Friday, July 19, 2013

The Best Preparation for Retirement?

If someone were to ask me what the best parts of retirement were, my answer would have little to do with not working (because of course I do). It would not be about travel, or getting up when I want, or playing golf daily or having plenty of time to volunteer-although all of those are important to someone, somewhere.  The best thing in retirement, in my experience, is independence (and I don't mean the financial kind).  The second best thing about retirement, of course, is the spontaneity that goes with that independence.

Even in retirement, most of my days are full. Generally, my week includes day trips, seeing friends, volunteering, working on a business, working in the house and many hobbies and interests.  What makes retirement unique is that I control my days-all day, every day.

When I get up in the morning, I have a million choices of things to do. What I do depends on my mood and energy level. Each day, I get to ask myself, "What will I do today?" While some days may be spent reading and relaxing, the truth is my days are pretty well filled.  There are a few things I do every day, the rest of my day is decided on a day by day basis.  Some days I sew all day, and some days I spend most of that sewing time day dreaming-or decide instead to grab a book and read on the patio. Some days I do one thing the whole day and some days I spend my day in four or five different areas. I'm the one who decides when I need a break, or if I need a nap.  I'm the one who decides if I will read until three am and sleep until ten am (obviously not a morning person here). If I want to take "lunch" at two in the afternoon, well, that's what I do. 

By the same token, I can, for the most part make last minute spontaneous decisions at well.  All it takes to take a quick overnight trip is to ask the child to watch the dogs or load them in the car, grab a few things and begone.  I can be sewing in my studio, look up, and decide that this is the perfect rainy day to go to the early movie. The list is endless.

Of course, the down side of this freedom is that it is easy to flit, or to have no sense of purpose.  Some fellow bloggers and retirees deal with this my scheduling their days into a routine, some make lists, some work with calendars.  Different things work for different people. I suspect this is dependent on life in the work world and the amount of control folks had in their previous lives.

In my case, I had a distinct advantage to this freedom of schedule stuff.  I was, put simply a housewife.  Not just when my children were small, but most of my life-even when my kids were on their way to college. For most of my day, much of my life, I had few commitments and almost no schedule. I still managed to do all the traditional housewifely things, have a small business, meet friends, swim, take classes, and more-all on my schedule.  Except for the end of day requirements, five days a week my boss was me (admittedly a certain amount of years had weekends where neither parent came up for air). So, even after a few years in the workforce, the segue into retirement (willing or not) went very simply. In many ways, I went back to the life I had before-albeit a single life this time

Sometimes we surprise ourselves in retirement-my mother was a housewife all her life and moved into a retirement home and retirement activities with enormous ease-she was on home ground, only in a different place.  My father, who was the ultimate type A guy in international sales adjusted amazingly - except, as is often true of men, he became the nosiest man on the planet,or in this case Beaufort, SC.

So in the end, I'm not sure if those of us who worked at home (for love or money) are really better prepared for retirement, or it's just my imagination.  What do you think?  Either way, tomorrow is another day, and I'm still not sure what will happen after I wake up. It works for me!


  1. Yeah Barb you are right, independence is very much toward the top of the list for retirement. In my work life I was often given a six moth or more project and told to get it done. To accomplish that required a pretty strict schedule of critical path items on that list. So, I lived and breathed lists and schedules much of my adult life. When I retired I continued to schedule everything but that slowly drifted away.

    Now, like you, what I do during the day is pretty much up to my mood. That is except for my volunteer work, which I truly love, and of course the mowing my 2+ acres in the warm weather months.
    But I do admit to have a desktop full of Post-It notes to remind me of things I need to get to (ha).

    Thanks for reminding me that doing what I want to do when I want to do it is a top perk in retirement.

  2. I agree - retirement is the ability to make decisions on how I spend my time, whatever that looks like. I love it!

  3. I have pretty much the same schedule (which is kind of no schedule except for the things I plan to do or club meetings, etc). For me, I needed absolutely no practice for retirement as freedom came quite easily to me where as friends whom I've known that retired after a very structured, type A life, practically needed lessons on how to be retired! Im glad you have so many interesting things to do and the freedom to do them!

  4. Mark me down as one of those list makers. I just can not seem to kick that habit after years of working full time and looking after husband and two children......

    God bless.

  5. I heard a saying "do life so life doesn't do me" and I believe in it. This retirement does represent freedom to choose how to spend my time; I always had the ability to manage my time. I received a card that said "Retirement is when you stop living at work and begin working at living." I do think that the transition into retirement is easier when a person has a variety of activities and interests outside of "work" to participate in and I would encourage anyone anticipating retirement to cultivate those. While I was still working, I often asked myself what I would do if I didn't have this job/work. The answers have served me well after retirement.

  6. That is what I love about being retired. No alarm, minimal obligations and I get to create my day.

    I create lists also but sometimes I get them done and sometimes I don't. I worked full-time for so long, and I have recently retired (10 months) so still in my honeymoon phase!


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