Find Your Passion OR Just Enjoy Retirement?

This past Sunday, April 9th marked the two year anniversary of my retirement. Boy does time fly!

As I hit that milestone and ask myself how well I am doing in retirement, I find that I am struggling with an interesting question. Do I need to discover and define my purpose in life in this new season OR is my purpose simply to enjoy my retirement years?

In these past two years, I have been searching for a mission, discovery of what inspires me, what gets me out of bed each morning.  Truthfully, I don’t know if I am any closer to this discovery than when I began.

Most of my friends are all retired at this point. I don’t know of any who have either searched for or found a defining new purpose for their life in their retirement years. Without exception from the outside looking in, it simply seems that for all of them their purpose is to enjoy their retirement. I see nothing wrong with that, don’t misunderstand. Most everyone certainly earns their retirement, and the right to do it as they see fit.

My friends, as well as most everyone else I read about in retirement, are all staying active first and foremost. More specifically, their days and weeks are filled with travel, fitness (usually at the gym), golf (mostly a male thing), reading, and for some, volunteering. The other focus of most retirements I’m familiar with is relationships. Retirees enjoy the ability to invest more time into their relationships both with family and friends. Put all of this together in some combination and retirement seems to be working very well and is being enjoyed by those whom I know. Personally my retirement is comprised of the same elements: relationships, exercise, reading, and travel. I’m enjoying retirement much of the time, but I feel my retirement is a bit incomplete. This explains why I have been involved in some introspection looking for what inspires me. It also partially explains why I have entertained the idea of finding a part-time position in the workforce.

When I began this blog I commented that I was entering my retirement without a plan, but that I hoped to come up with a plan for making my retirement the best season of my life. I also said that it would probably take me three years to figure it all out. So I feel that I’m right on schedule.

Thus, in year three of my retirement I’m going to continue to try to identify where my true passion lies. I will be patient. But failing that, I will redirect my focus to just enjoying a Lemonade Retirement, as my friends all seem to be doing!

Actually, I think my friends may all have the right idea – first, enjoy every day of the gift which is retirement. Why? Because just this week alone I learned that two of my friends who I haven’t seen or heard from lately are battling a very serious heart issue and lung cancer. Another close friend has been diagnosed with leukemia this week. And finally an acquaintance who got the school bus at my stop passed away at 69. Every day we and our family have our health is a blessed day, another day in our retirement to be thankful for.

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Folks, if you have been reading this blog for one month or 13½ months (the whole time), I want to thank you. This will be my last post, I am stepping away from the blog at this time. To be totally upfront, the blog simply has not gained the traction I had hoped for. My lack of social media skills was a significant contributing factor. But I’m sure the copy could have been more interesting as well.

Thanks for reading! Have a Lemonade Retirement and be healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I

The Wall Street Journal recently polled their readers about their retirements. More specifically, they asked what their biggest retirement surprises had been? The answers varied widely, and of course, there were good surprises and bad ones as well.

This week’s Lemonade Retirement post will list highlights of the “good surprises” which the readers reported. Then next week we will list some of the “bad surprises” which I found interesting.

