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Retirement Dissatisfaction is Inevitable
Old 11-14-2010, 08:32 AM   #1
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Retirement Dissatisfaction is Inevitable

The title may be overly provocative to attract readers, but the intent is actually to foster insightful comments, I'm not trying to offend anyone.

Presumably no one here disliked their job/career early on, if you did you have no one to blame but yourself. But eventually all of us tire of our job/career for a host of reasons, after 30 years or so, it becomes unpleasant. Early retirement looks like the obvious solution in modern times.

No one dislikes (early) retirement early on either, if you do you have no one to blame but yourself. But eventually when we've done all the fun things we've always wanted to do, even if that takes (I hope) 10-20 years, it will eventually become unpleasant for most of us.

Even though the retiree is free to make changes - later in life, most people become very set in their ways, and can't easily change their lives/routines even if they know it would be good for them. I know very well several people in their 80's that aren't enjoying life much anymore, though $ are not an issue (they all have COLA's pensions & health care) - and it seems pretty common.

I don't seem to hear comments on this forum from anyone even 15 years into retirement very often, and the most prolific posters seem to have many less years in. I'd value even more the perspective of those folks who are 30 years in?

Maybe we're just not meant to do the same thing no matter what it is for 30 years - we thrive on some variety and challenges. So the ideal approach, FI or not, is to keep changing and reinventing ourselves (and our careers) as long as possible until we can't work anymore - which will keep retirement from work shorter and more rewarding. And a few sabbaticals or adventure breaks between careers would be even better.

What am I missing? This should be interesting...
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:34 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post

No one dislikes (early) retirement early on either, if you do you have no one to blame but yourself. But eventually when we've done all the fun things we've always wanted to do, even if that takes (I hope) 10-20 years, it will eventually become unpleasant for most of us.


What am I missing?
A grip on reality.

I think your bottom-line premise is nothing more than conjecture. Can you point to any reasonably unbiased studies to support the eventuality "retirement will become unpleasant"?
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:35 AM   #3
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:42 AM   #4
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I know very well several people in their 80's that aren't enjoying life much anymore, though $ are not an issue (they all have COLA's pensions & health care) - and it seems pretty common.
You don't think there might be a slight chance health and other factors related to aging, not retirement, have an influence here?
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:51 AM   #5
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You have convinced me. I'll start looking for a job first thing tomorrow. :r ofl:
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:01 AM   #6
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Hey, I am miserable working now, so I will take my chances that I might be less than ecstatic when I am retired.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:04 AM   #7
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Even though the retiree is free to make changes - later in life, most people become very set in their ways, and can't easily change their lives/routines even if they know it would be good for them. I know very well several people in their 80's that aren't enjoying life much anymore, though $ are not an issue (they all have COLA's pensions & health care) - and it seems pretty common.
That's not retirement, that's old age

The first line is exactly right. If someone in the workforce is dissatisfied, they are free to leave; if a retiree is dissatisfying, they are free to rejoin the workforce. Everyone in the world decides for themselves what they value most and what will make them most happy. And then they go out and do that. Anything else would be irrational. Just because our values change does not mean dissatisfaction is inevitable, it just means changing our path many times over a lifetime is inevitable
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:04 AM   #8
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"Retirement" to me means having the freedom to choose my activities, every day. I will be able to reinvent myself whenever needed with minimal outside constraints. If that leads to dissatisfaction, then it's pretty clear that only I will be to blame, and it will be in my power to do something about it.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:19 AM   #9
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You don't think there might be a slight chance health and other factors related to aging, not retirement, have an influence here?
I hadn't made that connection - but health or physical limitations are definitely a factor, probably number one, and maybe it's as simple as that. Maybe all the other symptoms - the lack of social interaction, lack of feeling productive and just plain inertia (set in their ways) all stem from health/physical limitations (not being sarcastic here). Hmmmm...

I do know that I get bored with most activities in far less than 30 years though, none of my hobbies have lasted that long in life so far. So I'm going to have to reinvent myself over and over in retirement to be "happy." And that does not seem common in the old folks I know, they seem content to stick to the same routine indefinitely...a fate worse than death to me.

Thanks...

Just read the "just one more year syndrome" thread again for the umpteenth time. There is some very good stuff there, more clicks each time I read it...
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:25 AM   #10
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One major issue is that most of us still w*rking are miserable at our jobs. There are a few people (MidPack and Rich-in-Tampa came to mind) who still enjoy their jobs but would like a chance of pace or adventure into a new phase in life. To me, there is a substantial difference between the two situations. For the former, ER means freedom and the ability to do what they want. If one gets bored, one has only him or herself to blame. To the latter, they are already doing what they want at their j*bs. ER is a new phase that comes with mixed feelings. The latter group is probably more likely to feel dissatisfaction in ER, just because they already reached a high level of satisfaction in their working career.

