Today, let’s wrap up our rap about retirement. It all started with Andy Woodworth’s lightning rod blog about The Case for Retirement. Then it moved into a discussion about whether or not Retirement is un-American. And finally it morphed into a fascinating conversation about the Meaning of life and how the meaning of life is cataloged , classified, and handled as a reference question.
Today’s fantasy involves your retirement ideal. It’s a fantasy because all week you Unwinders have been groaning about the diminishment of retirement benefits, the disappearance of retiree health insurance (until Medicare), and the incredibly shrinking 401k syndrome. I get that.
I will start with a little narrative about my retirement so you know where I am coming from. My retirement was completely unplanned. I woke up one morning (3 and a half years ago) and decided that I was a burnt out case. I was burned out physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from managing a rather large city (170,000 population) with over 2,700 full time and part time employees for the better part of 7 years. I needed to get out for my own well being and for the good of the organization. That’s why I can relate positively to Andy’s blog post. I knew a younger person would bring more energy, enthusiasm, and technological expertise to the job. My skill set was obsolete and as a manager I was on the downhill slide. So I got out. I had a very nice retirement party at which my management staff gave me a generous gift certificate to Golfsmith and suggested I take up golf. My sense is that they were happy for me and happy for themselves.
I was very, very, very fortunate to be able to retire financially. Again, this was unplanned. Like many Americans, I equated retirement as the last big thing before the coffin. So I avoided thinking about it and always figured I’d die happy with my boots on. But, by lucky chance, I worked for the same city for almost 30 years. As a consequence by the age of 55, I was vested in the state retirement system. By the time I retired I was 58 and began drawing my monthly pension. The irony is that all through those 3 decades of work, I complained about the money that was withheld from my paychecks for the pension fund!
I broke the first rule of retirement (don’t make any drastic decisions for at least a year) almost immediately when I decided to sell our house in Arizona and move to the San Francisco Bay area where our two sons were beginning to have lots of babies all of a sudden.
So…after three and a half years of retirement, how is life? Here are the bullet points:
- I do not miss work, not once!
- I sleep 8 hours uninterrupted every night!
- I feel fortunate to have had the time to go through two surgeries without worrying about sick leave.
- I am a completely renewed person enjoying the search for God in time and memory.
Now is the time for me to teach you what I have learned about retirement:
- If you still love work, don’t retire because it’s too late to get back into the tight job market once you leave it.
- Once you retire, do not keep tabs on your old job. You become a non person there very quickly. Move on; don’t linger. Don’t be a Banquo’s ghost.
- Be bold and get out of your comfort zone…take up the piano, paint landscapes, start a blog, etc.
- Get physical…everyday do something that challenges you athletically – the fitness center, the golf course, the hiking trail all beckon.
- Kill your television.
- Read books you never thought about reading.
- Serve others…take care of the grandkids, work in a soup kitchen, volunteer at the hospital.
- Chase the holy grail. What’s the meaning of life? Dude, time is running out.
- Plan and pay for your death. Dealing with the big D head on will surprisingly put your life into a very interesting context and will relieve your heirs of a lot of hassles down the road.
- Follow your bliss…travel, hobbies, entertaining, family. You know what your bliss is. Go for it without guilt. This is your time … finally.
- Take naps. You deserve it.
Now, Unwinders, your fantasy today is to plan your ideal retirement. This should be fun. How do you envision your ideal walk over the hill and into the sunset?