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The Joy and Challenge of Life After Work
Old 02-05-2016, 10:55 AM   #1
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The Joy and Challenge of Life After Work

When newbies post here with some pre-retirement hesitation about life after work, I am surprised at how many members (not all) replies are something very brief & unqualified along the lines 'just do it, it's great, work is evil.' I think those newbies deserve a more thoughtful reply.

After 4+ years, I agree retirement is great, but so was work, and retirement has it's own challenges. From the new book How to Make Your Money Last by Jane Bryant Quinn, I might have appreciated a reply more like this before I retired - YMMV:

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I'd like to talk about the non-financial challenges of life after full-time work. They're huge and, for most people, unexpected. We fling ourselves into leisure as if a grand vacation lay ahead. But permanent vacations can get pretty boring. When we were working, we had a sense of accomplishment and a place in the world, even if - at the end - we couldn't wait to quit. Now, having shut that door, we need another place. What are we retiring to?

Eventually, when you look back on your transition from work to retirement, you'll think of it as perhaps the most creative period of your life. Most of us still need an active sense of social worth. But instead of getting it from a workplace, ready-made, we have to make it ourselves. The challenge is to discover new interests, new places, and ourselves. Your weeks should fill up again with projects, meetings, entertainments, and events - activities you chose yourself, to gladden your days and give purpose to your life. You'll probably take on these projects at a leisurely pace. I'm not suggesting that you'll want to be busy all the time. But neither will you want to look at a daily calendar that is blank.

It takes time to move from the worker role to the role of engaged, individual citizen. How long the transition takes will depend on your personal initiative and will. The faster you can bury the old "workplace you" and rise to a new "liberated you," the more content you're going to be.

Who are you anyway?
For so much of our lives, we identify ourselves with our jobs. "I'm a lawyer." "I'm a teacher." "I'm an operations manager." "I work for IBM." Those who have young children might also say "I'm a mother" or "I'm a father." Our jobs and family responsibilities give us status and meaning. When we quit, or the children grow up, there's an instant loss of status that few of us are truly prepared for. We're in a new role - that of citizen-retiree. It's an empty vessel until we fill it up.

What are you going to do with the rest of your life?
A 3G retirement (golf, gossip and grandchildren) isn't always enough, cute as the grandchildren are. Most retirees today are vigorous, mentally alert, and eager to jump into something active and interesting. We have skills, smarts, and dreams. At work, we were accomplishing stuff, even if we got tired of it. As parents, we had the critical job of raising responsible adults. But what are we accomplishing now? Loss of meaning and purpose throws some retirees into depression, even those who thought they couldn't wait to start a leisured life. If you spend your hours in front of a TV set, you're likely to - quite literally - bore yourself to death. You'll need all your imagination and energy to discover a new role.

Where will you find friends? [esp early retirees whose friends are still working]
When you worked, you made social contact simply by doing your job every day. You had people to chat with or complain about, customers to call on, and lunches with colleagues. When your job ends, however, your workaday friends are likely to fall away. You need to get out of the house and do things, not just for fun and intellectual interest but for the social companionship too. Women are better at this than men but it can be a challenge for both.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:03 AM   #2
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That pretty much hits the nail on the head. When w*rking, everything is taken care of, since someone else is running your life, for better or worse. Retirement can and should be better, but you have to take the responsibility and initiative to make it what you want to be.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:18 AM   #3
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Yes I agree. The key for me is staying active - mind, physical and social. I am teaching which does all of these as I often walk or cycle to the university and teach some incredibly bright people in small group settings. Also, continue to learn in preparing for sessions. Keeping and hopefully expanding a group of friends is also very important. Feel very lucky to have had 4 children as well. Seems like the best investment I ever made.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:26 AM   #4
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When I retired last July, I was concerned about the social aspects of being a young (56 year old man ) retiree. I have had many lunches with former coworkers (and not always the ones I thought would ask!), neighbors have been stopping by and other friends have been more available. My DW is somewhat concerned that we are not social butterflies, but that is not me! I have worked on projects around the house and played with my hobbies. I'm sometimes bored, but since my life seemed programed for the last 30 years, a little boredom is good. We have some ideas of "grand plans " that we will follow in the future, but for now, I am enjoying the quiet.

