What 3 New Things Are You Going To Try In Retirement?

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Shortly before I retired, I had dinner with a friend we’ll call Joe.  I’d had a business relationship with Joe for 10 years and we had become friends.  He went out of his way to meet up with me for a personal dinner while I was in his city on a business trip.

It wasn’t an ordinary dinner.

Joe had just lost his job.

Whether you're planning your retirement or it happens unexpectedly, there's one question you should ask yourself. Click To Tweet


What 3 New Things Are You Going to Try in Retirement?

I’d had many business dinners with Joe over the years, and we’d done a lot of business together.  The typical banter of a business dinner is predictable, with some discussion on the macro trends in the industry, what’s going on with our respective companies, and the outlook for our ongoing and future business together.  Been there, done that.  Many, many times.

This dinner was different.

We didn’t talk about business.  Not once.

We both realized it didn’t matter anymore.

Joe was facing an unexpected retirement, and I was a month away from my long-planned final day of work.  The evening was a bit surreal as I sat across the table from someone who I’d known for years in a business setting, with both of us facing retirement from entirely different approaches.  

I was prepared and excited for retirement. 

He was not.

What could I possibly say to my friend as he faced “The Cliff” of an unexpected retirement?  What would you say?

For starters, I listened a lot more than I talked.  Like many of the 60% of people who face retirement earlier than planned, Joe was trying to figure things out.  Justifiably, he had a lot on his mind.   I’d studied the phenomenon of people being forced into early retirement and knew the reality of The Dark Side of Retirement.  There’s a reason I dedicated an entire chapter in my book to the issue.  It’s a miserable place to be, and Joe found himself forced there just a few days before our dinner.

So, I listened.

And I did a lot of thinking.


BTW, a quick (and relevant) sidebar…

I just received an AMAZING e-mail from someone who has been struggling with an early “forced” retirement. The subject header in the email caught my attention:  “You Changed A Life Today”.  Turns out the reader had been forced into early retirement 6 months ago and has really struggled with the adjustment.  He happened to hear me on a recent Bigger Pockets podcast interview, a moment best captured in his own words:  “I was literally pushing my mower with tears of relief rolling down my face as I listened to your podcast. I AM NOT ALONE”.  

The longer I do this, the more stories I hear from people who have been forced into retirement sooner than expected.  A sincere “thank you” to the reader for allowing me to share that line from his email.  It’s a great reminder that none of you are alone, and I’m honored to know that my work is helping some of you find your new path forward.  Thank you for keeping me motivated.  It is for you that I do what I do.


Back to that dinner with Joe…

As I listened to him attempting to make sense of his forced early retirement, a thought ran through my mind.

Life is a One Way Street. Live it looking forward. Click To Tweet

I began thinking about how I could encourage Joe to start looking forward. 

To stop looking back.

Regardless of how we get to The Starting Line of retirement, the reality is that it’s a new beginning.  A new path forward.  A new opportunity to become whatever we choose to become.  Whether you’ve arrived after years of planning, or two days before dinner with an old friend, retirement is all about looking forward.  The past doesn’t matter.

It’s a new start.

The reality is that Joe was facing a new opportunity.  A chance to become whatever he chose to become.  Reframing our mindset is the key in turning that half-empty glass into one that’s half-full.  It’s time to put the pride and hurt aside, and think about the future in a positive light.  I encouraged Joe to start thinking about where he would chart his path, given the freedom to make that choice?

Joe had been (justifiably) more focused on the recent past and the short-term future and hadn’t put much thought into any longer-term plans.  He had more or less decided he was going to retire, but he hadn’t thought much about what his new life of retirement would be.

A question came to my mind, and I decided to ask it.

“What 3 New Things Are You Going To Try In Retirement?”

It was an interesting twist in the discussion.  We all know some things we’d like to try, and that one simple question is a non-threatening way to think about the reality that retirement is a new phase in life.  A time to experiment.  A time to make your own decisions.

