Some questions for retired Dopers

By “retired” I mean you no longer work at a regular x-day, x-hours/day job, most likely outside of your home. Also, if you’re at or near the traditional “retirement age,” I’m assuming you don’t have little kids at home to occupy your time and create work for you (although more and more people my age are raising their grandchildren…). Your spouse/SO (if you have one) may still work at a regular job or maybe not. If these assumptions do not apply to you, feel free to clarify. If you went from working 40+ hours/week to working 5-10 hours per week, include that.

I’m wondering about some things.

Was it hard to adjust your physical/mental rhythms to NOT getting up and going to work every day?

How do you structure your days now–strictly or loosely? Discuss.

Have you increased your exercise/activity? Do you volunteer somewhere regularly?

How has retirement exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?

Has retirement opened new vistas of self-discovery and adventure… or do you find yourself still in your pajamas binge-watching House Hunters at 3:00 in the afternoon?

If you live with someone, how has retirement affected your relationship?

You know…stuff like that.

I’m retiring in about 6 weeks, so I’m looking forward to reading the answers. I have a list of 84 things I want to do to start with, so I doubt I’ll be spending too much time watching House Hunters. Spending too much time reading, maybe.

I found it to be a major adjustment. I suddenly had a huge gap in my life where I used to spend time and energy on my job. I found myself throwing myself into other activities to compensate. After a few months of that, I went too far the other way and found that without the structure of working, it was too easy to just let days drift by without doing anything.

That’s the kind of thing I’m wondering about. Can you tell me more about how (if) you resolved this?

I haven’t worked at a full-time regular job for almost 30 years, but I was an intense and fully occupied freelancer up until about a week ago. As a freelancer, I could expect a phone call or email from a client pretty much any time of the day or night, asking if something or other was done, in progress, whatever. I was used to that and made a point of being available. I almost always had some project or other simmering on the back burner while I was tending to urgent deadline-driven daily things. And I often spent Sunday afternoon preparing something to email to someone first thing Monday morning.

It’s very weird (not in a bad way but in a strange, unfamiliar way) to have the phone ring or get a text message and for it NOT to be some anxious question about a work-related matter. Toward the end, I was getting very burned out and felt like I was dragging myself to the finish line, and I definitely don’t miss it, but I do feel kind of in free-fall. My flywheel is still spinning a bit.

I definitely did not and do not have a list of things I couldn’t wait to have time for-- including reading. It’s not so much that all my time was taken up with work, as it was that work impinged on all of my psychic space. Like having tenants in the attic. Even if you didn’t see them for a day or two, you heard them stomping around and they might indeed burst into your place at any moment and need something. Now when I cock my ear toward the attic…there’s just a pleasant, restful silence.

But I haven’t figured out what to do with the space yet.

I was a professional firefighter for 35 years. For 20+ of those years I also worked a part time job as a fire investigator. I retired from both jobs in 2012. It took a bit of getting used to. For the first few months I felt like I was on vacation. After that I got a bit depressed, feeling somewhat like I was no longer useful and had nothing more to contribute, also I missed fire station life and keeping up with what was going on. I like to fish so I bought a house on a lake and completely gutted and remodeled it. That took a year. Now I am quite comfortable in having no schedules, being able to do what I want, when I want. Every night is Friday night and every day is Saturday.

You just did this earlier this month and then told us that you were going back to work, so never mind. Right?

That’s exactly right. That job fell through. After I spent some time putting together the proposal (without all the registered trademark symbols) that client wanted, I sent it to her by email, and got an email back that said, “Whoa, cowgirl! My boss has hired XYZ Consultants.” I’ll admit that no one has ever said “Whoa, cowgirl!” to me for promptly getting to work and producing something in a couple of hours. Generally my speediness is an asset since I charge by the hour.

So apparently this person did not have the authority to hire me like she assumed she did, she doesn’t communicate well with her boss, and her boss undercuts her. So I shook the dust from my sandals. Don’t need to be in that sitch.

You sound a little miffed. I hope you don’t take my decision personally.

<Missed the edit window>

The person who hired me apologized and admitted she “hasn’t found her sea legs” with this boss yet.

Anyhoo…back to the topic.

