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Busy retirees can still feel empty and miss their jobs
Old 06-02-2009, 10:23 AM   #1
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Busy retirees can still feel empty and miss their jobs

I have a large number of activities planned for my retirement, and have thought beyond just selling my house, moving north, buying another house, and becoming familiar with my new community (not to mention spending more time with Frank). I have a list of 20+ activities that I love or would love but never seem to have time to do. These range from birdwatching to taking up the piano again, growing roses again, becoming probably the very last baby boomer to complete a 10K, and much more.

However, the author of this article says that she planned as I have but still found retirement to be unrewarding and disappointing for her. She discusses many aspects of retirement, and here is one of many thoughts that interested me:

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Before I retired, I'd thought I would have world enough and time to do everything I had dreamed about doing once I was no longer confined by a job. But after my retirement honeymoon in Palm Springs, suddenly time seemed to slip through my fingers. I'd be at my desk by 8 a.m., checking e-mail and reviewing my "to do" list, which kept getting longer. Just like other retirees, I'd brag to anyone who would listen: "It's hard to believe. I'm busier now than when I was working." But this busy schedule only heightened the hollow feeling inside.
Her viewpoint is certainly food for thought, though it is hard for me to visualize what her problems really are and how this could be. I don't seem to feel this way during vacations, at any rate.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:27 AM   #2
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As a retiree, the only time I "feel empty" is when I'm hungry.

As for "missing my job",
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:31 AM   #3
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As a retiree, the only time I "feel empty" is when I'm hungry.

As for "missing my job",
That's encouraging!!

I know that some of our ER members have returned to work because they wanted to, and that is fine, but to read this article one would think that the rest are just conflicted and would return as well if they dared face the truth.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:34 AM   #4
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Ideally, someone who is mentally/emotionally unsure about retirement (assuming the financial aspect was solid) would be in a position to find a little w*rk if they discovered they really missed it.

People in the building and construction trades (maybe not in this economy, but usually) are in a good position to take a side gig from time to time, continue to use their experiences and earn a few bucks.

Also, if you w*rk for a company that often uses its retirees as contractors, there's another opportunity -- if you miss it, contract out for a couple of months and get it out of your system for a while. When I worked at an aerospace company, there were a large number of "triple dippers" -- people who put in 20 years with the military, another 20 with the aerospace company, and they'd retire. While collecting two DB pensions, they'd contract out to the aerospace company at something like $60+ per hour. With no benefits, of course -- but they didn't need benefits.

And when they quit contracting for good, they'd start collecting SS and triple dip all over again.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:38 AM   #5
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from the article..."Looking back, I now see that the Type A trait that had made me a successful manager wasn't suited to my new life. I didn't have to get up early any more. I didn't even have to get dressed if I didn't want to. Of course, that was part of the problem. Now I had to structure my day and nameless anxiety drove me to keep busy."

Sound like anybody you all know,, say from April 2007 to perhaps 6 months forward?
I have re-read some of my early posts just for laughs.

With lots of help (sledgehammer! ) from you all and some imaginary mental "chill pills", the transition is almost complete. Now I'm just plain lazy, with occasional outbursts of energy and "I gotta be doing something".

Excellent article.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:49 AM   #6
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Ideally, someone who is mentally/emotionally unsure about retirement (assuming the financial aspect was solid) would be in a position to find a little w*rk if they discovered they really missed it.
I guess, especially if they worked in certain fields in which job openings might occur now and then. Maybe volunteering could fill that gap for the rest of us (not too many part time oceanographers are hired in small towns in Missouri, as you might imagine).

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from the article..."Looking back, I now see that the Type A trait that had made me a successful manager wasn't suited to my new life. I didn't have to get up early any more. I didn't even have to get dressed if I didn't want to. Of course, that was part of the problem. Now I had to structure my day and nameless anxiety drove me to keep busy."
Sounds great to me. I just finished a 1-week enforced vacation (due to emergency electrical work that needed to be done on our building), and I have to say that sleeping in every day did not distress me one bit. Quite the opposite. Maybe it is different after retirement.

I do plan to structure my day enough that I get out and exercise every day. That's a start.

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Sound like anybody you all know,, say from April 2007 to perhaps 6 months forward?
I have re-read some of my early posts just for laughs.

With lots of help (sledgehammer! ) from you all and some imaginary mental "chill pills", the transition is almost complete. Now I'm just plain lazy, with occasional outbursts of energy and "I gotta be doing something".

