Ready to retire? Take it from a guy who’s been retired for eight years. It isn’t as easy as it looks, but it can be a wonderful experience.
The first thing you will discover about retirement is that it isn’t just the absence of work. Life doesn’t become a permanent vacation.
It is, however, like other major events in your life, a process. When you began your career, you had to learn how to work, remember? You had to adjust to having a boss. What did the boss expect of you? There were coworkers to deal with. What did it take to earn a promotion? It took time to figure out the career thing.
If you haven’t planned for your retirement, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. Let me start with a bit of good news. You’re free. Your career is over. You never have to worry again about how something might look on your resume. Let that sink in for a moment. If you were the senior vice president of sales and marketing for a major corporation, but always had a secret desire to sell Subaru cars and trucks, have at it. If you think it would be fun to be an over the road trucker, eating lunch at roadside diners and sleeping in the truck cab, go for it.
I’ve tried my hand at being a hospital volunteer, playing tennis, coaching middle and high school tennis, teaching writing, bartending, substitute teaching, writing short stories and books and serving on my town’s planning commission. Some things work out better than others. I had a ball taking a bartending course with mostly young students. I learned how to make 150 different drinks and passed the exam. Working as a special events bartender, I learned that the job is fun, physically taxing and didn’t always pay well. Regardless, my career in health care being over, I haven’t had to explain any of these excursions.
As you prepare for your retirement, consider what activities you are already doing that can help you jump start your retirement years. Certainly, in terms of filling up your hours every day, but let’s be honest about this. You may legitimately feel like you have had enough and you’re ready to hang up your hat. But you will almost certainly miss being part of the action when it’s over. Whether you were part of a construction crew, or an insurance agent, or a customer service specialist, eventually, you are going to crave a sense of fulfillment.
I started writing and playing tennis in my fifties, which gave me a head start. I was lucky enough to have activities that I thoroughly enjoyed. Upon retirement, taking the advice of a friend, I quickly began substitute teaching. I got up very early on days I had assignments — for very little pay, but it gave me a great deal of satisfaction to assist the teachers where I worked. There was an unexpected benefit too. Being around high school kids kept my mind active and gave me great hope for our nation’s future. And, I had a sense of purpose.
I’ve known too many men who worked longer than they wanted to, telling me they didn’t know what else to do. And I’ve known some guys who floundered after retiring. In spite of being go-getters throughout their careers, adjusting to retirement was extremely hard for them.
One thing I’ve observed over the years is that when we think about starting something new, it rarely pays to wait until we’re certain it’s right for us. The more we learn about something, the more interesting it becomes. And if it doesn’t become more interesting? Hey! I’m retired. I don’t have to explain the time I spent on it to anyone. Earlier this year I tried my hand at drawing. I bought a sketch book and drawing pencils. When I saw little improvement and noticed I wasn’t actually looking forward to drawing another apple, I quit. If you’d like to draw, call me. You can have my sketchbook and pencils. I’ve moved on.
Len Serafino is a published author, seasoned writer and an experienced writing teacher.