The best retirement advice I got came from Connie Kruger, the Amherst Select Board member. She said that the things you think you’ll want to do after you retire aren’t necessarily the things you actually wind up wanting to do, because your perception after retirement will be so different.
I started making a retirement list in 2008. In the four years before I left paid work behind, I put 30 activities on the list. Some of them I’ve done, such as volunteering at the Amherst Survival Center, growing more vegetables, making sourdough bread, playing ping pong, losing weight, connecting with a church and getting a tablet. Some things I’ve done in retirement weren’t on the list, such as running, starting a blog, and joining Facebook.
The difference between one’s pre- and post-retirement perceptions does not negate the value of the list. It helped me in my final years of employment to imagine what I would do when my time was my own. Many of the activities on the list I still want to get around to, such as birdwatching, playing chess, getting a dog and reading 19th-century novels.
Many people, especially men, find the transition to retirement difficult, because so much of their identity is tied up in work. Often, working part-time, either before or after retirement, makes the transition easier. I worked 32 hours a week for my last several years of employment.
It also helped me to have a rite of passage. I organized a retirement party for myself at Amherst Town Hall and invited people I’d gotten to know in my 32 years as a journalist. The paper I worked for found my retirement sufficiently newsworthy to publish an article about it.
One of the first books I read after I retired was “How To Retire Happy, Wild and Free” by Ernie Zelinski. Unlike most retirement books, which focus on finances, this one examines the joys and challenges of living at our own pace and redefining who we are. I recommend it to all those approaching retirement. Here are some of its gems:
“Leisure is a time for doing something useful.”
“Being bored is an insult to yourself.”
“I’m too prosperous to work long hours, and too spiritually evolved to have an identity based on work, possessions and net worth.”
“Money is useful only when you get rid of it.”
“We can be destroyed just as easily by mindless frivolity as by oppressive depression.”
“Retirement is a time to make an inner journey and come face to face with your flaws, failures, prejudices, and all the factors generating thoughts of unhappiness.”
When people ask me, “How’s retirement?” I sometimes reply, “I recommend it,” or joke that “The only problem with retirement is that you never get a day off.” It is truly liberating to be able to choose how to spend all 24 hours that make up a day.
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