It's all relative. Like Brewer, I would be happy to try out ER right now to prove the OP's point right, if I could.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:40 AM   #11
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To Quote much smarter people here:

"I would rather sell a kidney than go back to work full time." Kahn

"Early Semi Retirement might be the Answer:" ESR Bob

For me it was ESR as I need something different constantly and my profitable hobby provides that. Like Mid Pack I grow tired of hobbies over time. I have recently noticed that I do not enjoy fishing like I use to. I still go some but not very often. I would never have thought that would happen but it has. I hope I get interested in it again someday!
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:59 AM   #12
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If someone in the workforce is dissatisfied, they are free to leave
This is not true for me, and was never true for me. I have always had dependents and financial commitments that require me to work. While I can (and have) chose to leave one employer and find other work, I was never simply free to leave.

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eventually all of us tire of our job/career for a host of reasons
Likewise, I have never had a job I found boring or wanted to leave based on boredom, no matter how many years I did it. I have wanted to leave work because of jerk bosses, unreasonable corporate mandates, financial failure of the company or lack of work security. But I have never been bored professionally. Maybe that is a by product of working with computers. They change so much that the jobs have to change with them. I have found some hobbies I dive into, only to later back off to much less frequent involvement. Perhaps that is similar to the work boredom you describe.

I appreciate that the above ideas must match your personal experience, but I don't think they are universal. Perhaps they are common for you to see because that is how you yourself either see the world or react to things, whether a job/career or retirement. I'm not sure what you think could be gained by a longitudinal study of long time ERs. If some report boredom, as you hypothesize, would that dissuade you from ER because you might eventually tire of doing whatever you want? Are there any results from such a study that would change your ER decision?

I think I see much more info I expect to be relevant to my situation in studies of how people spend their time and stay active and engaged in retirement and old age.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:18 AM   #13
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I suspect that disliking one's job is the primary motivator on this board. This then puts a high premium on FI and ER. You might be asking the wrong audience your question. First few responses point this way. Also, I doubt many 80 year olds are that computer literate? Any way I think your question is a good one and would be interested in responses. I am only 4 years in so don't have much insight re retirement boredom.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:52 AM   #14
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If someone in the workforce is dissatisfied, they are free to leave
This is not true for me, and was never true for me. I have always had dependents and financial commitments that require me to work. While I can (and have) chose to leave one employer and find other work, I was never simply free to leave.
All that means is that you value taking care of dependents more than you value leaving the workforce, not that it is impossible to do

Perhaps there is a lack of freedom, but that comes from what's inside, not the outside factors like the job or the boss

Which brings us to the idea that failing to following your own values and desires will lead to dissatisfaction. Being employed or retired is not what determines those things
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:08 AM   #15
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... So the ideal approach, FI or not, is to keep changing and reinventing ourselves (and our careers) as long as possible until we can't work anymore...

What am I missing? This should be interesting...
Why can't the same thing apply to ER? Reinvent yourself. It doesn't require a paycheck.
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:12 AM   #16
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I don't seem to hear comments on this forum from anyone even 15 years into retirement very often, and the most prolific posters seem to have many less years in. I'd value even more the perspective of those folks who are 30 years in?
I would suspect that it is not that they have become dissatisfied with retirement, just comfortable with it. Most of us are recently retired or looking forward to it. I would guess after a while many of us lose the desire to chat about what has become the norm. We simply move on.

As for the general premise, I would assume that retired people are just like the rest of the population. A few live life to the fullest, most live rather mundane, but pleasant existences and a few are sad, depressed and bitter.

I think the difference between being retired and working is that when you are retired, even if you aren't skydiving, sculpting nude statues, writing the great American novel, etc., you get to do what it is you want to do. At work, for most of us, you're doing what someone else wants you to do. Just knowing that you can do whatever you want to do is enough for most us.

I think you are mistaking the natural profession from excited, enthusiastic new retiree into contented, comfortable veteran retiree as dissatisfaction. I would imagine that the fact we also age as we make that transition just amplifies the effect. Just because a more experienced retiree isn't jumping up and down, posting on this forum like their life depended on it and grabbing life by the horns each and every day doesn't mean they are dissatisfied, though it may look that way to some of us newbie retirees.
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:23 AM   #17
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One major issue is that most of us still w*rking are miserable at our jobs. There are a few people (MidPack and Rich-in-Tampa came to mind) who still enjoy their jobs but would like a chance of pace or adventure into a new phase in life. To me, there is a substantial difference between the two situations. For the former, ER means freedom and the ability to do what they want. If one gets bored, one has only him or herself to blame. To the latter, they are already doing what they want at their j*bs. ER is a new phase that comes with mixed feelings. The latter group is probably more likely to feel dissatisfaction in ER, just because they already reached a high level of satisfaction in their working career.

