Friday, August 1, 2014

What is retirement REALLY like?

It's a question Mike and I get asked again and again.  Among most of our friends, we are the first to retire.  And sometimes it feels like they are observing us, seeing how we are REALLY doing in retirement.  In other words, are we happy?

Recently I read an interesting article by Rodney Brooks in USA TODAY on his interview with author-radio show host Wes Moss. Wes recently surveyed 1300 people in 46 states about retirement.  He was looking for the happiest retirees and their financial state.  He then wrote a book: "You can retire sooner than you think: the 5 money secrets of the happiest retirees".

In the USA TODAY article he gave his top 3 pieces of advice for happiness in retirement:

1. Pay off your mortgage.  "Happy retirees are four times more likely to have their mortgage paid off in five years or less".

2.  Level of income is important. Happy retirees have at least three sources of income in retirement.  These might include Social Security, a pension, part time work, rental income and investment income.  They have diversification in their income.

3. "Busier retirees are happier".  "Happy retirees have 3.6 core hobbies, unhappy have less than two".

He went on to say that people thinking about retirement should get hobbies so they don't arrive at retirement trying to figure out what to do next.  People who are happy in retirement wanted to stop working so they could have more time for their hobbies and interests.

In my own retirement, my best days are when I have several hobbies or activities to choose from.  I might write a blog entry, work on a new denim table clot, or move some flowers in my garden.  I might paint some cast iron chairs I bought at a garage sale.  I might want to finish that new book I just started or work on a new piece of jewelry.  And then there's biking and walking, which I should do more often.

At a party last weekend everyone seemed to be talking about when they could retire.   Seems like most were counting down the days before they were free of the work scene.  But what were they planning to do in retirement?

As I looked around at people attending the party, there were a few people who were involved with  hobbies today such as photography or woodworking.  Others had ideas of what they wanted to do in retirement, but they weren't really doing that activity today.  And some didn't have a plan for retirement; they just wanted out of the work scene.

Before I retired, I didn't really know what I would do with my time.  I thought I might work some, but I have not pursued a job.  I expected to volunteer, but I haven't started that yet.  I planned to write a book, and I've actually made some progress on that.

Jewelry making
But I also had hobbies before my retirement, and I am actively pursuing them in retirement: photography, jewelry-making, sewing, gardening, playing guitar, live music, biking, walking and cooking.  And of course, writing a blog.  And by having so many diverse interests, I don't often get bored.  In fact, most days I wished I had more time.

I agree with Wes Moss that you need to get your financial house in order for retirement.  But the area that's often overlooked in retirement planning is developing hobbies while you are working.  Retiring and having an additional 40-50 hours available in your week can be daunting if you don't know what to do with the time.

So if you are sitting at your desk at work dreaming of retirement (or if you already retired), start thinking about your current hobbies. Do you have any that you are excited about?  Don't be afraid of failure.  If something doesn't work out, drop it and try something new.


When I was younger I tried golf for several years, and it wasn't my thing.  I also tried skiing, and though I enjoyed the bunny hills of Iowa, skiing once at Winter Park in Colorado scared me to death. So I gave up skiing...At least I can say I've had the experience.

So what's retirement REALLY like?  It's a great place to be, most days anyway....  I think it's different for each person, and it changes over time.  I may be doing something totally different next year, and that's OK.  


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