A time to try new things.

We both went back and forth with some things we’d like to learn.  He wanted to learn how to play the banjo, an instrument I’ve always thought would be fun to play. I thought the guitar would be better for sitting around a campfire. He wanted to learn a foreign language, I wanted to learn how to edit video.  

What had been a depressing start to the evening began to get a bit more optimistic. Thinking about that question is a way to encourage yourself to peer into the future, to visualize something that you’d like to learn.  To explore an area that interests you.

It’s a positive question to ask during a negative time.

It can shift your mindset.  It can change your course.

We agreed that we would follow-up with an email to each other in a few week’s time with our “final answer” to the 3 things we were going to try in retirement.  I’ve still got those emails, and I look at them occasionally. You’re probably curious about what we listed as our “Final 3”, but that’s missing the point.

In reality, it doesn’t matter how you answer that question.  What matters is the shift in your mindset.  Being intentional in looking forward, and building excitement over the things you can do

For the record, I’ve only accomplished one of the three items on my “final” list to Joe.  Weird, right?  Instead, I found other things that I hadn’t expected, and I’ve done dozens of exciting new things in retirement.  I’m still hoping to do an organized swim in a river someday (yes, that was one of the items in my email). 

Retirement is fluid, and I’m good with that.


Mindset Matters

The point is this: 

Wherever you find yourself, the attitude with which you approach your life matters.  A lot.  If you’re not in a situation you’d hoped for, figure out how you can make lemonade from the lemons.  If you’re fortunate to be in a good place, take time to give thanks.  Strive to look for the positives and minimize the amount of time you focus on the negatives. Choose to have a positive attitude.  A bit preachy, perhaps, but important nonetheless.

I came across that email exchange with Joe this week, and it led to the writing of today’s post. I thought it a worthy story to share.

I hope you agree.


Conclusion

It’s a fact that far too many people are forced into retirement earlier than they had planned.  If you’re among those who find yourself in that situation, take some time to decide how you’re going to respond.  Regardless of how you reach The Starting Line, it’s important to recognize that life on this side of the line presents an incredible opportunity.

Are you going to focus on the negative?

Or, are you going to seek out the positive?

If you’re struggling, try listing 3 things you’d like to try in retirement.  It’s an interesting little mind game that can help you think differently about where you’re heading.   If nothing else, park the question in your brain, and ask it the next time you’re talking with a friend who’s in a tough spot. 

You may be interested in where it leads.


Your Turn:  If you’re retired, did you get forced into retirement earlier than planned?  Any advice for others who are facing the same situation?  Finally, what 3 things would you put on your list?   Let’s chat in the comments…

48 comments

  1. I’m only semi-retired as you know and the one main thing I started was my graphic arts business which I love and has been thriving and steadily growing. Eventually I’d like to start a nonprofit or a charity but I’m still between ideas of what to do. I’ve got plenty of time to work on it.

    1. Dave – I love what you’re doing with your graphic arts, cool to see it growing. LMK when you’re ready to start that non-profit. As you know, my wife started one last year so we can help you through the process, if needed.

  2. Twas a great read Fritz!

    I advise others that ask…that as we age and are in retirement to try….1. Maintain a long term positive attitude….find it easier to do when you remain humble and grateful for all you have. 2. Keep a sense of humor about yourself….i.e. Laugh at yourself when you have misplaced your reading glasses for the third time in 3 hours! 🙂 3. Spiritually ground yourself. 4. Give money to others less fortunate. 5. Give of your time.

    Just one thing I’ve learned about myself while volunteering….you can learn something new that is small….or you can, over 3 years, learn how to build homes for people that need them. I will forever remember the families that filled the houses we helped build.

    Thanks again for all the advice you provide to others. I believe you will be grateful for your blog while laying on death’s bed Fritz.

