“Funnest” Weekend For This Retiree

You talk about a Lemonade Retirement! The extended weekend we just completed will go down as the “funnest” I will have in 2017 for sure. This is the kind of weekend you can only have if you are retired and not working.

On Friday for lunch, Suzanna and I met with our Baltimore-St.Lucia friends. Since ’94 we have been traveling each year to St. Lucia with two of our very best friends, the Stoners. Eleven years ago while in St. Lucia we met two other couples who are also from Baltimore. All four of the guys graduated from the University of Maryland around the same time (a long time ago). We had never gotten together as four couples in Baltimore in all that time, so we decided to finally meet for lunch and see what we all look like “with clothes on.” This was an overdue idea and a lot of fun.

For the rest of Friday, and about half of Saturday I was able to prepare for my rotisserie draft, which took place on Sunday. If you don’t know what that is, I won’t bore you. But I believe it is great fun and I’ve been doing it for over thirty years. It revolves around and coincides with the Major League baseball season, so it lasts for six months. Being able to study and prepare for 25-30 hours will hopefully increase my level of play and enjoyment for the next six months! How fortunate to have the time.

Obviously I enjoy sports, and this weekend we had the Final Four beginning with the two Semi-Final games on Saturday evening. After squeezing in church at five pm and a bit to eat, Suzanna and I settled in for two great games. All four teams truly did themselves proud, exhibited their amazing talent, and played great basketball.

Then on Sunday twelve teams assembled at a nearby country club in the Baltimore area for our annual Crabcakes Rotisserie League Baseball Draft. It’s an all day affair and most of us consider it the best, most fun day of the entire year. Two guys traveled in from Florida, one from New York city, one from Roanoke, Va and one from Columbus, OH. Three of the guys are local on-air sports talk show hosts. So it’s a big deal to all of us involved. Yes, it does involve an investment of close to $1,500 per team, and there is a financial distribution, of course, at the end.

Then came Monday. While I could never top Sunday, Suzanna and I nonetheless did something pretty special. We got an early morning start and drove to Lancaster, PA for six hours of baby sitting with our 5- 1/2 year old grandson Luke. It was great fun. Luke and I invented a ball game we play in the living room. We are both very competitive! He beat me two out of three in the morning. Then for good measure, we played one short game just before we left to come home. Another close loss for me resulted.

As we got ready to go out to lunch I noticed one of Luke’s school papers tacked to a cork board. It read:

  • I LOVE MOMMIE AND DADDY.
  • I LOVE BASKETBALL.
  • I LOVE SOCCER.

We got in the car; and I told him I saw his paper. I said, “you love Marms (Suzanna) too, don’t you?” His reply: “Yes, and I love you, too.” Wow. What a way to spend a morning and an afternoon!

Oriole Mark Trumbo Hits homer in 11th inning to beat Toronto on Opening Day, 2017.

That would certainly have been enough for the weekend, but there was much more happening later on Monday.  At 3 pm, the Orioles opened the 2017 baseball season against a rival team, the Toronto Blue Jays. In a very exciting, well played game, the O’s won 3-2 in eleven innings on a walk off home run. In addition, in the top of eleventh inning Manny Machado made an incredible play to get an important out! I caught half the game on the radio on the drive home, and then watched the second half on television.

Finally at 9:20 pm the Final Game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off. I thought the game was disappointing, and I’m not sure the referees had their best night. North Carolina beat Gonzaga, otherwise it would have been a perfect weekend, albeit a very, very long one.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Since I continue to struggle with whether or not to work, and if so, what and how much, this weekend was instructive for me . It was memorable, meaningful, and just plain fun. How different it would have been if I were working.

Retirement May Have “Drastic” Effect On Health

What a love story! On March 17th the Baltimore Sun printed a touching, heart warming story. It was in the obituary section.

At the age of 91 and after a wonderful marriage of 67 years, Austin Twigg III and his wife Mary passed away within 48 hours of one another. At the time of their deaths they occupied separate rooms at St. Agnes Hospital in southwest Baltimore. Austin died of pneumonia and Mary of congestive heart failure on March 6th and 8th, respectively.

According to a daughter, “he was determined to stay on the earth as long as she was there. He didn’t want to leave her.”