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Old 02-05-2016, 11:27 AM   #5
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I wonder if in general, men have a harder time adjusting to retirement than women? Of course there are plenty of men on this forum who are doing well in retirement, but you may be a self-selecting group. In our house, and among my acquaintances, it's the men who get bored after retirement.

My DH is having to adjust. His hobbies have always been very physical, and lately he just can't do some things without pain. Since he never developed any sedentary hobbies (such as reading), he's at a loss for things to do. He's been doing contract work, just so he has something to do.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:34 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Taxman59 View Post
When I retired last July, I was concerned about the social aspects of being a young (56 year old man ) retiree. I have had many lunches with former coworkers (and not always the ones I thought would ask!), neighbors have been stopping by and other friends have been more available. My DW is somewhat concerned that we are not social butterflies, but that is not me! I have worked on projects around the house and played with my hobbies. I'm sometimes bored, but since my life seemed programed for the last 30 years, a little boredom is good. We have some ideas of "grand plans " that we will follow in the future, but for now, I am enjoying the quiet.
Great.

Retirement is a very long chapter, so I'd be interested in the perspective of others. After over four years, I would describe my experience as:
  • 2 weeks of disbelief (I really don't have to work?!)
  • 2 months of ecstasy
  • 2 years of enjoyable exploration, with many successes and a few disappointments
  • followed by a whole new slate of (deliberately) widely varied activities and friends - but without the time pressures/constraints of the workaday world
  • I expect my life will continue to evolve & grow as always - I never want to fall into a 'comfortable rut'
  • YMMV, and it should
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:34 AM   #7
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great thread - being more active in church has really helped me.
However I need to learn to say "no" more often.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:38 AM   #8
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I wonder if in general, men have a harder time adjusting to retirement than women? Of course there are plenty of men on this forum who are doing well in retirement, but you may be a self-selecting group. In our house, and among my acquaintances, it's the men who get bored after retirement.

...
I've read a few articles that support this, although I think they can be more properly interpreted as "career-consumed persons without a nonwork friend network" tend to have a harder time. Especially if only one spouse is either SAH or has a 40-50 hour a week job that allows them to easily spend time with neighbors/friends, the newly-retired other spouse may tend to be an over-looming presence and cause discomfort for both?

Will be interesting for us, as we have no relatives within hundreds of miles, have no local social networks to speak of, and too easily fit the "career-consumed" checklist. Good news is that we have nothing holding us back from travel!
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:54 AM   #9
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I've read a few articles that support this, although I think they can be more properly interpreted as "career-consumed persons without a nonwork friend network" tend to have a harder time.
Don't forget "gains significant self worth from their profession."

I think many people under appreciate how much of "who we are" is defined by "what we do" - especially among professional achievers. I think people who describe themselves first and foremost as doctors, lawyers, accountants, executives, even as electricians, etc. have a harder time adjusting to a a life without those titles and external validation.

I had a hugely easy time adjusting to a life after work because I always lived two distinct lives. There was what I did 70-90 hours per week for work. And there was who I was when not on the clock. I never really mingled the two, much. So I didn't really lose anything when I left my job. I just freed up a bunch more time to be the person I already was.
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Old 02-05-2016, 12:05 PM   #10
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There are times I think I could do more with the additional time I have as a retired person. But, I remind myself if I was working I would not have this additional time to do anything but work, and I still do a lot of daily things that improve my life (like cook my own meals, work-out, etc.) that I could not do if I was working.

While I enjoyed my work, I did not enjoy the commute, nor did I enjoy the new pressures that seemed to be added yearly to my job.
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Old 02-05-2016, 12:08 PM   #11
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Just do it, it's great, work is evil.
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Old 02-05-2016, 12:12 PM   #12
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"Your weeks should fill up again with projects, meetings, entertainments, and events". If this will be my retirement life, I prefer not to retire and keep my 6 figure salary. In retirement, I just want to sleep until I don't want to, and eat when I want.
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Old 02-05-2016, 12:25 PM   #13
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Don't forget "gains significant self worth from their profession."