    God speed everyone, Steve

  3. I’m now two years from retirement in the military. We are struggling a bit to determine what to do next. I’ll be 50 when we retire, so still young enough to start a new career. Would it be something different, building on my existing skills in training, planning, and program/ project development. Do I really want to work for someone else? I wouldn’t mind if it was something exciting that I couldn’t easily do on my own. Do I want to work in the DoD or defense industry where I have directly applicable skills? Or do I work part time and transition to self employment or launch right into it? Lots of questions.

  4. Interesting question, I’ve never worried about what to do in retirement because I’m quite curious and that could keep me busy for a while.

    1. Travel
    2. Learn another language
    3. Photography
    4. Write
    5…..

    The real key is that you have to be at a place where you’re not worried about money. I think the question and the mindset would be a lot different if you were forced into retirement and not quite ready for it.

  5. When you talk about starting over and being able to reinvent yourself, it reminds me of my school days. We moved around a few times and it didn’t take long to realize that it was a chance to reinvent myself, if I wanted to. Moving to a new town, a new school, and before the internet, no one knew who you were and this was a chance to become someone new, or just a little bit better. I don’t know that I ever nailed it but I know that my upcoming retirement could be my last chance to become whatever I want to be. Your blogging, and your book, have helped considerably.

    Like you, I also wanted to learn editing and force myself to keep up on technology. I just passed 100 videos on my channel! What I realized is that I’m going to really enjoy this new hobby in retirement and my mind spins with ideas that I can implement once I am retired. BTW, you need to upload more to your YouTube page. I enjoy your videos!!

    Thanks,
    Tom

    Thanks, Tom

  6. I will be retiring in October this year after 40 years in finance sector in Australia working for 4 top/large financial institutes. It was a tough gig but highly rewarding and satisfying. Retiring on my own terms as I have simply lost interest in the game. 3 things important to me are time, money, & health and I have big ticks next to all 3. Turn 60 in August this year. I want to reward myself with this privilege and in retirement just want to focus on my health & fitness, doing volunteer work in the community, and helping my 3 adult children & their partners whichever way I can. My wife and I have travelled overseas extensively and just happy to chill out now & travel selectively. Most importantly I want to help others in need as I am very street smart and don’t mind getting my hands dirty. It is exciting times for me counting down the days and my wife loves her part-time job and will work another year or two. Date for my first day of freedom will be 10102020..how can I ever forget that!!!!

    1. Congrats on approaching The Starting Line after a 40 year marathon! It sounds like you have a great perspective on your upcoming retirement, and I wish you success as you enter the time of giving back. 10102020, cool retirement date.

  7. Fritz,

    As I approached my 60’s, I was surprised by the number of people I knew who were forced into retirement and never saw it coming. For many of them, their part of my industry was dying – yet they expected things to go on as normal until they reached 65 and could take their pension. It was painful to watch.

    Even I had planned to retire at 62 or 63, but when my wife and I saw an opportunity, we pulled the plug early at 60. Haven’t regretted it a bit.

    It’s just so important for anyone reading our blogs to plan for an early retirement. Whether it’s an unexpected layoff or a chance to leave early on your own terms – having an early retirement plan goes a long way toward peace of mind as you reach your final working years.

    Dave

    1. “I was surprised by the number of people I knew who were forced into retirement and never saw it coming.”

      As was I, Dave. It’s a reality most people don’t even know exists, unfortunately. Glad to hear you have no regrets, a great way to live life!

    2. Dave, you speak the truth about people forced into early retirement. I saw this as well. Oftentimes they were forced by ill health, but other times it was due to a layoff and being unable to find another job in their field… ageism is alive and well, it seems.

      It’s definitely good to be financially independent ahead of the expected retirement date. That way if something happens the person doesn’t have to stress out about finances.