It's all relative. Like Brewer, I would be happy to try out ER right now to prove the OP's point right, if I could.
I have reinvented myself several times over the course of my working career, so I understand that one can get a sort of "cabin fever" and want a change after a time. But I am confident that I can also reinvent myself in retirement if and when I should feel the need.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:36 PM   #18
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I'm not trying to offend anyone.
Yeah, good luck with that!

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I know very well several people in their 80's that aren't enjoying life much anymore, though $ are not an issue (they all have COLA's pensions & health care) - and it seems pretty common.
I think that has everything to do with aging and nothing to do with work. The trick would be designing a study that has equal numbers of retired and working octogenarians. Or taking a bunch of unhappy retired octogenarians, putting them on Wal-Mart greeter shifts, and then re-assessing their happiness factors.

For anecdotal data, look at Buffett & Munger. They have extremely similar backgrounds, employment, family situations, and net worths. (Well, roughly the same number of digits to the left of the decimal, anyway. Neither one is worrying about Medicaid.) You can hardly spread the bell curve wide enough to accommodate their temperaments. Buffett makes Pollyanna look like Ebenezer Scrooge, while Munger makes Ebenezer look like Pollyanna. Charlie's experienced a few chronic vision/pain problems over the decades, and I wonder if that's contributed to his innate attitude.

I'm not sure what category to ascribe to Hugh Hefner. Working? Retired? Regardless of his relentless performance pressure, so to speak, he seems pretty happy. Maybe the secret to geriatric happiness lies in surrounding yourself with pretty young things. Contact me if you need a volunteer for that study.

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I don't seem to hear comments on this forum from anyone even 15 years into retirement very often, and the most prolific posters seem to have many less years in. I'd value even more the perspective of those folks who are 30 years in?
How many active posters do we have here with over 15 years in ER? Three?

Billy & Akaisha don't post here very often, but when you read their website (or e-mail them) they seem pretty darn happy.

Jarhead was a great raconteur until he...um... stopped posting. (I wish he'd just check in, let alone start up a conversation.) But even he grudgingly acknowledged that his golfing skills had suffered an inevitable age-related decline. Dory hasn't checked in for over a year but he's been totally focused on his new avocation, grandparenthood. He seems pretty happy with it too.

H0cu$ can't post here, but he seems pretty happy... well, maybe he's not such a rational example of a good ER.

Look at Taylor Larimore and even Mel Lindauer over at Bogleheads. Perhaps Mel isn't such a good example of "retired" but he's certainly not grubbing for money.

The original JohnGalt from several years back-- now there's an example of a guy who's insufferable miserable no matter his age or his circumstances.

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I do know that I get bored with most activities in far less than 30 years though, none of my hobbies have lasted that long in life so far. So I'm going to have to reinvent myself over and over in retirement to be "happy." And that does not seem common in the old folks I know, they seem content to stick to the same routine indefinitely...a fate worse than death to me.
Again I think it has more to do with declining physical/mental capacity than it has to do with unhappiness, although there is medical evidence that seniors are more chemically prone to depression.

I've only been surfing for eight years, but my favorite break is full of guys who've been surfing nearly as long as I've been alive. They don't keep Kelly Slater up at night worrying about their skills, but their skills are nonetheless even more impressive-- even humbling-- for their age. I'm not talking about helicopters & aerials but rather an incredible economy of motion and smoothness. One stroke, a leisurely rise to their feet (can't exactly call it a "pop up"), and they're serenely sailing away on the wave as if their board was nailed to it. These guys could surf a barn door in a storm drain and make it look good. Maybe when I get my 10,000 hours I'll look that good. At five hours/week, though, I'm gonna have to step up the pace a little.

Every time I go surfing it's different. I'm never sitting out there thinking "Geez, here I am again, hope this is more fun today." There's always something new to try, some old skill to tweak, or just a gorgeous bikini environment to enjoy. I've promised myself that when I get bored with longboarding then I'll change to a shorter board, a standup board, or even wind/kite surfing. But so far I've been too busy with longboarding to feel the need for a change. I'll have to reassess that attitude in, oh, eight years or so.

Come to think of it, I know plenty of young angry surfers but not a single grumpy geezer surfer. Maybe the grumpy ones just stop paddling out. TromboneAl, Ronin, Donheff, Cardude, any more thoughts on that?
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:43 PM   #19
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:54 PM   #20
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I hadn't made that connection - but health or physical limitations are definitely a factor, probably number one, and maybe it's as simple as that. Maybe all the other symptoms - the lack of social interaction, lack of feeling productive and just plain inertia (set in their ways) all stem from health/physical limitations (not being sarcastic here). Hmmmm...

I do know that I get bored with most activities in far less than 30 years though, none of my hobbies have lasted that long in life so far. So I'm going to have to reinvent myself over and over in retirement to be "happy." And that does not seem common in the old folks I know, they seem content to stick to the same routine indefinitely...a fate worse than death to me.

Thanks...

Just read the "just one more year syndrome" thread again for the umpteenth time. There is some very good stuff there, more clicks each time I read it...
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