Through 67 years of marriage they shared a love of books and museums. Late in life they were constant companions. But actually Austin was Mary Twigg’s second husband, as she had been widowed at the age of 22 with one child and another on the way. At her mother’s urging, and after quite a period of grieving, Mary went to the Arthur Murray Dance Studio to learn to dance and have some fun. There she met her future husband who was a dance instructor. He swept her off her feet and the rest is history.

Their family eventually grew to six children, whom they raised in a very modest Catonsville, MD neighborhood. Austin sold cars for the local Chevrolet dealership for a period of time, but spent most of his career in the community newspaper business. Mary spent 35 years, first as a teacher, then as executive director of the Dickeyville Day Nursery School which was not far from their home.

That’s the Twigg’s story……..

What will Suzanna’s and mine be, what will yours be?

I wonder if some of my readers have the same reaction to the Twiggs’ story that we did. After reading the obituary we turned to one another and said “Wow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a story similar to that of the Twiggs? Twenty more years of happy life, happy marriage, and then pass together. Sweet!”

Realistically, of course, we cannot do anything to achieve the latter. But the former, twenty more years of happy, healthy life and marriage,  is well worth our focus and our effort. It is precisely the reason I am trying my best to “do my retirement well”, and to create a happy, healthy “lemonade retirement”for myself.

For many of us, and certainly this includes me, this is far easier said than done. In fact, the Institute of Economic Affairs concluded in a recent study that retirement’s impact on health can be “drastic.” In the context of their study, “drastic” can be positive or negative. When retirement affects our health negatively it often begins as depression. The study purports that retirement increases the likelihood of clinical depression by 40%.

Two years into my retirement I actually feel that I have walked on both sides of the street on the issue of retirement having a positive or negative effect on my health.

I began my retirement by feeling fairly lost.

My identity admittedly was tied to my work for the entirety of my 46 years in business. Also, out of necessity I put so much into my work, I didn’t have time to pursue many other interests. This became a problem once retired. After retiring I really missed the structure work gave to my life. Although I got back into regular exercise, and picked up reading and writing the blog, I still usually felt that something was missing. I also got hung up wondering how long we would live and whether our savings would last. Focusing on this has been an embarrassing waste of time. Between my faith that God has it all covered and a calm, sober review of our total picture, it is clear all will be well financially.

Nonetheless put it all together and I think I may have been at least borderline depressed. But I feel like things are much more positive for me now, and that the pendulum has clearly swung almost all the way back in a positive position.

As I indicated I exercise consistently. And besides reading and writing the blog, I have really been able to invest much more time into relationships. That includes my relationship with Suzanna  and with my, and our, friends. Suzanna and I spend more time together than ever.  This seems to have made a very good marriage even better. We also have plenty of alone time as well as time for our own friends. It’s been great!

And so I think I’m doing much better with my “lemonade retirement”. I’m not totally there yet, but I’m no longer feeling that my retirement is going to have a negative effect on my health. By continuing to work at it, I hope one day to say that retirement has had a “drastic” effect on my health…..in a positive way!

For Many Men Retirement Does Not Go Well

Many men retire and quickly begin to enjoy a happy, healthy retirement. But unfortunately, for many men retirement is anything but a happy, healthy experience. In fact, some researchers believe that for these men, leaving the workplace may be a health hazard.

This is because for these men, involvement in creative, valued, satisfying employment is a significant contributor to good physical and mental health. It is a masculinity thing. And their masculinity takes a significant hit when life after retirement does not live up to its promise.

There has been much research on this topic and it has been going on for fifty plus years. But the results have not been conclusive. I believe the simple reason for the lack of overwhelming support for the research is that many men are affected negatively, but many others are not. Clearly some men look forward to retirementFor them work was over-rated and was never something they actually enjoyed. It was unfulfilling. These men look forward to retirement as a time of freedom and activity. For this group work was never tied to their masculinity and feelings of self esteem.

For many men, however, researchers say there is strong evidence that most of their self identity comes from paid employment. And a self identity based on productive and valued work can be good for one’s health. Thus, the positive aspects of self identity based upon fulfilling work need to be encouraged as part of a healthy life. But conversely, there can be a health risk and danger when an individual over-identifies with work.

So employment confers many health benefits, not the least of which is a steady income. Obviously employment does not guarantee affluence, but on the other hand, the relationship between poverty and poor health is well documented. Other potential health benefits provided by work include:

  1. being in control of one’s life
  2. feelings of being productive
  3. being a place where men make friends
  4. doing something which is valued by others, and
  5. a sense of routine.