  8. Great timing Fritz. As I told you in my last comment, I was asked to retire 6 months earlier than I had planned and I now am only 2 1/2 weeks from my Starting Line. As I have been telling friends and family that I’m retiring I always get asked “What are you going to do when you’re retired?” My first response is that I’m not going to make any comments to anyone. I’m going to take the time to figure it out how I’ll put some structure into my new life. I love to work on and restore classic cars, so I’m adding a new addition to my shop and garage, I want to take a welding class at our local JC, and I want to improve my tech skills on the computer. My wife will still be working 3 days a week as a nurse, so I’m planning to keep things picked up around the house and yard on days she’s working so that on her days off we can start doing 1&2 day trips seeing sights we’ve never had time to visit before. Thankfully we are financially secure and have our buckets in place, so we are free to enjoy this new phase of life. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog and look forward to it every week. And I have finished reading your book and am rereading certain parts of it for the second time now. Keep up the good work!

  9. Great article Fritz. After being forced into retirement about 18 yeas ago I took a series of part-time jobs as I realized that no local firm was going to pay a 58 YO manager the kind of money that i knew I was worth. I reevaluated my financial situation and realized that I was in pretty good shape for a long run @ being retired. I had a few pension checks coming in a few years, i waited until age 70 to raid my Social security account, but before that I jumped on my spouses SS account as a spouse and took the cash that it gave me for 4 years. We now reside at a CCRC and have all of our short-term and long-term needs met @ age 75. Activities and sports galore. As a bonus, we have been well protected from the COVID-19 bug. No one in this 600 resident facility has been infected yet.

  10. I wanted to retire at 55. It happened unexpectedly 2-1/2 years earlier. I want to learn: 1. How to sew 2. Basic woodworking 3. More about auditing grant funding so I can pursue a consulting side gig a few days a month

  11. Thank you for the forward and thought provoking topic. I think I will finally be able to get to those long awaiting projects-scrapbooking the treasured pictures of our family, birdwatching, and travel. Some things will wait until I get there in 5 years or so, others we will do as opportunity presents. Seize the day and hope for the future. In everything we get to experience, time with our family and friends are the eternal treasures.

  12. Excellent write up

    I recently handed my notice of retirement in. Last day Sept. 30. My 3 goals.

    * gonna learn acoustic guitar (just started lessons and then corona hit)
    * get back to fishing
    * learn to relax.

  13. Ageism is like a dirty secret and over half (56%) of us will lose our career job. The worst part, only one in ten will find another job with similar pay. Sad state of affairs and I suspect the pandemic will only worsen this trend.

    Forced retirement happened to me (just prior to my 53rd birthday) after 25 years with the same company. That was one of the lowest points in my life and I can sure relate to your story about Joe.

    Great advice Fritz about changing mindset and focusing on what 3 things are you going to try.

    For myself, that summer I completely renovated my kitchen, even building my own cabinets. The following year I decided to learn the guitar, that’s a whole lot more difficult than I ever imagined. Last year, my wife and I started a blog and are happier and busier than ever!

    1. Shannon, it really is a shocking reality that the majority of people are forced to retire before they planned, and widely under-reported. You’re a great example of someone who came through one of the “lowest points in your life” and have discovered new purpose in retirement. And, I’m with the Groovies, I’d love to see a picture of those cabinets!

      1. Thank you Fritz and Mr. Groovy for your kind words. Great idea! I never really thought about sharing photos of my kitchen renovation. Something I’m quite proud of and thinking I’ll do a post on “Coping with Forced Retirement – My DIY Kitchen Project”.

        Having your career abruptly end can be traumatic. For me, taking the summer off and undertaking this project was likely the best thing possible. It gave me the opportunity to think through my options. Instead of rushing out to get another job, what did I want to be when I grew up? 🙂

  14. Thanks SO much for this article! It came at just the right time. I’m 65 and will be retiring next June after 44 years of teaching. For the last 34 years I have ben at a small Christian school that I absolutely love. I’ve had mixed feelings, alternating between excitement and grief. Now, because of dwindling enrollment due to the corona virus, there is a very real chance that the school may close– so now there’s anger thrown into the mix at the thought of being robbed of my last year of teaching. A positive mindset is a real struggle right now.

