More Than Money

Dennis Friedman

WHEN I DECIDED TO retire, I kept asking myself, “Do I have enough money?” If I’m lucky enough to live a long life, my savings might have to last 35 years.

My coworkers, however, had a different question. “Hey Dennis, what are you going to do with all your free time?” I was asked that question so many times it became annoying. I soon realized they had doubts about how they would stay busy during retirement. They were looking for an answer for themselves.

I have been retired for nine years and I now know how important that question is. Have you ever heard the saying, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop”? That’s what happened to me the other day.

My doctors asked me to come back for a colonoscopy sooner than I was expecting. Previously, they hadn’t found anything alarming and they said there wasn’t anything to worry about. Still, I had a lot of free time and I made it into something bigger than it was. If I had been working, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. It’s important for me not to have too much free time.

In truth, I have a fairly busy schedule. I’m the primary caregiver for my mother, who will turn 95 this year. Taking her to doctor’s appointments, cooking, laundry, shopping and yardwork is like having another job.

When I’m not taking care of my mother, I have a very close friend I spend time with. Recently, I read an article about married couples living longer than those who are single. That doesn’t surprise me.

The other night, I was helping my mother to bed and she said, “I never worried about anything when your father was alive.” I can’t tell you how many times she’s said, “All my old friends have passed away. I don’t have many friends anymore.”

I’m not saying you should run out and get married. But it might be a good idea to have a close friend who can help you get through the rough times. When you retire, it’s important to have a plan that’s about more than money. I find having a daily schedule that keeps me active is as valuable as my investments. As I get older, I realize that friends are like gold.

Dennis Friedman retired at age 58 from Boeing Aerospace Company. He enjoys reading and writing about personal finance. His previous articles were Leap of Faith and Lessons Learned.

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