GOOD SURPRISES

  • Happiness in retirement is directly related to the people you spend your time with. This was a common theme as one reported their surprise at the number of new and renewed friendships they had made in retirement. Another expressed that their social life was better than expected and and far better than it had ever been during their pre-retirement years. (Remember from last week’s post that good health also follows friendships and socialization).
  • Speaking of good health, the single most often mentioned good surprise was the gym, and the results it yields. One after another talked about being in the best shape of their lives. It is encouraging that finally given the time, so many do not hesitate to join a gym an focus on their physical well being. For those on a budget, this can also be accomplished at home. It just takes more discipline.
  • In regard to travel in retirement, one couple was told to expect the following. First there are the go-go years, then the slow-go years, and finally the no-go years. In their go-go years they took many trips-stateside and beyond, long and short in duration. They reported, however, reaching their slow-go years more quickly than expected due to the husband’s physical ills. But they continue to enjoy their travels only at a slower pace.
  • Travel is such an important, wonderful benefit of retirement for so many. One reported the great surprise of traveling off-season. The lack of crowds and heat, as well as added time makes traveling much easier. They plan extra days for traveling, plus add more days at their destinations. If there are issues with flights or bad weather at their destination, no problem! They account for those possibilities in their planning. Also when travel dates are flexible airfares may be hundreds of dollars cheaper. These changes, afforded by time, can totally remove the stress of traveling, which does seem to grow as we age.
  • “Getting my two dogs is the best thing I have ever done.” I am sure dog lovers all understand this. This gentlemen always loved dogs, but this job never permitted him to own and properly care for one. So this was first on the list of what he wanted to do in retirement. Besides companionship, he reports meeting many wonderful people when walking the dogs. He also lost thirty pounds, his blood pressure dropped, and he is off his medication.
  • Several readers commented on the importance of discipline in regard to time management. Time to pursue interests, to exercise, and to invest in our friendships takes discipline, otherwise like vapor time slips away. It all starts with getting up and getting going in the morning.
  • Another reader reported being surprised that he found two things more important than money in retirement  – time and health. I like his insight regarding time. Finding a rewarding use for now plentiful time is a big concern. Otherwise boredom will ensue. He suggests finding a cheap all-consuming hobby that will bring new people into your life. Surprisingly, his is beekeeping. If hobbies are not your thing, he suggests charity work. On health, he wisely says that getting or staying healthy should be job number one in retirement. Clearly without health nothing else matters.
  • An Atlanta reader had a good surprise about “stuff”. He and his wife noticed that family and friends begin to experience illness, accidents, and unexpected events in their mid-’70’s. These changes caused significant burdens to fall on their spouse and/or children. He and his wife chose not to leave their family with a large home filled with stuff. They gave their children whatever stuff they wanted and disposed of most of the rest. Then they moved into a senior living arrangement. Their entire family is happy and relieved.

And as a final bit of wisdom, a reader was happily surprised to learn that retirement is great, as long as you take charge of it, and stay active and engaged in learning and socializing. Retirement life is mostly all about family and friends. And the hard thing to learn is that “stuff” is just “stuff”.

“Friendships”- The Secret Sauce to a Happy, Healthy Retirement!

Here is some attention grabbing news……emerging research indicates that social engagement plays a significant role in overall well being, self-esteem, and even longevity!

More specifically, research further shows that active engagement with other people actually improves your health. It also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

And finally, the conclusion of all of this research is that people who are socially active are 50% less likely to die prematurely! Interesting though, researchers are nor sure why this is true. Why are having friends associated with better health?

It may be because social activity often begets physical activity. And physical activity has many positive effects on your health. In addition, socialization is a mood lifter, and happiness is thought to be linked to good health.

Thus, socialization is a requirement for a Lemonade Retirement, not an option. And this is because, sadly, the opposite is also true. Isolation contributes to poor health in the same way as smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Also a lack of socialization is connected to decreasing cognitive function, declining physical function and decreased immune function.

I don’t doubt that ALL of this is true, after all it is backed up by a substantial amount of recent research. But isn’t it very surprising that friendships and socialization can have such an effect on the physical functioning of our bodies and our longevity?

So what’s the problem? This should be easy. Countless millions of us are already there. We can just “check this box” and move on. But unfortunately there are also millions of Baby Boomers who live isolated or somewhat isolated lives.

For these seniors, their friendships and socialization have decreased significantly in their later years. This happens for many reasons. It can be due to drifting apart, relocation, health issues, death, or simply an inability to get out of the house.

For this group, making the lifestyle changes necessary to add socialization back into their lives may be difficult. Social skills have gotten rusty. And introverts may find it particularly difficult to make these changes. Some introverts find it easier to use social media and connect online. And this is acceptable, I read. However, combining socializing with a physical or mental activity has far more health benefits, particularly when done person to person.