I retired in August. Kind of had to. Internet, don’t you know. Newspapers dying and all. I knew it was coming faster than I wanted it to. I would have worked a lot longer. BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE STUPIDEST THING I EVER DID. I FUCKING LOVE RETIREMENT. I really do. We took a planned, way longer than normal road-trip. Sure as hell don’t have to be back by Monday. Fuck that shit. When it settled in, I had maybe two or three afternoons where I didn’t feel like I belonged there. But from there, I haven’t looked back. Of course I live in a sixty year old house. Which is like living on a farm. Always more to do than time to do it. Replanting my front lawn to get rid of the turf (So Cal, yes?) I have a list of things I want to do that will keep me busy till Abe Vigoda dies. (Oops. Sorry, good buddy. R.I.P. You were the, best of the best.) Plus, if I don’t feel like doing anything at all any day, I don’t have to. Some people retire and truly don’t know what to do with themselves, but something has to make you happy that doesn’t involve clocking in to work.

 Been retired 3+ years, but it seems like 20. Amazing how perspective changes when your stress level goes WAYYYYYYYYYYY down.
 I still get up at the same time every day(4:00AM) Always was a morning person, and I guess my circadian rhythm just won't recalibrate. I take a 3.5 mile walk every morning(sometimes it's 5 miles, if I'm meeting friends for breakfast out), rain, snow or shine. Was never one for exercise, and I knew if I joined a gym I'd never go. Didn't start this right away, took me about 6 weeks to get bored as shit at home, and I was already gaining weight.
 Structure for any day varies, but it's usually loose. I rarely HAVE got be anywhere at a specific time, the infrequent doctor appt being the exception( I usually ask for the first one in the morning)
 Not exactly volunteer work, but I visit 2 nursing homes a week. A former customer of mine resides in one, and an ex-coworker in another. It gets me out of the house, immersed in social interaction, because I don't limit myself to just the people I know in those facilities. I get a lot of psychic income out of it, I used to do this when my mom was in a nursing home, and then for several years after she passed. We talk a lot, I show what crafts I've been doing, and I take a very nice lady out for the afternoon(lunch, shopping, a nice ride)
 I didn't expect retirement to be gangbusters, that was never my style anyway. I DO appreciate the unlimited time I have. I realize I'm fortunate to be in my position, I know so many that were never able to even get that first pension check(RIP, fellas)
 My relationship with my husband(of40+years) who, this year, will have been retired 20 years, has deepened. I see life from our shared perspective now, and appreciate the extra time we can spend together. We're pretty quiet, homebodies, if you will, but, we always were.
 Words of wisdom? Do all you can to make retirement happen; write down every question you feel you need answered(you cannot keep everything in your head); be realistic; find SOME sort of physical activity; interact with lots of people, to varying degrees, to keep you centered and help you appreciate what you have; be free with smiles, handshakes and hugs; and look at retirement as the time to say YES to new things and situations, as opposed to all the things you told yourself you'd never want/need/had to do again.

I love getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and asking,

“What do you want to do today”.

Just establishing a new equilibrium over time was the main thing. I’ve also been more active in the last couple of years in seeking out social events in order to get out of the house and talk with people.

Sorry that this is a bit longer than I was expecting. I’m going to rearrange the sequence of the inquiries.

(1) “If you live with someone, how has retirement affected your relationship?”

Not applicable.

(2) “Was it hard to adjust your physical/mental rhythms to NOT getting up and going to work every day?”

Not one bit. I think for most working folks getting up for work becomes
ingrained. But for those of us who put the job or career in the number 2
position to family or other aspects of life turning off the alarm clock was
easy. It certainly was for me.

(3) “How do you structure your days now–strictly or loosely? Discuss.”

Many of my peers would say my days are strictly regimented. During the spring and early summer they are because I am a avid gardener and that period of the year dictates attention to my landscaping. From late May to early October, when rain is not probable, I will admit to having a daily (self imposed) “to-do” list. Such chores are typically easy to do in 30 minutes, but there are usually three or four daily items. In winter I usually have one or two “do this when you can’t go outside” things. From November to March each day is mostly “what do I want to do today?”

The previous paragraph doesn’t really answer the question. My official response is “loosely.” If I want to spend half a day reading the history of the Peloponnesian War, I will, no matter the time of year.

(4) “Have you increased your exercise/activity? Do you volunteer somewhere regularly?”

4a. No. Unless you think a daily hour during spring and summer regimen to keep my landscaping under control is exercise. It’s work, but I don’t think of it as exercise.
4b. Yes. I volunteer as a “candy striper” at a local hospital and I assist the local public TV station with the production of their printed broadcast schedule.

