I’ve now been retired for one month. I’m still getting accustomed to my new routine. To some extent, I’ve allowed myself to be unstructured and undisciplined for the sake of decompressing and enjoying my new-found freedom.
On the one hand, I know that I’m not getting as much done as I should, considering the list of things I have committed myself to and have been looking forward to doing once I retired.
On the other hand, I need to remember that one of the greatest joys of retirement is you have more freedom with your time and it’s okay to be unproductive some of the time, and just enjoy life. The “shoulds” shouldn’t matter as much.
On numerous occasions when I have seen my friends over the past month, they have asked, “How’s retirement?” My standard answer is, “Great!” And I mean it! I’m not riding a wave of post-work euphoria. My days are remarkably down-to-earth, but I’m enjoying them.
At various points in my conversations with others about retiring, I’ve talked to some people who are unsure what retirement will be like, and they’re uncertain about whether or not they will really enjoy not working. It’s safe to say that many people aren’t entirely sure what to expect.
So the other day, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things that I am enjoying about being retired. And to be fair, there are a few things that are not so great, and I’ll share those too.
I offer this article with the hope that those of you who aren’t retired yet will envision retirement a little more positively and with greater anticipation, and prepare accordingly. Some items on this list will be experienced by most retirees, while some items are more specific to my circumstances. In other words, your mileage may vary.
- You can get up whenever you want. You don’t have to set an alarm clock.
Jeff and I disagree on this one a little bit. He still wants to set an alarm. Plus, we have the doggie alarm clock; Missy won’t let us sleep in too late without letting us know that it’s time for breakfast. And while I really don’t want to sleep too much of the day away, I cherish not having the alarm go off.
- You can go to bed whenever you want. You don’t have to worry about getting up early for work in the morning.
I am a night owl. I gain momentum as the day moves along. Sometimes I am most productive late at night.
- You don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic.
- You can wear whatever you want.
At my last job, we had a very casual dress code, but I still tended to wear nice polo shirts and long pants most of the time. For people who have to wear uniforms or suits, this would be an even bigger benefit.I’ve read that it’s not a good idea to hang around the house all day in your pajamas or sweatpants.I get that, and I do in fact put on actual clothes and shoes, by my daily apparel choices are now trending more in the directions of T-shirts.
- You can set your own agenda every day.
To a great extent, I can do what I want, when I want to do it.
- You have much greater flexibility when setting up appointments.
It’s much easier to get in to see the doctor or dentist. I don’t have to check my work calendar for when I can get away from work.
- It’s easier to be spontaneous.
- You have more time to spend with friends.
Of course, many of my friends are still working, so we’re still limited to evenings and weekends. But I can get my other things done during the day, so my evenings and weekends are even freer.
- You have more time for creative pursuits.
This has been one of the biggest benefits for me so far. I’ve joined another jazz ensemble that rehearses during the day (the other members are either college students or retirees) and a jazz combo. I have more time to practice my trombone. I have more time for writing, although I still need to be more disciplined about writing at least a little bit every day.
- You have more time for exercise and physical activity.
I can now go hiking and biking on weekdays, when the crowds are lighter.
- You can spend more time outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather.
There were many, many days at work when I would see the beautiful window outside my window, or experience it briefly if I went out to lunch. I always thought it was a shame to be cooped up inside on such a beautiful day.One of my greatest pleasures is sitting outside on my back porch in a hanging canvas chair (an “air chair”), with music playing softly, a book or magazine to read, and usually a cocktail by my side. For my writing, I’m going to start taking my laptop out to a table on our back porch. In Phoenix, most days during the fall, winter, and spring are delightful.
- You have more time to spend with your spouse.
This does present a few challenges, but mostly this is a very good thing.
- It’s okay to do nothing or be non-productive.
…at least some of the time. Like many other things, wasting time should be enjoyed in moderation.
- You no longer have to deal with performance reviews or status reports.
Same goes for re-orgs, shifting organizational priorities, fear of layoffs, etc.
- You no longer have to count and budget vacation days or other time off.
If we want to go somewhere, we can.
- You no longer have to deal with annoying people at work.
There weren’t very many, honestly – most of my co-workers were very nice people that I enjoyed working with. I think the greater point here is that I have a lot more choice about who I spend time with.
- No more boring meetings.
- No more business trips.
