Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thoughts One Year into Retirement

For many working people the thought of retiring is an immediate cause for fear. This is especially true for those who have had jobs that simply defined their lives. Their jobs were often their entire reason for being.

I spoke to a woman about my age at a wedding reception on Sunday who is a top-notch physicist in California, dealing with space travel and other sophisticated topics. When I asked her if she had considered retiring, she immediately became defensive saying, “But I love my job... and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it.”

Even my husband, who has been retired for 5 years now, quickly tells people he has a second career doing websites for paying clients. It’s as though he really doesn’t want to admit to the fact that he is retired.

Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m completely retired and I enjoy playing music and reading to kids in a homeless shelter; that I haven’t yet turned to TV for entertainment, preferring to read books instead.

There are days like today when I have absolutely nothing scheduled and I must impose my own schedule if I am to accomplish anything at all. I often think I much prefer the days that have an appointment of some kind – lunch with a friend, a class, or even a doctor’s appointment.

We become so accustomed to our time being overscheduled that it is difficult to adjust to having free time, sometimes whole days of free time, with plenty of time for a nap. As we put out head on the pillow at night, we still want to be able to say that we accomplished something during the day.

Retirement is a luxury that not everyone can experience. Many people are in jobs that have no retirement plan, unless they themselves consciously set up 401-K plans. When my monthly annuity is automatically deposited at the beginning of each month, I am grateful I worked for the Federal Government under the old retirement system that allowed me to retire at 58 with enough money to live on for the rest of my life. I had a good job that I never dreaded going to, but I am quite content to no longer make that daily commute.

17 Comments:

Blogger Pauline said...

It must be that old Puritan work ethic that drives us to fill each day with "accomplishments." I look forward to the day when I don't HAVE to accomplish anything in particular, when the clock is no longer a dictator but simply something that makes ticking sounds, and when I have NOTHING scheduled and everything I want to do to choose from. That feeling of freedom and openness may not last but oh - that first taste is something I am anticipating with great glee!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

People are working animals. For most of history, we have worked until death.

A life of complete leisure is never good for anyone. Though you think of yourself as retired, Barbara, you keep yourself extremely busy.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- After the initial glee of figuring out that you are your own boss, you too will find wonderful things to do on a regular basis, some of which will probably result in accomplishments! The difference is you get to savor the process.

Reya -- I am happiest when I am busy, but it's definitely a different kind of busy than working 9-5. The chance to have a pedicure with a friend in the middle of the day is my idea of how to spend retirement!

8:21 AM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

you are far from retired from life! in fact, from what I know you give so much to the world now that you are 'retired' .... in your 'working-for-the-man' life did you do as much?

semantics, semantics....

u.s. culture and society seems to value money - and making it - above most everything else, thus it's not difficult to imagine why folks get all nervous and defensive when the topic of retirement comes up. wouldn't it be nice to be able to reframe things!

9:04 AM  
Blogger Aileen said...

It's interesting- I've learned similar things since breaking out on my own and working for myself. While I have a lot "to do", often it doesn't really matter when I do it. So I, too, find it works better for me if I impose some sort of structured scheduled on myself.

I'm so glad you are enjoying your retirement! You are extremely fortunate! I think less and less people will be able to retire in the manner that you have.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Mouse -- I invested a lot of energy in bureaucracy when I was a Fed. I'm glad to put that energy to better use these days!

Aileen -- I agree that the "rules" for retirement may well change, forcing people to work longer and/or reducing their benefits after retirement. I am lucky to be enjoying the last of a really good thing!

9:25 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I have some anxiety about retirement -- I save really well and I have a 401K, but I always wonder whether I'll have enough money to sustain myself.

I don't think I'll have trouble with the free time, though. Like you, I'll find lots of ways to stay busy!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I envy you the retirement and hope that someday I can retire with half as much energy, motivation and joie de vivre as you seem to have.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- It does take some time getting used to being your own boss, but you too will love it when it is your time to do so!

Kristin -- I have no doubt that you will retire in style. But by then you will have already visited all the hotspots of the world at the rate you are going!

10:52 AM  
Blogger steve said...

I'll have to work till I'm Candle-lit and Cremated.
Really, i didn't plan it that way, thats just the way it came out.

Hey barb, good show on Charlie Rose last night....3 Drs. discussing a new generalized DNA teast that will soon be available at a low cost to the general public.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve #1 -- Maybe your two kids will strike it rich and support you in style in your old age!

Tell me more about the generalized DNA test. What can you learn from it?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Mo said...

Wow. I'm printing this post and sending it to my grandma who is having a really difficult time in her retirement. I know so much of what you've said will resonate with her a great deal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Lemmonex said...

"We become so accustomed to our time being overscheduled that it is difficult to adjust to having free time, sometimes whole days of free time, with plenty of time for a nap."

I struggle with this so much. I have started telling people I have plans, when in reality, the plans are with myself. It is just too much sometimes.

11:51 AM  
Blogger steve said...

It featured the outgoing director of the human Genome project, plus two DR./Scientists.
The plan is that you spit into a tube, send it in and for $20 they tell you what you are genetically prone to fall prey to. The low cost is the whole deal.
You did a post about the costs associated with aging a few days ago. The discussion last night centered on prevention, and how much more economical it was to detect ealy and take pereventitive measures... if you are predisposed to Cancer, they are finding ways to turn on the prevent genes, turn off the malignant genes, JUST BY CHANGING YOUR DIET!

it was an excellent show last night.

If you ever do come out of retirement, I would move that you do a show like Charlie Rose. You're blog is as varied and as intelligent as his show, you are every bit as informed and inquisitive, and you already have a great following of really good people.

Do I have a second to that motion?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Mo -- I'm so touched that you think your grandmother might benefit from something I've said. If she has e-mail access and wants to chat, please tell her to send me a message at barbara.diskin@verizon.net.

Lemmonex -- I think it's perfectly acceptable to schedule time just for yourself. In fact it's so SMART! Now why didn't I ever think of that?

Steve #1 -- Excellent news about the affordable DNA testing. I'm telling you, the health industry is moving at a fast clip. We may well all live a lot longer than we ever thought!

As for my Blog, some days I wonder if what I write is worth throwing out there to the universe. It's often those posts that people seem to identify with. We're all searching for answers to life's questions it would seem.

Interesting that this group linked to my retirement post. Babyboomers are a force to be reckoned with!

12:09 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Sorry for all the commentoiing here....I've lost your email address.
I was wrong about the guest, and your WETA site is giving me a hard time and the video is not out yet and you will have to cut and paste to your address bar berowser thing-a - ma--jig

http://www.charlierose.com/shows/2008/07/29/2/a-discussion-about-personal-genetics

12:32 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve #1 -- Thanks for the link. I will definitely watch the vid when it is available.

My e-mail address is barbara.diskin@verizon.net.

10:56 PM  

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