10 Things I Discovered During my First Year in Retirement

Let’s face it, some things really are best learned by doing. Retirement is that way. No matter how many books I read, or stories I clicked on, nothing really prepared me for what it would be like to live in Retirement.

One year ago this month, my consulting contract ended with my employer and I could consider myself officially retired. Since then, it’s been an interesting and challenging year. Here are some of the discoveries from my first year in Retirement.

1. I Need to Plan My Days

In my working years, I dreamed of the days when I would never set my alarm or plan for the day ahead. I’d just do whatever came my way, or perhaps nothing at all. Month after month passed before I finally realized that doing nothing wasn’t a life worth living. That’s when I started looking for ways to Get the Most out of a Day in Retirement.

2. Fitness Takes Years to Build, Months to Lose

I was fortunate during the final years of my career to have access to an employee fitness center, located on the floor below my office. Having friends to work out with made it more enjoyable and added accountability as well. I’d just turned 60 when I retired, but I was in my best shape – and at my lowest weight – since my early 40’s.

Fitness Center
Fitness Center at Work

One year later, I gained at least 15 pounds. It was a combination of less intensive (or no) workouts, and being home a lot – which means quick refrigerator access. Add in social gatherings with fatty food, treats and alcohol – I guess I’m lucky it’s only 15 pounds.

I’ve started working out again but it’s going to take the better part of a year to get back to where I was.

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3. Retired Couples Need Time Apart

Romance movies are filled with plotlines where couples break away from the working world to spend every waking moment together. Turns out this is not so romantic.

Couples who retired before us warned that they needed time apart so they wouldn’t drive each other crazy. We laughed. But we should have been taking notes.

Swimming in Retirement
Swim Class

As the months wore on in our downsized home, my wife Vivian finally said “we each need to find some things to do on our own.” She was right, of course. Now, she goes to karate and I go to swim class. It’s a start for finding our own experiences to enjoy. The best part? It’s exciting to come together afterwards and share the stories of those experiences.

It’s a better way to live.

4. Retirees are a Target

Retirees have struggled, saved and sacrificed to leave the working world behind. We generally have a supply of money meant to last decades. That makes us a target.

Example 1:

It started the day after we moved in. A woman came to our house implying she worked with our developer. Not only did we invite her in, we gave her our phone numbers and e-mail addresses. It was not until later when we talked with our real estate agent that we realized this was a scam to get our information for targeted advertising. A few weeks later, Viv spotted this woman about to accost a neighbor. Suddenly confronted about her credentials, the woman quickly jumped in her car and sped off.

Example 2:

We met with a landscaper who took us on a tour of his jobs. After dropping us off, he came back and handed us a $20 saying we must have lost it in his truck. It wasn’t ours, but he insisted that we keep it. That should have been a red flag. Instead, we gave him $1,000 to hold a date for us while he drew up some plans. When we never got formal plans, we started trying to get our money back. A few months later, he was jailed for theft in a separate incident. Now the state attorney general is investigating more than 400 allegations of fraud. We don’t expect to see our money again.

Example 3:

We wanted shade screens for our lanai. Our next door neighbors had it done for $2,000. The salesman – with the same company – visited our house and gave us a quote for a similar project. $12,000. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

These are just a few examples. In many areas there are organizations that keep track of legitimate complaints about businesses – ours is called “Seniors vs. Crime.” It was there we were advised to never do business with a contractor who won’t take a credit card.

You earned your money, don’t give it away to charlatans.

5. I Need to Develop a ‘Retirement Mind’

Decisions that were reflexive before Retirement need to be reconsidered with a Retirement Mind. Technically this mistake with our mortgage happened just before retirement, but it’s impacting our monthly payment in Retirement.

I had a pre-retirement mindset when I decided when to start taking 401K withdrawals. My assumption was that it would be like getting your first paycheck on a new job. I didn’t anticipate that mistakes can be made, even by a giant Mutual Fund Company.

6. Finding True Friends is Difficult

If I was taken away in an ambulance, who would go with Viv to the hospital and wait with her until I was out of danger? Those people are true friends. They are hard to find and more valuable than gold.

In one way we were fortunate to move to a neighborhood that had just been built. Everyone here was looking for new friends. We had block parties and dinners and chats in the street. We discovered that you can make acquaintances easily. Making friends is much harder. We feel fortunate to have four couples we can count on for good times, and for bad. How many do you have?

Retirement Block Party
Our Friends Hosting a Block Party

7. Connecting with Old Friends is even more Important

For nearly a decade we were neighbors with one of those couples noted above. Now we live 20 minutes apart. Recently, we had them over and there was a comfort to our visit that takes years to develop. They know our families and we know theirs. With old friends you can have a conversation without having to fill in extra details. It is a much deeper connection.

We also have friends who no longer live near us. They are just as important. We may be separated geographically, but we can still nurture and grow our friendships. Social media is nice, but it’s not enough. I’ve found that I need to do a better job keeping in touch.

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8. Socialization Can Come at a Price

We live in a 55+ community. The majority of those we meet are retired as well. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize and try to develop friendships. That often means having a few drinks – nothing wrong with that for most people. But before Retirement, we might average a social event once a month. In Retirement, every day is an opportunity to socialize. It’s easy to get into a pattern where you might be drinking five or more nights a week.

We’ve cut back on our socialization involving alcohol and it’s nice that two of our favorite couples feel the same.

9. Have Courage and Seize the Day

Retirement blesses you with the ability to make plans at the last minute. We’ve done well in this area.

By the time we discovered that our favorite area entertainer was planning a group cruise, we had 24 hours to make a decision. We bought our tickets the next day and were on the ship a month later. One week after our cruise, the entire industry was shut down due to COVID concerns.

Cruising (and Dancing) with Scooter the DJ

We discovered that Disney was reopening Epcot just two days beforehand. After a few minutes discussing safety concerns and COVID, we booked our reservation. We wrote this story about Epcot’s reopening day.

At Epcot’s “World Showcase

We made these decisions quickly, but not lightly. COVID was a concern, but after assessing the potential danger, we agreed that we could do both of these things safely as long as we took proper precautions. We also self-isolated afterwards. This allowed us to get out and have experiences that proved positive for our mental health.

And no, we didn’t get sick.

10. Your Age is more than a Number

In my community I see 80+ year olds who are happy, engaging and full of life. I also see 60 year olds who are inconsiderate, grumpy and appear to be waiting for the end. Obviously some people can be blessed with great health while others can have serious illnesses. But the majority of the people I run into are similar in mental and physical ability. Some are just determined to have a great day no matter what.

During my second year in Retirement, I want to be more like them.

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