Granted, I have been on some very enjoyable business trips to places I probably would never have seen otherwise, especially in Asia. And it’s nice to travel and dine on someone else’s dime. But there have also been plenty of trips to places I had no interest in visiting, airport hassles, and times when I’ve had to forego other plans because I had to be away on business.
- No more being on call!
This is one of the greatest benefits. Your evenings and weekends are never totally yours when you’re on call. You can’t stray too far from home and you have to be willing to stop whatever you’re doing when you get called. You get called in the middle of the night. It limits what you can do.
- You don’t have to work through lunch hour, and you won't have to work evenings and weekends.
I worked through lunch, or ate lunch in my cubicle while I worked, a lot more than I would have liked.
- You can look at whatever you want on the internet, at any time.
My former workplace allowed “reasonable personal use” during work hours (which is very subjective), and I know a lot of people check Facebook, eBay, CNN, stock prices, and countless other web sites at work. But still, you don’t want your boss or your colleagues to see you surfing for personal purposes very often. Worse, you know that your IT department has logs that can reveal what web sites you visited, how often, and for how long.
- You can do new things, and more of them.
During my working career, if I decided to join a new group or start a new activity, that often came at the expense of giving something else up, because evening and weekend time is more finite.
- You are more relaxed.
Many of my friends that I’ve met over the past month have commented that I look happier and more relaxed. I’ve usually been able to keep stress pretty well under control (or so I thought), but apparently the fact that I’m more relaxed is obvious to others.
- You have more time to listen to music.
I have a huge music collection that I’ve amassed over the course of many years. One of the projects I plan to undertake this year is to thin the collection down a little bit and sell some CDs I’ll probably never listen to again. I also want to load a lot of my music into a computer we have set up to be a music jukebox and then create playlists. This can easily eat up hours, happily.
- You have more time to read and learn.
As I mentioned in #11 above, this goes along with having more time to sit out on my back porch and enjoy the lovely weather. I’m usually sitting out there with a book or magazine I want to read. I’m reading more blogs and interesting articles on the internet, as well.
- You can get up whenever you want. You don’t have to set an alarm clock.
As I mentioned above, it’s not all a walk in the park. (Although it’s now easier to take a walk in the park!) There are several downsides to being retired.
- We have to be more frugal and spend more judiciously.
This is the single biggest adjustment. We aren’t poor by any means, and if money was that tight, I shouldn’t have stopped working. But we have to be much more careful when we visit Costco or those web sites that sell things we like. We are eating out less, and choosing less expensive restaurants in which to eat. This occasionally presents a challenge when we’re getting together with friends who are still earning a higher working income and they want to go out to more expensive places.In a way, this is a good thing. Honestly, we probably spent money a little more freely than we should have while we were working and we bought some things we didn’t really need.
- I don’t encounter as many people during the day as I used to.
I do get out of the house. I go to my jazz ensemble rehearsals and Toastmasters meetings, and we get together with friends. But I do sort of miss having more people around in my working environment. This hasn’t been a big issue, but it could be if I didn’t stay engaged in activities.
- I don’t have the easy opportunities to present workshops and teach classes that I had at work.
I really miss this one. One of the key elements of my “renaissance” (as we are choosing to call our retirements) is that I want to do public speaking and offer workshops (such as my “Retire Fabulously!” workshop and my “Presenting for Excellence” workshop), but I have to work a lot harder to find opportunities and audiences. At my job, I could volunteer to teach classes and set up brown-bag lunches easily.
- I can’t view the calendars of my work friends.
I still want to meet a few of my work friends for lunch, but now it takes a little bit more coordination because I can’t easily see when they are available.
- No more free soda!
This was one of the nicest benefits offered by my last employer. I drink a lot of diet soda. For the past several years, I could just stroll down to the cafeteria (which was a nice walking break as well) and refill my mug. Now, I’ve been thrust back into reality, where I actually have to buy my soda!Yes, I know I shouldn’t drink as much soda (or any, some would say). I’ve heard of this beverage called “water” that some people talk about, but it just sounds too medicinal.
As you can see, life has changed in a myriad of small and large ways. Still, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
I hope this article has given you something to look forward to, and that it helps you to visualize the benefits, opportunities, and freedom that will be yours when you have more control over your life and your time.
©2014 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: istolethetv. Some rights reserved.