    1. Tim, glad to hear my post was timely for you. Thanks for serving for 3+ decades in Christian education, I was on the board of a Christian elementary school when our daughter attended, have always been a big fan. Unfortunately, yours is not the only one struggling.

      Challenging times, and outside our control for the most part. It’s time to focus on what we can control, and having a positive mindset is a challenge I suspect you’re going to tackle. Good luck with the transition, congratulations on crossing The Starting Line next month!

  15. Really great article as always Fritz. I’ve been following you for about a year as I begin to consider retirement in the first quarter of next year unless my company decides to ask me to go early. That would not hurt my feelings at this point. Your articles are encouraging and keep me from being focused on the negative. I constantly remind myself when I start to go the wrong way and get myself thinking on all the possibilities. The best news is I have planned well financially I just want to keep myself healthy where I can truly enjoy it!

    1. “Your articles are encouraging and keep me from being focused on the negative.”

      I could ask for no greater compliment. Good luck as you approach The Starting Line next year, glad to hear you’re prepared financially, now it’s time to focus on the “softer” stuff. You’ll love having more time for physical fitness, it’s a major element in my retirement. With that, I’m heading out now for our morning 1.5 mile walk with the dogs! Thanks for being a regular reader for the past year, happy to have you on board!

  16. Thanks Fritz for you wonderful articles, preparing for retirement is probably one of the scariest decisions a person has to make, even more scarier than getting married! I am about a year and a half out from leaving my “structured” work life behind and reading your articles helps ease some of the anxiety of making that transition. Although Covid 19 has caused many disruptions it has caused me to ponder my future in a new way. One of the 3 things that I want to try in retirement is to learn to play the violin. So I thought why wait for retirement, so I purchased a violin and have started online lessons! Thanks again for all of your insight, I’ m glad that you decided to pursue your writing, you are helping so many of us!

    1. Jean, no arguments about retirement being a scary decision, pleased to hear “reading your articles helps ease some of the anxiety”. Kudos on buying that violin, I’m loving that initiative of buying it before you reach retirement. As you know, I started this blog 3 years before I retired and am pleased with how it’s turned out. Hoping the same for you and that violin! Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Fritz,
    Another great column which generates reflection. I worked for a large corporation for 28 years in entertainment and had survived a number of downsizings. My role was in upper middle management. Finally my number was called 10 years ago when I was only 56! I knew age discrimination and a contracting industry would make it near impossible to find a suitable new role in my former industry. Fortunately, I had always saved the maximum amount every year in my 401k with a generous corporate match. My company also offered a pension however “froze it” for back in 2007. Although I never had a “portfolio number” so I could retire, I always Knew to save as much as possible. That has benefitted my family greatly as our lifestyle today is even more Robust then when I worked. Bottom line to anyone gainfully employed—. Live below your means and SAVE as much as you can while working as you can never predict what the future will bring!

    1. I love the “reflection” statement, could ask for nothing more from my writing. Thinking is good, right!? Great advice for living below your means, the reality is most people will retire earlier than they thought and it’s definitely preferred to be ready when your number is called. Glad to hear you’re living a robust life in retirement, thanks for stopping by!

  18. 1. Go to Japan for a month.
    2. Take the adults in my immediate family to an all-expense-paid getaway to Kiawah Island in South Carolina (10 total adults including me and Mrs. Groovy).
    3. Write another post that makes the SJW wing of FI community lose its mind.

    These are three things I want to do in retirement right now.

      1. HAHAHAHA! Best. Comment. Ever.

        (Hey Mr. G, you can take my wife to Disney, she LOVES that place! Me…not so much. I’ll hang back with Mrs. G. And, another post to rile up the rebellious? Won’t you ever learn, my friend? Smiles).