Excellent article.
Glad to hear that you have pulled yourself out of these difficulties.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:52 AM   #7
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Im very tired this morning due to all the planning for trips to free events. Yes, the to-do list never goes away but it's my to-do list and time does seem to slip away faster when you're doin' your own thing. Spent the three free zip code days at the science museum, then re-arranged the closet on Monday. Takes some effort to keep the schedule straight--today is free day at the MoMa and inexpensive noontime concert, tomorrow is free opera lecture at the library and free day at the other museum, so I'm free for the UP! movie on Thursday, had to figure out which theaters have it in 3D, lots of research, Sunday is free day at the Asian museum. Oh yeah, dont forget have to find times to squeeze in the museums where I have a membership and all the naturally free places like trails and beaches.

The concept of work never goes away, there's the errand/cleaning list, let's not go there, it's like porn, that is work.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:01 AM   #8
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Im very tired this morning due to all the planning for trips to free events. Yes, the to-do list never goes away but it's my to-do list and time does seem to slip away faster when you're doin' your own thing. Spent the three free zip code days at the science museum, then re-arranged the closet on Monday. Takes some effort to keep the schedule straight--today is free day at the MoMa and inexpensive noontime concert, tomorrow is free opera lecture at the library and free day at the other museum, so I'm free for the UP! movie on Thursday, had to figure out which theaters have it in 3D, lots of research, Sunday is free day at the Asian museum. Oh yeah, dont forget have to find times to squeeze in the museums where I have a membership and all the naturally free places like trails and beaches.

The concept of work never goes away, there's the errand/cleaning list, let's not go there, it's like porn, that is work.
Your schedule DOES sound hectic! I would be tempted to skip some of the free events and just stay home and putter about for a few days. I think(?)

Honestly, it's hard to visualize what retired life will really be like. It's almost like visualizing living on Mars, from the perspective of someone still working.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:02 AM   #9
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...Glad to hear that you have pulled yourself out of these difficulties.

I had to learn to do....re...rel...relax and do nothing.
My self-imposed hibernation this past winter did me a lot of good. Of course I did a lot of stuff wrt inside projects, but not so driven as before. Uh huh...
I think you have the right attitude for your upcoming exodus. Is your geographical relocation happening right after retiring, or after several months or a year?
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:12 AM   #10
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I’m very tired this morning due to all the planning for trips to free events. Yes, the to-do list never goes away but it's my to-do list and time does seem to slip away faster when you're doin' your own thing. Spent the three free zip code days at the science museum, then re-arranged the closet on Monday. Takes some effort to keep the schedule straight--today is free day at the MoMa and inexpensive noontime concert, tomorrow is free opera lecture at the library and free day at the other museum, so I'm free for the UP! movie on Thursday, had to figure out which theaters have it in 3D, lots of research, Sunday is free day at the Asian museum. Oh yeah, don’t forget have to find times to squeeze in the museums where I have a membership and all the naturally free places like trails and beaches.

The concept of work never goes away, there's the errand/cleaning list, let's not go there, it's like porn, that is work.
I truly envy you for the cultural opportunities you have. It's pretty bare around here.
OTOH I have wide open spaces to go driving around.
I'm still trying to find a "let's go for a visit to ..." partner in crime. dh2b would love to go adventuring with me, but this little matter of w*rk keeps getting in the way.
My best guy friend only wants to shop. All my other friends still w*rk.
Another retired gal friend always wants to go to the casino for bingo.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:24 AM   #11
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I had to learn to do....re...rel...relax and do nothing.
My self-imposed hibernation this past winter did me a lot of good. Of course I did a lot of stuff wrt inside projects, but not so driven as before. Uh huh...
I think you have the right attitude for your upcoming exodus. Is your geographical relocation happening right after retiring, or after several months or a year?
I have to sell my house first, and I will probably spend a couple of months getting it ready to sell first. I am retiring on November 9th, and so I am thinking that maybe I could put it on the market in January or February. After that, it's anybody's guess. I hope that with a nice low asking price I could sell it by summer, but you never know.

The period between my retirement and my move might be the hardest for me. I can't really start working on my list of things that I want to do until I get settled somewhere. I'll be busy working on the house, but that doesn't sound like much fun to me.

It's going to be hard to sell this house that I love and leave New Orleans. But I am convinced that we will both be happier up north, in the long run. I do love the adventure of moving. Besides, I always wanted a house with a garage, and this time I'll insist on it.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:27 AM   #12
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Her viewpoint is certainly food for thought, though it is hard for me to visualize what her problems really are and how this could be. I don't seem to feel this way during vacations, at any rate.
That's because a vacation ain't a retirement.

From my experience, Vierneisel hit the nail on the head and I think her experience mirrors that of quite a number of retirees. With a few differences, I can tell a very similar story.

