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Ready to Retire

Richard Quinn

IF THERE WAS ANYONE who should have been emotionally unprepared to retire, it was me. In the years immediately before, I was at the top of my career. I’d been promoted to vice president. I had virtual total control over my job. I was recognized by nearly every employee because of my extensive employee benefits communications and the fact that I’d negotiated benefits for decades. I was among the few who routinely met with the company’s chairman. In short, I enjoyed my job, typically working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But when the chairman retired, the overall corporate environment changed. I knew it was time to go. A good pension, 401(k) and Social Security took care of financial security.

The thing is, I never gave a moment’s thought to what I’d do with my time after I retired. That was a bit ironic, given that I conducted retirement planning sessions for employees and admonished them to think about their life after work.

Surveys show that nearly a quarter of retirees don’t like their life in retirement because they feel isolated and a loss of direction. Thinking about what you’ll do with your time in retirement is important. But I suspect people who end up unhappy aren’t inclined to plan.

Some of the things that keep retirees busy and engaged cost money, but others are free or low cost. Chances are you aren’t going to start doing things you didn’t do before retirement or didn’t have any interest in.

If you’ve never fished, you probably won’t be booking a fishing trip to Alaska. If, as in my case, you aren’t the do-it-yourself type, renovating the bathroom won’t be a good retirement project. On the other hand, I know retirees who greatly enjoy long-term hobbies, even starting money-making ventures.

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Have you ever visited a McDonald’s or a coffee shop in the morning and noticed a group of older folks chatting? For some, that simple daily routine is enjoyable and allows them to stay connected. Volunteering is another opportunity enjoyed by many retirees. It fills their days, and provides a sense of self-worth and recognition. Former President Jimmy Carter, who is often seen helping others, is an excellent role model for retirees. There are even volunteering vacations.

Others move to places like The Villages in Florida, where they find endless activities—and people. If you’ve never been a joiner or tend toward introvert, you probably won’t change upon retirement. Your activities in retirement may be affected by your relocation plans. Starting over can create opportunities for new friends and activities, but also challenges. After all, you are starting over.

Great expectations may not work out. I know a retiree who spent $100,000 on a grand RV, planning to see the country. But the cost of operating the RV and the difficulty of driving it soon led to its sale.

I took up drawing again after ignoring it for 50 years. I even took a few lessons. While working, I enjoyed preparing employee benefit communications. I was able to transfer that interest to my own blog and later to HumbleDollar. I also joined several Facebook groups for employees and retirees of my former employer. It’s more than a decade since I retired, but I’m still asked questions.

I started playing golf at age 57, but—other than employer-sponsored outings—I didn’t play much. When I retired, I lost contact with former associates who played. But after moving to our condo, I made new friends. We have a group that plays twice a week. Travel also keeps me busy, as do our grandchildren, especially on weekends.

The days are filled or, if I choose, they aren’t. I may “waste” time some mornings watching Hazel or Dennis the Menace—shows that brings back memories. I don’t think a detailed plan for retired life is necessary, though it’s still something worth thinking about in advance. For me, it all worked out, and I suspect that’s the case for most retirees.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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DrLefty
DrLefty
10 months ago

We turn 62 this year and are in kind of a slow on-ramp toward retirement. We’re thinking either 65 or 66, health permitting. Financially, we’re fine. I’ve already started filling up my time with non-work activities and relationships in anticipation of a time when work won’t be my be-all and end-all.

The thing we get stuck on is whether or not we’ll relocate. We’ve lived in our California college town for over 30 years, and in many ways, it’s an ideal place to retire. The condo we live in is less than three years old, and while not in an over-55 community, there are many retirees and empty-nesters like us, and the unit itself is well-suited for aging in place.

But we’ve always yearned for a more coastal climate and muse about moving closer to the beach. The decision will likely come down to how connected we’re feeling in our current situation (neighbors, church, etc.) and if we want to start over relationally when we retire. Neither of our adult daughters has a family yet, so moving closer to grandchildren isn’t a consideration at this point, though that could change in 4-5 years.

Anyway, it’s funny to me that we can be this close to retirement and still feel a little hazy about such a big question—where we’re going to live. We’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago
Reply to  DrLefty

Don’t feel bad, it took us until eight years after I retired to figure it out. In the end we wanted to stay near our community but didn’t want to maintain or deal with a three story house.

We moved seven tenths of a mile into the next town in a 55+’community in a condo with nearly the same sf as our house – and we are within an hour of our four children and 13 grandchildren.

Don’t rush to change.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
10 months ago

A question every prospective retiree needs to answer is “what do I do after breakfast?”

I retired at age 66 and had a good plan for my retirement. The first 2 years I was extremely busy taking care of my elderly mother and doing volunteer consulting. My mother passed away and my volunteer gig changed due to new management. I had to regroup. Nine years later I am still pretty busy with volunteer work, serve on the boards of 2 non profits, and personal interests.

So, even though you know what you will do after breakfast, be prepared to adjust to the inevitable changes life throws at us.

Jo Bo
Jo Bo
10 months ago

Thanks for these thoughtful reflections, Richard. For me, they couldn’t be more timely. In one month, I’ll be retired. I began a phased retirement four years ago and am quite ready for the real thing.

Retiring in stages has been terrific from a financial perspective — learning to manage retirement cashflow and the feeling of withdrawing savings — and less so from a work perspective (half time is never really half time in higher ed, especially during a pandemic!). It’s also given me lots of time to think about what I am retiring to.

Living far from any neighborhood McDonald’s, I nonetheless look forward to sharing a bit of online community here each morning over a cup of coffee!

Ormode
Ormode
10 months ago

If you move to a large over-55 community, you can always become a politician. You get to attend long budget meetings, huddle with attorneys, receive ridiculous complaints in your email every day, and be in the middle of every dispute. This gets really exciting when costs rise sharply and fees have to be increased – how much are pool chemicals this year?

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago
Reply to  Ormode

I guess it can be like that, but my 3-1/2 years experience in a 55+ community is not like that.

Anyone who volunteers for the HOA board will no doubt face those issues, but not a requirement.

Defining large matters too. We have 108 units in nine three story buildings spread over many acres. There are monthly board meetings to attend or not. HOA fees have not increased in three years.

There seems to be consensus that investing in ongoing maintenance and landscaping helps keep up property values.

i suspect the community you choose makes a big difference. I know friends in a much larger community who complain they can’t go the their pool because it’s always packed.

Ormode
Ormode
10 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Here in Connecticut, we have 929 units in about 400 buildings, plus two clubhouses, three pools, ten miles of roads, and ten miles of water mains and storm sewers. We have 30 employees. Wages have gone up, we have 22 roads that need paving, water mains are always breaking, and we have many eccentric characters who like to show up at meetings.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago
Reply to  Ormode

That’s big, too big for me. We pay a property management company, which includes two full-time on-site employees. Our HOA fees are $770 a month.

Jonathan Clements
Admin
Jonathan Clements
10 months ago
Reply to  Ormode

I’m now convinced that I should never move to an over-55 community!

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

Just pick the right one. I visited the Villages once and couldn’t get out fast enough. We have friends who live in once similar to described by Ormode, not good.

David Sayler
David Sayler
10 months ago

I thought that I’d be ready. But then I retired in the midst of the pandemic, and many of the things I’d planned on were no longer available. Like you, I found things to do to give my time some structure. There is no need to overthink retirement.

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