I do the hospital gig because there are lots of female nurses around. I’ve never had much success, but I enjoy the sights. (and I DO think I help the facility.) As for the TV thing, my career was in publishing so it’s a way of keeping my finger in the pie.

(5) “How has retirement exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?”

I LOVE not going to work. I had a great job out of college and others beyond it. But I realized early on that there was more to life than working. A lonnnng time ago I heard the phrase “on their deathbed, no one ever says they wished they had spent more time in the office.” I concur. As was mentioned in an earlier post, every day is Saturday. YES!

(6) "Has retirement opened new vistas of self-discovery and adventure… or do you find yourself still in your pajamas binge-watching House Hunters at 3:00 in the afternoon?

Neither. There are certainly days when I just sit around. But I have no need to open new vistas in my life. My bucket list is short and will be accomplished long before I turn 70. As a U.S. Marine once asked me: “You can just skate now, can’t you?” Yep.


My retirement advice? If you enjoy working, KEEP WORKING. If you have a lot of outside interests and can retire: RETIRE.

Don’t apologize. I adore long posts.

I definitely agree with this-- it goes double for me, as I often did my freelance work on the weekend (at least the clients weren’t calling me and bugging me then). Now I get to HAVE Saturday and Sunday.

I LOVE being retired. Finally I get to do what I want, all day, every day. I have taken on some obligations by being the first call for child care for my grandchildren, whom I love spending time with. Unless I have an early appointment of one sort or another, which is rare, I sleep as late as I dam well please, ditto staying up late.

Due to a combination of good luck and a fair amount of planning, we have no financial difficulties; no mortgage, no obligations unless we impose them on ourselves. Life is good.

*Was it hard to adjust your physical/mental rhythms to NOT getting up and going to work every day? *
Not really. I sleep about a half-hour later now that I don’t have to get up and get out. I also take a nap in the afteroon, which is great!

*How do you structure your days now–strictly or loosely? Discuss. *
Loosely. I try to do everything I need to do that day in the morning, keep my afternoons to myself, then make dinner every night.

Have you increased your exercise/activity? Do you volunteer somewhere regularly?
Yes and yes.

How has retirement exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?
The pay sucks. The market dropping has played hell with my IRA.

Has retirement opened new vistas of self-discovery and adventure… or do you find yourself still in your pajamas binge-watching House Hunters at 3:00 in the afternoon?
The best thing about it is, if something grabs my interest I can devote my entire attention to it. I can spend hours on the Internet learning about something. I can drive to Chicago to see my kids in the middle of the week if there’s something important.

*If you live with someone, how has retirement affected your relationship? *
Life is a lot more relaxed. My wife retired a few months before I did, and she had a harder time adjusting than I did (she ended up working part-time for a couple of years.) Nowdays we pretty much stay out of each other’s way during the day. We eat lunch together but otherwise pretty much follow our own schedules.

Nope, just confused. You have that to look forward to in retirement as well.

I’m only a few days into “early retirement” - translation, I financially don’t have to work, and on Friday 1/22 decided I could not longer put up with the nonsense at my day job and walked off. So far it’s been awesome! I plan to do volunteer work or find something part time, but for the meantime I plan to go a lot of household organizing, and doing fun things like knitting, running, working out, going to ballet class, etc. I know I am very blessed to be in a financial position to do this.

I’ve been retired for 15 months now (and I only just recently cleared all of my work clothes out of my closet; they’re still in boxes waiting to be taken to a charity).

I love it. I had no problem not getting up at 6:30; most days I sleep until 8:00. Sometimes I get too much sleep, and it’s hard to sleep through the next night, but I manage to make it work.

As for activities, I am doing three main things that fill that part of my time that needs filling: volunteer work (only about 6 hours a week); fitness (I now go to the gym 5 or 6 times a week, for one to two hours per time); and working around the house, especially gardening in the back (small lot, San Francisco). I’m thinking of taking up photography, although I’m not sure yet, so I’m starting out with a class to see if I have any talent for it. I still have plenty of time for reading, a little TV, and a little computer time.

It took my husband a while to get used to the idea that I wasn’t working, and then to get used to the idea that I was still active, not just vegetating in front of the TV.

I haven’t retired yet but my plan is to reduce my number of working days, one at a time.

I currently work full-time and will likely drop down to a nine-day fortnight, then eight, seven etc until I decide I no longer want to work. I expect to find ways to gradually fill up those extra days off so there won’t be a drastic change.

Well, that’s the plan.