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.


  • 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”.