As a result, retirement can produce a crisis for some men when this source of self-identity is lost. And in fact, some research suggests that work is actually protection against premature death.

The health risks for these men resulting from retirement; in addition to the loss of income, include:

  1. a negative impact on social well-being
  2. feelings of isolation
  3. difficulty maintaining friendships from work
  4. negative affects when positive expectations of retirement are not met.

As indicated earlier, while these feelings affect large numbers of men in retirement, many men do enjoy happy, healthy retirements. Often social/economic status influences positively retired men’s health. It can be noted that while money cannot buy happiness, it is a resource that can lead to good health in retirement. More wealth can give men the ability to overcome all of the negatives affecting those struggling in retirement.

In conclusion, how well men do in retirement varies greatly. But clearly those whose self identity was based largely on their work can be the ones with the greatest struggle.

On a personal note……….

When I began this blog thirteen months ago, I indicated that I had not made a lot of plans for my retirement, but that I very much wished to “do retirement well”. It was, and is, my hope that my reading and writing on the subject would be a catalyst in helping me to retire successfully. This particular post helps me to understand myself. I relate with the men whose identity was closely tied to their work. And in leaving the workplace I have had many of the struggles described above. In fact, I’m thinking I may have been dealing with depression at times since April 9, 2015, my retirement date.

I’ll need to successfully get past these feelings if I’m to do retirement well and enjoy a Lemonade Retirement! So I plan to continue working on my retirement and writing this blog as well. It’s been helpful to me,…..and I hope at least a few others.

Retirement Surprises: Most Good, Others Not So Much, Part III

Recently the Wall Street Journal polled their readers regarding their biggest retirement surprises. The responses were varied and expressed more joy than pain, and more satisfaction than frustration. In Parts I and II of this series I recounted a number of the good surprises. In the final post of the series I want to share some of the bad surprises.

BAD SURPRISES

Boomer Attitudes, top concerns as we approach our retirement
  • Most common among the bad surprises experienced by the retirees was that it was painful leaving work. And in fact, more so than expected. This idea was expressed by many and in many different ways. Several expressed missing being a part of a team at work. One expressed it this way. “It was very surprising to encounter the depth of the loss of not being part of a team doing important work.”
    Others expressed the fact that their self value and identity was entirely driven by their position. “I used to define myself by my title. I had flashy business cards, a company car, and a generous expense account. Without these, I didn’t know who I was. I felt naked.” I believe this woman from California describes beautifully what many of us felt upon leaving our careers behind.
  • One simply said that his biggest surprise was the challenge of figuring out “the Second Act.”
  • Some missed the pay aspect of work once they had retired. One in particular struck me. He filled his retired life with time with grandchildren, church activities, exercise, academic studies, reading, and walks on the beach. As perfect a picture as this is, he still really misses being paid for work.
    On this same subject, one indicated that finding a rewarding post-retirement occupation had been problematic. He expressed surprise that in spite of his very impressive resume and a somewhat aggressive search for an interesting position, there was no interest shown by the companies he approached. He assumed his age (70) was the main obstacle preventing at least some interviews.
  • Some responded that their biggest surprise in retirement was mortality. They went on to say that they had looked forward to many wonderful retirement years with their spouse. Unfortunately, however, one spouse or the other passed away far sooner than expected. One person’s advice as a result was: do not wait until retirement to enjoy life.  How sad and tragic that would be!
  • One person whose health surprisingly began to slip early in retirement advised as follows. Appreciate that every day you are probably as healthy as you will ever again be.
  • The bad surprise faced by many had to do with the cost of living. Many have been caught off guard and surprised. Different expense categories were cited. Some mentioned the cost of healthcare, more specifically the cost of medicare premiums for Part B, D, and F. Premiums in many cases are increasing by 20% or more annually. Some indicated that household expenses in general were quite a bit higher than expected.
    One respondent claimed that his living expenses in retirement were tracking at 100% of his pre-retirement expenses. For most this would be entirely unsustainable. He listed his expenses that were higher than expected: healthcare, travel, recreation, vehicle expenses, and fuel and energy. In this same vein, another individual suggested adding 10% to any expense budget you prepare because there will surely be expenses you underestimate.
  •  “Negative Dan” from Portland, Oregon reported that he has become a charter member of the over-the-hill club. He is now unattached to the business world, a retiree with a gold whatchamacallit signifying his long-term service. In his words, “sadly (he) spends his days striving to create the perception that he still has intrinsic value.” Hopefully there are only a scant few who share his view.

