Retiring on My Terms

Richard Quinn

I OFTEN READ ABOUT the difficulties people face after retiring—difficulties that have nothing to do with money. Loss of identity, depression and boredom are all mentioned. It takes serious planning beyond finances to retire, we’re told.

As an employee, I was a type-A personality. I worked seven days a week, in and out of the office. I worked on vacations. My job required me to work with the organization’s most senior executives.

If there was anyone set for a fall upon retiring, it should have been me. I had little social life beyond family, and few friends not related to work. Most of my work “friends” quickly disappeared once I retired. I never thought about retirement planning beyond finances—despite conducting hundreds of classes telling other employees to do exactly that.

Why haven’t I had a problem with retirement? I believe it’s because I waited until I knew it was time. My work situation was changing and I was ready to move on. I retired at age 67 on my own terms.

What were my terms? To begin with, I started a phased retirement the year before, when I began collecting my pension. During that final year, I worked no more than 20 hours a week, and I gradually found it harder to go to the office.

When I retired, my wife made it clear she was continuing all her activities that didn’t involve me. No problem. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. A day with nothing to do isn’t unwelcome to me.

The first thing we did after retiring was take a three-week river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. I wouldn’t do that trip again. But it motivated me to travel as much as possible. While traveling, we’ve made some lasting friendships in Europe.

We’ve been to 45 countries, on several cruises and completed our goal of visiting all 50 states. We travel to our vacation home throughout the year, and also spend part of each winter in Florida. None of this would have been financially possible if I’d set a goal to retire in my 50s or even early 60s. There are tradeoffs.

Communications were a big part of my job. I’m the same person before and after retirement. Why would it be otherwise? Shortly after retiring, I started a website and then a blog, so I’d have a place to rant. That blog still keeps me busy for a few hours a day.

To some readers’ regret, back in 2018, I discovered HumbleDollar. Reading, writing and commenting here takes time each day. I enjoy the back and forth. I’m certainly not bored.

Routine activities take time as well. Food shopping, cooking and assorted errands aren’t depressing to me. Of course, with 11 grandchildren all living within an hour’s drive, there’s plenty of family time, activities to attend, sporting events, birthdays and such.

Five years ago, we moved to a 55-plus condo community, which in reality is more like 70-plus. We have new friends here, plus lots of activities if we want to engage in them. I play golf twice a week in the season. My wife still does her thing, as she has since I retired in 2010.

Perhaps the key to my happy retirement was not planning what I’d do in retirement, and not creating expectations that required effort to meet them. There were no expectations to take up fly fishing or volunteering in the local thrift shop.

I say go with the flow. Don’t try to plan your way to contentment. Just grab every opportunity that makes you happy.

One remnant of my working years remains: I still wake up by 5:30 a.m. each day and look forward to continuing to do so—even with the occasional afternoon nap.

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

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