I had a recent conversation about this with a former co-worker who is a good friend (as opposed to the people Vierneisel wrote about - which I refer to as "work friends"). He's finally starting to come to grips that he will be retiring in a few short years and he and his wife visited another now-retired co-worker living in the Hill Country (where they want to retire to).

It's a high-pressure, life-and-death kind of job (Vierneisel wrote about 50+hour weeks, we had many 50+ hour days) that is also a way of life that goes to the very core of who you are. Becoming a cop comes with some major rethinking of how you view the world and the people in it. And being a Narc is like being in a very tight-knit inner-sanctum-brotherhood of copdom. Having a huge ego, and I was accused of having one of the biggest, is essential to success. And I have four walls full of awards and trophy pictures that prove my ability to wrap myself up in my ego and be damn good at what I did.

Unwinding all of that takes a bit of time and effort.

While I had been financially planning for about a year before I retired, I made the actual decision in just a few hours because I could have never, or almost never, duplicated the financial opportunity that retiring at that moment was offering. So, overnight, I went from being consumed by my job to having nothing to do with the place.

My friend's dad was a career military officer who has been retired for a couple of decades now. Whenever I ask my friend "when are you finally leaving that place", he has usually responds by repeating something his dad told him, "you don't want to retire too early."

But after his trip to the Hill Country I think he has started to realize that the reality of retirement just might be different than what he has been anticipating. He asked how I coped with that, and I explained this to my friend: You have to learn a whole new way of seeing yourself; to discover who you really are outside of that crazy job and how you fit in the world. It takes time to figure out the difference between what you want to do from what you think you're supposed to be doing. And being a Type-A, anal-retentive, hardcharger, just like I was, you will have to figure out what things are genuinely important to you, versus obsessively working at doing the things you think are supposed to be done in retirement.

Like Vierneisel, I had the massive Type-A "to-do list" from Hell. Somewhere along the line I started re-evaluating that thing. Especially after I realized that I wasn't lying when I said "I've got more stuff to do every day than I did while working". The process of re-evaluating the to-do list led to a period in which my sentiment for a lot of things could best be described as "who gives a rat's ass". Since I felt like I was a prisoner of the list of stuff that I thought I was supposed to be doing, I neglected the whole thing.

I entered the "lost" period which lasted until there were too many days when I said "Wow, it's Friday already? But I didn't get anything done." When that turned into "Wow, it's February already?" I knew it was time to take a look at the "to-do" list and make it more like a "want-to-do" list. Unlike Vierneisel, I didn't have sleepless nights or (too many) angry outbursts, but when I came out of it I think back on it like what William Bridges calls "the neutral zone".

So, my list is segregated into those things I have to do because there are things I own, and people I love, who need me to do things for them. And there are the things that I want to do because they are fun, or they make me happy, or feel fulfilled. Gone are (most of) the things that, I realize now, were just my competitive side trying to carry on my old obsessive ways from the days of w*rking (Must be number 1!). I'm no longer the guy who was famous for always saying, "Second place is just first place for losers". My preferred saying is now modified to, "I don't give a damn for anyone who doesn't try to win". A seriously big improvement I think

With a hat tip to Nords, I told my friend, "The City and the Pension Board have proven that they have confidence in your ability to entertain yourself. You just have to figure out what that means to you and the worm will turn for you then."

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Old 06-02-2009, 11:30 AM   #13
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Her viewpoint is certainly food for thought, though it is hard for me to visualize what her problems really are and how this could be. I don't seem to feel this way during vacations, at any rate.
Different people react differently to a big change. One of the mistakes (I think) that I made was to retire and then move to an entirely different area within six weeks. If I had it to do over again I'd stay put for a while, adjust to retirement, then do the move a year or so later. But six months after we moved friends and family were saying that we both looked more relaxed than they'd ever seen us so I suppose it was the right thing to do after all.

That said, I do miss the people I worked with, being part of a team that could do things that no one else could do, and was of vital importance to the community. If I was 22 I'd do it again but police work is a young person's job.

However, I do not miss dealing with idiots, morons, fools and imbeciles. Judges, especially, who (apparently) live in ivory towers separate from the gritty realities of life in the streets. I do not miss having to plan my daily life around the insufferable traffic in the Washington, DC area.

The first year was like an extended vacation - that's the euphoria phase, pretty normal, I read later. But then the days stretch out, and I began to feel the need to do something useful, but didn't want to commit to a schedule, so I helped a friend build an airplane. Eventually I ended up getting a job that for now suits me, the extra income is nice, we're banking most of it and in another month will have made up the losses in the deferred compensation (sort of a 401k) account. I bought a new toy that I wouldn't have without that extra income. And we're in the position that we don't have to work if we don't want to so if somebody gives me a boatload of crap at work I do have the option of simply walking away from it.

