Good Things about Being Retired
This morning I read about hedonic adaptation, which is the phenomena where your mind adapts to change and you return to your normal, baseline levels of happiness. It happens with good things and bad. For example, people who become paraplegic are back to normal levels of happiness in about a year. So are lottery winners.
I figure the same can be true of retirement. One way to counteract that is to remind myself of the positive benefits of retirement -- both the good things about it, and the bad things that I've escaped. So I made a list for myself. It's just off the top of my head, nothing formal, and I'm sure I've left things out.
But I figured I'd share it, in case others might find it interesting. Note, this is my list, so it's tuned to me and my personality. Everyone will have their own list.
Anyway, here's my list of the good things about being retired:
1. When you’re retired, you have more time to devote to modifying the 40% of happiness that depends on intentional choices (thoughts and actions). That’s your leverage point. Happiness does require work of a sort, and being retired gives you the latitude to think more about this, focus on it.
2. All the freedom and free time you have, now that you don’t have to go to work anymore. With all that free time that has been opened up, you are now free to do whatever you like.
3. You have more time to eat well. This contributes to better health, mood, and energy.
4. You have more time to cultivate better thinking habits. Negative drift is somewhat natural for me, so I need to cultivate good attitude and realistically positive thinking, while damping down out the negativity that inevitably sprouts up. This takes time and attention. Retirement affords more of that, and it’s resulted in a better attitude – a healthier, more positive internal climate.
5. You have more time to cultivate friendships. Granted, this hasn’t been easy with the plague and all, so it’s more potential than actualized, but when things return to normal, it’ll be there.
6. More time for stimulating intellectual activity. When you were working, most of your mental energy got eaten up by work tasks. Now all of that energy is available to focus on learning whatever you like. You enjoy a life of ideas, and retirement enables a more stimulating and varied intellectual diet.
7. More time to develop your spirituality. This is very important; I won’t belabor why. Again, this is one of those things that is more potential than actualized, so far, but it is an important value and goal for the future.
8. You don’t have to get up to an alarm clock or according to an external schedule anymore. You can get up when you like, go to sleep when you like, and take naps in the middle of the day if you like (which I do all the time). So, no more days ruined by sleep deprivation – up late because my mind is churning, up too early because of some work stressor, dragging through a day with deficient sleep. That’s a big contributor to health and happiness.
9. You can interact with people you choose to interact with, rather than the people you are obligated to interact with, because of your job.
10. You can enjoy the weather, rather than being stuck inside in an office.
11. More opportunity to explore creativity and projects that are interesting to you, because the majority of your energy isn’t going to work.
12. The wonderful relief that comes from not having to do things – no obligations, no burdensome duties, no “have to’s.” There is a big sense of relief and ease in that.
13. You’re more free to be yourself, to live authentically – to be who you are, to follow your own interests, to say what you think. At work, you are restricted by your career and professional role. You have to stick to the rules. You have to limit your behavior because you have to be concerned about professionalism, reputation, ramifications of someone getting offended or whatever, role boundaries, and even the threat of litigation. Without all those concerns, I feel so much freer to be just who I am.
14. More time for physical activity. That contributes to health and happiness.
15. More time to explore new hobbies. More time to discover new joys in old hobbies.
16. More time for reading. More time for building wisdom and knowledge.
17. More time to devote to friendships, including animal friendships.
18. You can stop and randomly talk to people without worrying about the time you’re spending on it, or what you have to do next. There is a relaxed pace to life. You can just do things for as long as you like, without worrying about it.
19. The ability to not take life so seriously, to just lighten up. The work environment was a fairly serious one, with important consequences at stake, and a lot of push and pull, multiple big agencies involved, sometimes lawyers, egos, and money. Now I don’t have to worry about any of that.
20. Less stress, less worry. That’s a big benefit. Stress of course negatively impacts health, so stress reduction means more health and happiness. It’s a more relaxed lifestyle, by far.
21. I don’t discharge work tension by getting into arguments on the internet, which often came back to bite me in one way or another.
22. The constraints and pressures of work occasionally, several times a year, made me seek relief or mental vacation in alcohol or weed. That desire just isn’t there anymore.