....

I had a hugely easy time adjusting to a life after work because I always lived two distinct lives. There was what I did 70-90 hours per week for work. And there was who I was when not on the clock. I never really mingled the two, much. So I didn't really lose anything when I left my job. I just freed up a bunch more time to be the person I already was.
Very good point.
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Old 02-05-2016, 01:30 PM   #14
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Don't forget "gains significant self worth from their profession."
.
I had this issue... until I got laid off a few years into my career... I hadn't realized how much my self worth was based on being a woman engineer.... I made an effort to change that (and value other aspects of myself.) I continued in engineering, but stopped identifying myself just as an engineer.

Later I ran across a Dave Barry quote that hit home: "Don't confuse your career with your life."
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Old 02-05-2016, 02:44 PM   #15
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I have 17 months left to RE (not that I'm counting, tick, tick, tick). My main hobby these days is photography. When we go on vacation, a lot of it is planned around photos of where we go. When we get back I photoshop the better shots, and then my DW and I create a photo book. It is quite time consuming but we love it. In preparation for RE, I have recently joined a couple photography Meetup groups, and I am giving though to how to turn my hobby interests into a part time, sideline service for people who don't have the time to do it for themselves.
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Old 02-05-2016, 02:59 PM   #16
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I agree that there will be a period of bewilderment and excitement (8 weeks left to ER). I also recognize that much of my social life has been interwinded with work as I have been in sales and we tend to gather together.

My concern is that I am ADD so need to have my hands in a lot of cookie jars. But work doesn't need to be one of the cookies. So, once I am past the "I can't believe I'm retired" phase and "I am tired of screwing around" phase then I will put my efforts into making my world a better place by volunteering and then still screwing around a lot.
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Old 02-05-2016, 03:04 PM   #17
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I never bought into the job as part of my identity - the nearest thing was maybe that I felt like my identity was, "That crazy guy who bikes to work." Unlike many people, I was able to keep my (several) jobs at 40 hours per week or less. So always felt like my identity was tied up at least as much in being a musician, a golfer, and an amateur astronomer as being a geophysicist, teacher, bureaucrat or non-profit manager. This was easier living in smaller communities where people see you in these other roles and give you feedback on all of your "identities". It seems that in large cities, it is just easier for people to ask, "What do you do for a living?" If that's where the conversation starts, it can be difficult to move the conversation elsewhere.
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Old 02-05-2016, 03:23 PM   #18
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"Your weeks should fill up again with projects, meetings, entertainments, and events". If this will be my retirement life, I prefer not to retire and keep my 6 figure salary. In retirement, I just want to sleep until I don't want to, and eat when I want.
What he said.
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Old 02-05-2016, 03:33 PM   #19
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I always say on these boards and others that 8 months in both my hubby and I got bored. Volunteer work was not that stimulating and often they need someone to do mind numbing tasks. Both of us started to consult p.t. in our fields and I teach an online Uni class. This has been the perfect balance for us. It is 4 years now and I am happy. I love never setting the alarm and working when I want to. I also help some of my friends that are sick or disabled by taking them to their appointments, etc. I am the guardian for one friend that her hubby died of cancer and she has Alzheimer's. Taking time to visit and staying on top of her care even though she is in a home takes much time.
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Old 02-05-2016, 03:40 PM   #20
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"Your weeks should fill up again with projects, meetings, entertainments, and events".

If this will be my retirement life, I prefer not to retire and keep my 6 figure salary. In retirement, I just want to sleep until I don't want to, and eat when I want.
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What he said.
Yes, I too thought that was an off-the-wall statement that comes from someone who is currently w*rking and only imagining what retirement should be like.

One of the great joys of being retired is that I can interact with whomever I want, when I want, where I want and if I want. My "schedule" is entirely my own.
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