On a lighter note, Arthur believed that in retirement he would play golf all the time. But upon retirement he came to realize that he used to play golf to reduce the stress from work. But now in retirement he finds golf to be stressful in and of itself.

In conclusion, the content for these last three posts came from the Wall Street Journal of February 10, 2017 – “Readers’ Biggest Retirement Surprises.” Clearly for most the biggest surprises they experienced in retirement were positive ones. There are the wonderful gifts of friends and family, and better yet, the time to enjoy them. In addition there is time to focus on exercise and health, travel, and new activities or causes. For most, all of this make retirement a precious gift… even in trying times!

 

Retirement Surprises: Most Good, Others Not So Much! Part II

Last week’s blog post was about Good Surprises Wall Street Journal readers recently reported having in retirement. In this week’s post I planned to list some of the Bad Surprises which have been experienced. But actually the good outweighed the bad by a wide margin, so I want to stay positive and list some more Good Surprises.

GOOD SURPRISES

  • Several readers commented on the luxury of time and the lack of pressure. After forty years in the workplace, they believe that it’s okay to be bored occasionally. It is okay “to chill”. “Active” isn’t mandatory at all times. “Unhurried” is fine. And from time to time it is perfectly okay to waste an entire morning.
  • A couple of readers reported their surprise at how quickly and easily they left their careers behind and transitioned into retirement. “While I liked work, I love retirement!” They expected to experience an adjustment period, but several mentioned the seamless transition, which they experienced. Many listed everything that keeps them busy. I liked this list from one reader, it resembles mine. “I sleep better and longer, exercise more, read more, spend more time with my wife (she agrees that’s a good thing), and actually think more now that I have fewer distractions.
  • One couple indicated that they surprised themselves by opting to retire at the age of 51. And it turned out to be a wonderful gift. In their words, they elected to live on less income for the bonus of more time together. Their admonishment; don’t wait until it’s too late.
  • A woman reported that her best, and most unexpected surprise was the control she gained over her time and her life. She was no longer controlled by her boss, her clients or her children. For the first time, her life was no longer a blur. She enjoys managing her schedule, including her volunteering, her projects, and even her housekeeping.
  • A single woman from Rhode Island lives alone with no relatives nearby. As a result she delayed her retirement beyond her 73rd birthday because she feared becoming isolated and forgotten. Two years later she is happy to report her surprise. She loves being alone, owning the day, and having no required daily contact with other people. She claims to be a gregarious woman who had a career in sales and loved to cook and entertain!
  • A retired doctor from South Carolina says after taking a year off to decompress and contemplate his future, he found his new direction. He enrolled in a two year executive M.B.A. program at a nearby university. Upon graduating he joined the faculty and taught for ten years in the Healthcare Management Program.
  • Surprisingly only one reader wrote of their relocation. A southern California couple relocated to rural Oregon and indicated it was their best decision ever. Imagine the cost savings. In addition, they are working hard on the grapes they grow and sell to the local wine industry. And ‘yes’, they also make enough wine for themselves!
  • An Illinois reader simply reported his good surprises as: 1. stress level dropped more than expected, 2. can easily fill each day; and 3.  significantly improved physical conditioning. In fact, he trained for and completed a cross country bicycle ride, camping on the way.
  • Another reader received retirement advice that “nothing is ever what you think it is going to be going into it.” That’s true for a new job, a marriage, a divorce, almost every significant life event. His adviser said you must feel your way through it at first. And so it is with retirement. The reader spoke of his surprise to find this to be true. In his words, “retirement ain’t nothing like I thought it would be. But it’s pretty great!”
  • A reader from Arizona commented on her “attitude” change. She says she is thrilled with retirement, and all of the things she is able to do that she couldn’t while she was working full-time. She lets small things slide acknowledging that they aren’t very important, and probably never were.

And from a WSJ reader in San Francisco, don’t look back once you have made the decision to retire. Take full advantage of the time retirement provides and the many new opportunities awaiting you in retirement. It will be important to approach each day in this phase of your life with enthusiasm, energy and openness.

And finally, if you think you have the financial resources and are debating whether to retire, go for it in spite of what others might say. The tools are there for anyone needing help creating his/her own Lemonade Retirement. But lost time can never be recaptured!