"To be happy in this world you have to ignore some things." -- Alan Drew, "Shadow Man"

Sunday, November 21, 2021

You Don't Have to Be Rich to Enjoy Retirement

     When we're in our 50s and 60s, before retirement, we tend to think retirement is all about money -- saving up in our IRA or 401K, watching our pension grow, figuring out our Social Security strategy. But one thing I've learned in doing this blog is that retirement is not primarily about money.

     Most people will have enough money, especially if they're flexible enough to make a few changes in their lifestyle. We do not need an impressive McMansion; we do not need to wear the latest fashions; we do not need to travel; we do not need a new car, or maybe not even a car at all.

     Instead, retirement is about family, friends -- and some activities that we like to do and might even find meaningful. And all we need is the courage of our convictions. The courage to pull up roots and move near our grandchildren -- or perhaps overseas if that's what we always dreamed about. The courage to take a class, join a church group, pick up a paint brush, start a band, or just to step up to the mike and sing karaoke.

     I like to play golf and ping pong; I like to go visit my kids and grandkids; I like the volunteer job that I do. And of course, I do this blog. But you know what? I feel like I could do more, something more meaningful or impactful. I'm still searching.

     What do you like to do? What would you like to do?

     I heard some advice that I try to take to heart: Instead of just killing time, we should try to do things that we find both fun and meaningful. And whatever it is we do, it should involve some time spent engaged in physical activity, some time engaged in mental activity, and some time in social activity.

     My brother-in-law recently emailed me. He's 87, and still an avid golfer. Last week, he boasted, he almost shot his age. He got 88. Didn't quite make it; but he'll keep trying.

     I know someone else who can match his age in pushups. He's a bit younger. But a couple of times a week he gets down and does 70 pushups. And I just read about the guy who celebrated his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane . . . 9 times in one day!

     One thing I'm just beginning to realize, however, is that as we get older we become more invisible. People don't ask our opinion. They don't include us in social activities. They ignore our suggestions.

     Some of that is inevitable, but if we know it's a problem we can work around it. We can find something more interesting to talk about than our health problems, or how the world has been going downhill ever since the 1970s. And if we're involved in something, we can talk about what we're doing, where we're going, who we've met along the way.

     Another thing we realize is that our lives are finite. We've seen friends and family develop health problems, or decline mentally. We don't know how much time we have left. So while I don't believe we should ever give up searching, there's no reason to put off doing what we want to do. 

20 comments:

Rian said...

Tom, I didn't comment on your previous post "What makes us happy in retirement" as I really didn't have an answer. The answer would probably be as different as people are. But... your new post, You don't have to be rich to enjoy retirement" says it well. As you mention, "retirement is about family, friends -- and some activities that we like to do and might even find meaningful."
Ours is a quiet retirement and this is what we both want (maybe even quieter than we like with the pandemic). But we do our own thing, enjoy some activities together, and visit our families (or did before the P), but we aren't interested in traveling to foreign countries (which we did do some when younger - England, Ireland, Scotland, Paris, etc.... ) we mostly visit family when we travel these days.
As for doing anything 'meaningful' is concerned, all we do is support family and friends any way we can, take care of the ferals, give to a few favorite charities, and pray for the homeless, etc. Doesn't seem enough...

ApacheDug said...

I very much liked Rian's comment here. I didn't comment on your last post either Tom, though I wanted to and thought long & hard about it. While it's taken me 3-4 years to label myself as officially retired, I just haven't felt the need yet to come up with any worthwhile endeavors. Right now I'm enjoying staying up way too late, and sleeping in until 8:30am. Since I live alone and don't have anyone in my life at the moment, I probably spend too much time online or binge-watching tv shows like Mission Impossible & Game of Thrones. I'm sure in time I'll want to pursue more meaningful ventures, but for now I'm still in that "I can't believe I don't have to go to work tomorrow" frame of mind. :^)

Kay said...

Gosh... We're loving retirement, but the pandemic has stopped most of what we loved to do which was travel to other countries and travel to see our kids. Flying is just too spooky. It's hard when you live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

DUTA said...

Retirement is about discoveries. I've found out that mental work is more tiring than physical work; friends and even family members can be quite weakening.If I want strength and support I turn to God.

The key sentence in your post is:"We don't know how much time we have left" True. So, we should be selective in our choices of activities, but we are not. We deal with the same old stupidities.

DJan said...

Very thoughtful post, and comments too. I have been retired for 13 years now, and I don't think I have ever felt the need for any more excitement than I already have in my life. We don't have much money, and after a 20% increase in our rent starting in January, we'll have even less. But we will get by, and we have a warm and safe place to live and lots of friends to enjoy life with. :-)

Tom said...

Rian-- I think supporting family and friends is about the most meaningful thing we can do. And Doug, binge-watching movies and TV is a much underrated activity, IMHO, esp. since we're still dealing with the pandemic, or after-effects of the pandemic or however you want to put it.

Red said...

Excellent advice. There's always some group or organization that wants your time. I've been retired for 24 years and done a variety of things. I did front of house in the local theatre for 10 years. I delivered papers. I've led a bird watching group I've been on half dozen boards. It's all been good. I've written a blog since 2008!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm absolutely loving what I'm doing these days which is holding a Writers' Workshop every Saturday, there's a lot of work involved but none of it feels like work.

I just had a text from a friend requesting, please, that I sit with her father and capture his incredible life story before he dies. He is 98.I am so honoured.

I truly believe, if health allows that we should do whatever makes us happiest that doesn't involve the variables of others. The unhappiest people I know are ones who lean heavily on family to make them feel worthwhile. It breaks my heart.

XO
WWW

Kevin in Virginia said...

Tom, this is one of your most thoughtful and evocative posts. Must admit it really got me to thinking - and for that, I must thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Revoix said...

Hi Tom. Your statement about becoming more invisible as we age out, not being asked our opinions anymore, not being invited or included in activities, and having our suggestions ignored all ring so very true. I think we all brace ourselves for this to happen in social settings as we go down the road, but it hurts when even the kids and grandkids start shutting down on us too. Like I always tell my wife, we were young once and because of that "we get it," but it still hurts whenever it happens. We just have to continue living our lives as best we can, try not to show our hurt, and take the high road ...

Barbara said...

My 22 yo Grandson has been visiting and has been asking me a lot of questions. He started off with questions about his father and aunt when they were young and also his grandfather. Then he started asking me about aging and how I felt about it. We had an interesting discussion.

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Linda Myers said...

Several years ago, when I noticed I was invisible, I got a tattoo, put blue and purple highlights in my hair, painted my toenails blue, and volunteered five times at a refugee camp in Greece. I'm not invisible yet. I remember when I was younger I used to think "those old people were irrelevant". But I still remember the ones with large hearts and inquiring minds. I hope to be one of those.

Eric K said...

I had quit playing music when I graduated from engineering school. Big mistake. I took back up the saxophone and clarinet in my mid-50s to have a hobby in my retirement. Four saxophones and four clarinets later, I play in various university wind ensembles, jazz groups and get invited to fill in with other bands. I just turned 70. It makes for part of a great retirement.

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Anonymous said...

I need to echo Eric K's comment. ABout Music.

I picked up a fiddle (for the first time) the week I retired. Started lessons. Now, a few years later, I can play a few dozen tunes. But what makes it worthwhile is the joy I get, and the self-discovery I find in learning it all.

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