About 15 years ago when a station commander retired and six months later I saw him working as a court bailiff for about $10/hour I was astonished. Now I understand.

So, as with almost every decision there are pros and cons, you pays your money and takes your chances, etc. One of the neat things about retirement is that we have choices that we never had before, because all we have to do is keep breathing and the bills are paid.

And that's worth a lot.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:41 AM   #14
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Your schedule DOES sound hectic! I would be tempted to skip some of the free events and just stay home and putter about for a few days. I think(?)

....
That's one of the reasons I've dubbed myself, "Rookie Retiree." I do putter a lot but I think the best retirement advice I ever got was from my elderly neighbor who always said, "you have to get out every day." Free events tend to be bunched up at the end and beginning of the month. The rest of the time, sometimes my outings are just to walk a few blocks or to run errands or to hang out. Reading in the sun on the roof may qualify as "out" but I still feel like a slacker doing that. Slowing down has a learning curve.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:44 AM   #15
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I didnt like being a lawyer and being a HR manager was very stressing and ungrateful. So I was happy to leave all that behind for good. But still... I miss my friends at work. Its like when you get divorced or separated. Your relations with your friends when you were married get a bit stranged. And at my age you dont make the same kind of friendships. At least in Spain.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:49 AM   #16
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But after his trip to the Hill Country I think he has started to realize that the reality of retirement just might be different than what he has been anticipating. He asked how I coped with that, and I explained this to my friend: You have to learn a whole new way of seeing yourself; to discover who you really are outside of that crazy job and how you fit in the world. It takes time to figure out the difference between what you want to do from what you think you're supposed to be doing. And being a Type-A, anal-retentive, hardcharger, just like I was, you will have to figure out what things are genuinely important to you, versus obsessively working at doing the things you think are supposed to be done in retirement.

With a hat tip to Nords, I told my friend, "The City and the Pension Board have proven that they have confidence in your ability to entertain yourself. You just have to figure out what that means to you and the worm will turn for you then."

Leo, as one who dreams endlessly of retirement, I thank you very much for your wisdom and insight (and service). Your post is one of those I will surely remember when I get to that much-anticipated place.

Your post reminds me of the reason I am here, to learn from you folks that already know the score. Thank you so much!
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:50 AM   #17
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Leonidas, your entire post was fascinating to me. I hate to cut out a little piece and comment on it, but I am mostly just digesting the rest.

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I knew it was time to take a look at the "to-do" list and make it more like a "want-to-do" list.
Reflecting on how I feel about my list, I guess to me a lot of them are things to do if I get bored and want to do something fun, or something that I always wanted to do before I die.

Things like "doing the dishes" or "going to the gym" can be fun too, but they didn't make it to my list because I expect to be doing them anyway.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:53 AM   #18
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I'm not a type A so I did not have any massive to do lists but I knew I would find ways to fill my time and I have . My sister who is a type A +++++ threw herself into everything clubs ,volunteering ,moving , furnishing her new house , and now it has been six months and she is starting to burn out . I went the other way I started slowly adding things to do as I needed them and left lots of puttering time . I do not feel empty without working but I do miss the social aspect of it .
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:54 AM   #19
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That was an interesting article. She seems to have been quite invested in her work even though she wouldn't call her colleagues her friends, and it's also interesting that the article notes she now has "retirement coaching credentials from Retirement Options" (so perhaps she is making it sound as if the act of retiring is much harder than many of us have found it in a subtle effort to find clients?).

I think W2R has planned very carefully and maybe the most important thing to remember is that flexibility is your friend. Maybe you'll find you don't really want to move from where you are; maybe you'll make the move to Springfield and hate it; maybe you'll love Springfield but be bored out of your skull. Lots of ways to skin the cat and you certainly seem prepared to deal with unexpected.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:57 AM   #20
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...
I have wide open spaces to go driving around.
I'm still trying to find a "let's go for a visit to ..." partner in crime. dh2b would love to go adventuring with me, but this little matter of w*rk keeps getting in the way.
My best guy friend only wants to shop. All my other friends still w*rk.
Another retired gal friend always wants to go to the casino for bingo.
Gotta get driving around onto the schedule!

I've always figured we get up and go to work by ourselves, what's to stop us from going everywhere alone? The only item on this week's list that has a partner-in-crime is the "Up!" movie. SO can't walk very far and I need to for my health. I enjoy the chance encounters with strangers which not-so-strangely happens less often when I'm with a p-in-c. Yeah, I don't "get" shopping either, no longer hang out with my shopping people. Forget gambling, guess that's one no no I kept from childhood, do they smoke in you casinos, that puts me off.
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