For those interested in taking action to increase their friendships and socialization, following are ideas for consideration:

  1. Volunteering.
  2. Faith-based activities.
  3. A part-time job for 8-16 hours per week.
  4. Investigate the local senior center.
  5. Join a fitness center and commit to using it two to three times a week.
  6. Take senior oriented continuing education courses at a nearby high school or college.
  7. Reconnect with former classmates and other former friends.
  8. Accept all invitations.
  9. Invite a neighbor for lunch or just coffee.
  10. Start or join a book club in your neighborhood.
Author Mike Duvall reconnecting with one of his best high school friends, Steve Earle.

 

Since this is so important to our health and longevity, hopefully those needing to add socialization to their lives will find at least one appealing option on the list above. If this applies to you, get serious and get started. And remember, if you have your health, you have everything!

 

Lemonade Retirement: 2016’s Final Chapter

To be happy in 2017:
Let go of what’s gone.
Be grateful for what remains.
Look forward to what is coming next.

This wisdom is perfect advice for me this week, and I suspect many Baby Boomers who are in their sixties. Is it of any value to you?

In just a couple of days we will close out another year, this time 2016. And then, of course, we will welcome in the New Year. It blows my mind  that this is the 70th one of these for me. Good gosh!

“Dear Lord. Please help me to slow this train down. Its speed is dizzying. Can we not apply the brakes? Just a little bit; please!”

I have said before in these pages that I expected life to slow down in retirement. I am not that busy, so why hasn’t it slowed down? Instead the opposite is true. I will never understand this.

So we are about to turn the page on the calendar and begin the year 2017. But first, 2016 was significant for me for two main reasons. 1.)  As I mentioned earlier, I turned 70 years of age in 2016 (I am part of the oldest Baby Boomer class, the class born in 1946). Obviously, 70 is quite a significant mile marker in anyone’s life. It is probably the last decade where many of us can hope to have a full ten years of relatively good health.

And 2.) 2016 was my first full year of retirement. My adjustment to this new season, which began in April, 2015 continued. So how is it going? Not badly; but I’m not “there” yet. Twenty-one months in, I still miss the structure which work gave to my life. And admittedly, I also miss the window envelope which I received every Thursday.

Becoming 100% comfortable with being fully retired takes some people longer than others. For me I’m guessing it will take about three years. I read and write, I get quality time with family and friends, and I exercise regularly. But that is not quite enough, and I feel that something is missing. I have not totally given up the idea of working part-time. At times part time work seems like  it might be the missing piece of my puzzle. At other times it seems unlikely to happen. 2017 many hold the answer.

In the “prescription” for happiness in 2017 which began this blog, step 2 is “Be grateful for what remains.” I have been thinking about this this week with a very thankful heart. “What remains” for me is truly overwhelming! Suzanna and I have three daughters, each of whom are flourishing in their own lives and with their own families. While we well know that this may not continue forever, we are extremely thankful for the present. In addition, our marriage is strong and wonderful, and we both have our health. With these blessings in hand we feel certain we can figure out the rest.

I sincerely hope that in your life, like mine, much remains to be grateful for, and that 2017 will be a wonderful year.

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Two weeks ago, in “Shooting Holes in the 80% Rule” I listed many of the savings we will all enjoy in retirement, allowing us to live well on less than 80% of our pre-retirement income. I invited readers to let me know of additional areas of savings beyond those I listed. Here is what I received:

  1. Downsized home.
  2. Exit cities and/or states which are expensive to live in.
  3. Stop providing financial support to adult children who are out of school.
  4. Give up pay TV channels and packages.
  5. Take out telephone land lines.
  6. Travel at off peak times and take advantage of last minute deals, both of which can easily be done in retirement.
  7. Create a budget, your money is precious!

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  With that, thanks for reading in 2016 and please consider returning in 2017.

Happy New Year. God bless!