23. More time to commune with the birds and the squirrels.
24. You can tackle projects you put on the back burner earlier, because of lack of time (e.g., home improvements).
25. I can’t over-emphasize the sense of freedom angle. I am high on reactance, so any form of obligation and “have to” produces feelings of constriction and irritability in me. Work was the main source of that. Without work, I have a very expansive feeling of freedom and spaciousness in my life.
26. More time to work with my own thoughts and attitudes. A lot of my mental energy used to go to work. Without work, I have a lot more time and energy to reflect on my own mental processes – attitudes, thoughts, feelings, reactions – and to work with these things internally to improve them. A lot of people don’t do this because they just don’t have time. But this contributes directly to happiness and satisfaction.
27. I can explore what my city has to offer. I didn’t have much inclination to do that, when I was working.
28. More time for adult education classes or discussion groups.
Then you can think about all the negatives you’re no longer subject to…
29. No longer having to deal with lawyers and the threat of deposition or even litigation.
30. No more having to deal with professionals with big egos, narcissism, obsessive compulsive traits, and defensiveness.
31. No longer having to deal with referral sources who have their own personality issues and act out themselves. Same with some bosses and colleagues.
32. No longer having to be the bearer of bad news all the time. No need to push against resistance all the time.
33. No longer being lied to, right to my face, all the time.
34. No longer having to deal with limited resources coupled with high expectations.
35. No longer have to be in a career where political correctness is increasingly taking over. No longer have to worry about offending people’s fee fees. No longer have to worry about being “psychologically correct” in your language, so to speak. No longer have to worry about staying within professional role boundaries. Can just let it all hang out, baby.
36. No more meetings that are a waste of time.
37. No more annoying work requirements that are a waste of time.
38. No more lip service administrative support coupled with no follow through.
39. No more attempts to search for the truth amidst people who don’t want to tell you the truth, for various reasons.
40. No more colleagues trying to make themselves look good or jockey for position/status. No more people on power trips or the petty little power plays or ego strutting.
41. Much lower income tax. No SS tax.
42. No more having to live in that very conventional, restricted world.
43. More time for family, friends, and neighbors.
44. I can waste time without feeling too bad about it.
45. I actually waste less time now – because when I worked, the stress would lead me to seek a relief valve, which often took the form of time-wasting distractions.
46. No worries about losing my job, since I don’t have one. A lot of older people have lost their jobs during the plague. I don’t think that would’ve happened, but at least this way I don’t have to worry about it.
Ok, back to the pluses:
47. More time to get outside and enjoy nature. That’s important.
48. More relaxed drives. Bumper sticker: “I’m retired, go around.”
49. More ability to enjoy small pleasures. A lot of these are no big deal – just 1’s or 2’s on a 10-point scale – but they add up. You have more time to create these moments and attend to them.
50. More walks in the neighborhood. More walks in the park.
51. More time to research nutrition and health. More time for medical checkups.
52. My dog has more fun and lives a better life.
53. The squirrels and birds I support have a better life.
54. The people I come into contact with usually meet a more relaxed and friendly person than they would have before – less tired, less preoccupied, more positive, more open.
55. It probably means more years added to my life.
56. However many years I have left to live, they will be better years than if I’d continued working. My quality of life will be higher. I will be happier and more peaceful.
57. Since I’m able to interact with neighbors more, I get more a sense of community, more a sense of being rooted here. That contributes to satisfaction as well.
Great detailed list!
Every day I get to do what I want to do.
Life is great, even in these trying times.
Wow...couldn't have said it better.
Good list. I like to think I do many of those. Lately I have had time to do Pubmed health research for a friend and a pet, one with hearing loss and one with cancer. The cancer one was supposed to be dead last month, based on doctor estimates and medical tests, but so far seems fine (anti-angiogenesis diet). The other one had hearing return to normal. If I was working I would not have had the time for either of those research projects.
And every day I smile when I see the birds splashing around in the water I put out or them. Some days there is literally a line up at the birdbath of birds waiting their turns.
Agree, great list!
