw your line in the sand, and don’t focus on what you’re giving up. Not a deep dive, perhaps, but that’s my high-level suggestion. Perhaps a topic for a future post…

      2) I’d love to do a deep dive on things I’d do differently, but afraid there’s not much water in that pond. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well things have gone, and there’s very little (if anything) that hasn’t gone well or that I’d have done differently. #Thankful that I can say that.

  18. Regarding #1, Great advice Fritz. Thanks.

    Regarding #2, Glad to hear. It also shows how meticulous planning and having buffers can help. Wishing you a continued smooth retirement. Happy Holidays and New Year.

  19. Fritz, really enjoyed this post. You are so right, things are both the same and totally different. For me, what I’ve found to be high on my priority list is to guard time as my own. Call it a commitment complex perhaps, but I enjoy the “fluidity” that retirement offers.

  20. As ever, a great insight
    I think you are correct to prioritise family time, especially time with your granddaughter. Covid has meant I haven’t been able to see my wee grandson in New Zealand for nigh on 2 years! When we all said goodbye Jan 2020, we were midst discussion, re whether husband & I should buy/rent somewhere near them, so we could spend 6 months of the year with them….
    Your 5 things that worked as you expected, are pretty much the same as mine, I’ve now hit my 10th early retirement anniversary, so I think I can speak with confidence! In those 10 years, I had 3 years to spend with my Mom which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. A lot of travel, much of it for family weddings.

    Serious question – how long do you think your experience will remain current for your non-exec position? I did 6 years as a non-exec for a UK university – I finished my term last year. Very interesting, but after 9 years out of the workplace, the world had moved on, and so had I!! My best contribution was definitely in my first couple of years!

    1. Erith, great to hear from you! I can’t imagine not seeing your grandson for 2 years, truly horrible. We’ve been blessed to live in a part of the world that is “wide open”, and treasure our monthly stays in Alabama with our granddaughter. Hoping things clear in your part of the world soon, though it sounds like your “enforcers” are getting more and more aggressive these days. Hang in there, this too shall pass (I hope).

      As for your “Serious Question”: I agree there’s a “limited shelf life” on expertise post-retirement. In my case, they suggested the Board role would be a 3-5 year role, and that seems to fit pretty well with my expectation of how long my expertise will be “current”. I’m 3.5 years in on the role, so likely 1-2 years more work with the Board before I meet my original expectation of no further involvement in the aluminum business. I’m fine with that, it’s significantly more than I expected, and I’ve treasured the opportunity.

  21. A board of directors gig seems like the best of both worlds in retirement. Staying connected to the area of your expertise with minimal effort is a great hedge on feeling like you’re out of the mix. After accumulating years of experience in a specific area, it’d be a shame to put that knowledge to the pasture!

  22. Excellent post. I retired a year ago and I haven’t done anything I expected to except lose the stress. I’ve picked up fun new hobbies and I’m really enjoying my life, which was the whole point. I live near Mobile if that’s where your new condo is. Let me know if you need recommendations for anything!

    1. Losing the stress is a big one! Thanks for the offer, but we’re actually near Dothan, so afraid that’s a bit far from your neck of the woods. We’ll let you know if we ever get over that way. Congrats on your first year on this side of The Starting Line, it’s a great period of life!

  23. Hi Fritz,

    I’m happy to read you’re retirement is so rewarding!

    5 1/2 years into retirement, I also spend much less time worrying or thinking about money than I expected. I was fortunate to retire into a great stock market and I now truly know I have enough. I still track my spending and calculate my net worth but it’s more of a celebration of success than a worrisome exercise.

    I spend my time pretty much as expected but the opportunity to teach financial wellness was a surprise and one I really enjoyed (pre-Covid). I’ve used the shut down of my paid teaching as an excuse to run courses for my Niece, her friends and my friend’s adult children. It’s still super rewarding.

    I spend a lot of time on the Pickleball court, it fills my social needs and has provided some life long friendships as well. So mention #4? for Pickleball! It’s an easy learn but a life long mastery and I’ve found it very rewarding to work on playing better. Not to mention the physical benefits of running around on a court.

    1. Ms. Liz! Great to see you on my site. Yep, we’ve been fortunate with the strong markets since our retirements, though as an early retiree I still view the next 7 years (until age 65) as being at risk for Sequence of Return disruptions. Keeping that powder dry, ready to ride out whatever storm may be on the horizon.

      Good for you for teaching financial wellness, even when your paid gig got shut down. And yes, Pickleball is tied with “Inspiration” in the comments on this one. Seems that game has really taken off, for good reason. We enjoy a game now and then as well, though we seem to have less time than I’d like to hit the court. Thanks again for stopping by!

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