  19. Great article Dave. We are retiring in 2 years and have been planning our next chapter in life. In fact, I just read your book Yesterday and really enjoyed it. After I learned about the FIRE movement from a young co-worker last year, I reviewed our savings and spending plan and discovered I had already saved enough to retire and live our travel dreams. We are thinking about living in Portugal for a couple of years. Not only is it not a fantastic place to live, but health care is also 10x cheaper than the USA. Saving $20k a year on health care buys a lot of other opportunities 🙂
    We could move back to the USA when we are eligible for Medicare. It’s crazy how Americans are being shaken down with the highest health care costs in the World.
    My other interests outside of my Engineering career are:
    1) Learning guitar well enough for those gatherings around the campfire
    2) Woodworking (currently, making a wood strip kayak)
    3) Landscape/Nature/Travel Photography (My photography website: )
    4) Learn a foreign language. Possibly Portuguese but I hear Spanish is easier. Maybe I should go to Panama 🙂

    1. Thanks for the compliments on the article, tho I’m not sure who Dave is. Wink.

      Glad you enjoyed the book, sounds like you’re at a great stage in your journey to begin focusing on the softer side. I love the idea of living in Portugal for a while, keep me posted as things develop! As for #2 on your list, keep an eye out for next week’s post, I suspect you’ll enjoy it….hint.

      1. Keeping an open mind about Portugal. The cost of living is certainly lower there and a great place to explore the rest of Europe from. The key will be finding the right community to enjoy Portugal with. There is a large British ex-pat presence there that could be a lot of fun. I will keep you updated. Looking forward to your woodworking article. I’ve been a woodworker for decades. Built a 600 sq foot woodworking shop and being in Vermont, awesome inexpensive rough hardwoods are just down the road 🙂

  20. Day 4 early retirement here. Just turned 60, so I’m still counting it early. My friends are betting that it is another sabbatical. If so, then this will be number 6. So I’ve had a little practice. Impossible to keep the list of only 3 new things. I have no problem with keeping busy. Three things that come top of mind are:
    1) Younger Next Year. Exercise is at top of list with goal of playing in national over 60 tennis tourney among other activities (Ski 50 days this winter, really learn to play golf, hike, bike, … )
    2) Guitar. Learn 10 new songs so I’ll have a legit play list around the campfire.
    3) Airstream. Spend 10 weeks traveling in addition to trips to our Colorado mountain cabin.
    4) Bonus. Learn. I’ve got a TinyML book on my desk to work through. Machine learning on IoT devices. Just to keep the mind working. Also take a welding class at local community college. A shift to vocational skills.

    So less about new stuff and more about time spent on the things I really like to do.

  21. I’m soooo excited!!! Got your book in the mail today just in time for our 3.5 week RV trip to Yellowstone (from Fl). Im hoping it helps ease my anxieties. I was supposed to have retired officially yesterday….but I chickened out. Keep coming up with excuses…first because I have ICU nurse exp. and I thought I would be needed during the pandemic. Then because stock market was down…now I’m thinking maybe a little more in my cash emergency fund. Even though my numbers are fine. Truth is I’m scared both about obsessing about money and finding purpose. Mostly the money. What if I didnt estimate the expenses correctly? How did u track that for a entire year??
    PS. I even have the blessing of Josh Scanlen!

  22. I love this quote to keep looking forward. The same day I told my boss that I was quitting to pursue a different career, my husband got laid-off. That wasn’t the plan. But, we had saved up some freedom fund and took this as a sign from the universe to pivot and try new things. We went on to travel the world for a year, like we’ve always wanted to, before figuring out the next career move. One should always be prepared to take a temporary retirement, whether FI or not!

  23. I forced myself to retire years earlier than I had planned. And it’s been great! I didn’t add three new things, I already had more than enough things going, running, tennis, fishing, off roading, travel, hiking, bushwhacking, skiing, volunteering at the local college and a charity foundation, light paid consulting for four different client groups, advisory volunteer work for my state university, church work and
    road trips with friends. I guess pickleball is the only really new thing I’ve added, plus more home and vehicle repairs. Work was fun but retirement is more fun!

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