Time is a theme that shows up a lot here. One thing I really like is not only the time to do things, but the flexibility to do them when I want. Running and skiing are two of my passions. In summer I can run in the morning before the heat takes over. When it gets cooler I can wait until afternoon. In winter I don't have to run in the dark because the daylight hours are all spent at work. I can juggle my days to do my long runs on better weather days. Skiing has similar advantages. Skiing and golfing during the week is SOOO much better than on weekends.
Likewise I can take as much vacation as I want (or can afford) without having to schedule around work projects and when others might be on vacation.
OK, you convinced me. I'm not going back to work. :laugh:
I especially agree with #52 - owning a dog is much more satisfying as a retiree than when I had to leave the poor pooch alone for 10 or more hours a day.
Great list. #52 rings true - I made a vow that if I had to walk the dog, I'd do it at the beach. Dog's life is good... and mine is too.
Ability to put off any thoughts of making a list until....whenever.
Plus you can add having the time and clear thinking to put together this list.
Knowing I will never work again is at the top of my list.
Gosh, you sure did a whole lot of thinking to put out that many positive attributes on retirement.
With Daylight Savings Time gone, I'm wanting to go to bed earlier and get up at 3:00 a.m. I'll watch the news reruns for a couple of hours and go back to bed for 2-3 hours.
After all, I have to be up so I can watch Let's Make a Deal and Price is Right which are two very positive television shows.
Remember that nothing worthwhile ever gets done before 10:00 in any morning. My job tasks and honey do's can wait until later. That's my life in a nutshell.
Awesome list, actually a guide to appreciating ER! Counters all those articles that say if you RE you'll experience depression and cognitive decline.
It's probably good to create your own list. I complement you on its thoroughness. I don't necessarily disagree with any of your list but many points sound more like w*rk than adjustments allowed by no longer w*rking. No criticism since we are all individuals. Just my take on life after FIRE. As always, YMMV.
I think you covered it.
When I was working, my peak hours -- the time when I was at my best, most energetic and alert (usually between 6 a.m. and noon) -- all that time and energy got used for work tasks. Now that I'm retired, I get to use all my best/peak time for things I choose.
Reading the long list looks like working.
Good list and discussion. I agree that happiness has to come from inside yourself. Sure there are short term things that increase happiness, but in the end those are not sustaining. It's like the proverb (or similar) that if you dwell on negativity, it will become your attitude and outlook. I learned many years ago to worry about things I can control, and not on things that I can't. Look for the good, be nice to people as in the golden rule.
You never know what might be happening in someone's life. Small things such as saying hi or a hello wave, holding the door open for somebody, letting the other driver have the right of way, be grateful for what I have at this moment, are all no cost things that can make a positive influence on somebody's day. They might just be needing a little positive to counteract what they are going through.
The one thing I have constant trouble with though is patience. I am not so good with being patient. This discussion reminds me to be grateful for the fact I am retired and can have the time such that ultimately a little more patience does me good.
^ Patience. Since I retired I told myself never to rush a or get in a hurry every again. I take my time now, when I do anything, no more trying to get everything like at work.
That's because retirement falls into the "external conditions" category, along with stuff like income level, size of your house, marrital status, climate, etc.. All of those external conditions totalled together account for only 10% of enduring happiness. The bulk of it (50%) is attributable to genes -- some of us are just happier than others. 40% is thoughts + regular choices/habits.
So I wouldn't expect something like retirement, which is an external condition, to correlate much with enduring happiness on average. External conditions just don't show much correlation with enduring happiness -- maybe a smidge, but not much. The real leverage is in the thoughts/attitudes and intentional choices.
Plus, there are so many variables within "retirement" that confound things. Like, retired under what conditions? Retired because of health problems? Retired involuntarily, because you were fired or got laid off? Those are very different scenarios than being retired when you choose, in good health. Asking "Does retirement make you happy" lumps everyone into the same boat, so I'm not surprised the results are null.
The better question is what factors within the 40% we've got leverage over are associated with happy retirement. In terms of the Pareto principle (80/20), that's where the bang for the buck is. I'd bet that these are the same types of thinking and choices that are associated with happiness pre-retirement.
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