Struggling in Wisconsin. Advice?


Confused about dryer sheets
May 30, 2024
Hi. I am 53 years old, living in Wisconsin, happily married with a child in their last year of college. While I was not planning to enter into retirement quite this early, circumstances have unfolded in such a way that I now find myself to be retired. I have been planning for retirement for decades, and I believe that my wife and I have sufficient assets to retire comfortably. My wife is still currently working at a job that she loves, and which basically meets our current expenses. And so, while I am no longer working, we do not yet need to draw on our savings.

This all sounds like good news, but the truth is… I am struggling. For the past decade, I have been working for an organization where I felt I was making a difference and believed in what we were doing. Over the past 4 years or so, things slowly changed at the organization, and I felt that I needed to leave, as things had become increasingly dishonest. The issues were not at the level that broke any laws, but I was no longer comfortable working under my superior, and could no longer remain in employment to the organization with a clear conscience. So, six months ago, I resigned.

As I said, financially we are in good shape, so no worries there. However, I feel like a “lost puppy” at this point. While I am truly relieved to no longer be working at the organization, it was still a huge disappointment to feel like I had no other choice but to leave, and I now feel a bit directionless. Up to now, I have occupied myself with many of the usual retirement pursuits (i.e. getting back to some of my long lost hobbies; reading more; decluttering the house; learning how to cook; finally getting to some long delayed projects around the home, etc.) This new relaxed pace certainly has its benefits, and I do feel grateful much of the time. However, I also feel lost much of the time. I know that I could get a low-pressure part-time job to help fill the time and give me a little sense of purpose and productivity, but I am having a hard time finding a job that I would truly want to do, and I am not motivated to just “take a job” to grind away the hours for more money that we don’t really need.

Anyways, that is a bit of my story. If anyone has any thoughts or advice, I am all ears. I’ve read all the articles about how to find fulfillment in retirement, but I’d be interested in hearing some personal stories or discoveries others may have to share. I truly want to enjoy the freedom of not needing to work, but I’m not finding the satisfaction in it yet.
I felt the same way after early retirement at 56. I worked on reinventing myself - thru new hobbies. Some do this thru service to others. With your job, you had a focus and activities to support this focus. You need new activities. This article from Retirement Manifesto may be helpful Link Be sure and watch the TED talk
Many years ago I stopped by a MacDonalds and engaged in a conversation with the older person that was washing the glass doors. Turns out he was 75 yrs old, retired and worked a couple 4 hour shifts a week just to get out of the house and see people. ( I think his spouse had passed) Oh, and he was an ex CFO for Boeing so I doubt he needed the money. It doesn't have to be about the money - it's about getting out.
There is a lot of demand for consulting out there. Maybe do some professional work without getting into a full time role?
I'm 53. Retire as soon as you can. If you are really bored after a year, go back to werk.

Our 3rd kid is a junior in HS. 2 years. I will retire at 55 when she is in college. Life is short.

Werk is not the answer. More werk isn't the answer. Work as hard as you work at work on retirement and you'll be successful. If you fail, just find other werk.

I find it hard to call it retrement when your spouse is still working, but it can be whatever you make it.

Good luck.
Many years ago I stopped by a MacDonalds and engaged in a conversation with the older person that was washing the glass doors. Turns out he was 75 yrs old, retired and worked a couple 4 hour shifts a week just to get out of the house and see people. ( I think his spouse had passed) Oh, and he was an ex CFO for Boeing so I doubt he needed the money. It doesn't have to be about the money - it's about getting out.
I can see the need to get out for social reasons, but McDonalds if one doesn't need the money? No other social contacts at 75 y.o?
The Red Cross has an amazing variety of volunteer jobs available. Everything from ferrying blood to hospitals through deploying on natural disasters. (Hurricane season this year is forecast to be above normal.) There are also a number of full-time line management jobs that are staffed by volunteers. I have deployed three times and have become very impressed by this organization. Become a Volunteer
I can see the need to get out for social reasons, but McDonalds if one doesn't need the money? No other social contacts at 75 y.o?
It could be simply that the guy stumbled upon a great group of people. I found out in high school that the people one works with can make or break any job. Granted it's not what I would think of when I think of a job at McDonald's but given the number of them I'm sure it's happened that at least a few of them are great places to work in spite of the low pay and rude customers.
I found that it takes a bit of time to adjust. Work provides a certain structure to your life and now you need to find a new rhythm. It took me almost three years to get there.

I'd suggest just hanging in there, one day at a time and wait for that penny to drop. It will. I wouldn't commit to anything long term that might again lock you in, but rather enjoy each day for what it brings and know that it's just a matter of time.

Eventually every day will stop being "Saturday" and it will just become the way you live. Nineteen years in, I most often forget that I even had a career until I think about it.
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Hello Arnie,

Welcome to the forum. While you recognize that you are fortunate in some respects (family and financially) I believe that part of you is in a type of mourning for what should have been. Respect your feelings and give yourself time. The truth is you may, or you may not find another "dream vocation" and if you do not, you will in time make peace with, and come to embrace, your new reality. But like any loss, the grieving process does take time. In the meantime, work on your physical and emotional health, your relationships, and continue to explore non-work-related activities.

Take a peek at volunteering, and if you are ready, and are called to a particular organization, dip your toe in those waters. If you find a job that will fulfill your needs, great, the retirement police will not track you down.
Welcome to the forum. It's sad that you felt compelled to leave for the reasons you mention but you will find your way.

Check back often. We are a friendly site with lots of folks who have been in similar situations. Blessings.
7 months after retiring I was asked to teach a college class which was a new endeavor for me. I did it for 7 years and loved it. I do volunteer work, do some consulting, have helped friends a lot, walk my dogs and socialize with my friends.
National Park Service also has lots of volunteer opportunities in lots of places. Not all are in the wilderness. Some are in cities.
I'm somewhat of a Type A, but after retiring at 56 I was quite surprised at how content I could be just puttering around and doing not much of anything at all.

That said, my most satisfying things have been having time to do things for family and friends,
If you go in the direction of your interests or specialties it will elevate your spirits.
However, since your spouse is working and in it for the long haul, you have a limitation. For example, a 1-year jaunt throughout North America in a campervan might not work.

At 53 I'm sure you have specific traits and skills that other organizations would appreciate. You just have to open up to those possibilities.
Welcome to the forum. It does make some of us uncomfortable with the thought of little or no responsibility except our own. Your savings works for you, you are the boss. You decide what to do with your time. Volunteering allows you to commit as much or as little as you want. I'm an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer. Before that involved with the county forest preserve district. Find what interests you. Who knows, your contribution might make a big difference in someone's life, hopefully for the positive. We figured out our local AARP Tax-Aide saved people in our community $270,000. I felt good about that.
OP, Now that you know you want the next thing, you can be alert to opportunity. Good luck!

PS I spent most of my career in nonprofits. I didn’t stay in any job or even organization more than 3-6 years, because I’d look around in that range and realize it was an entirely different vibe due to staff and leadership churn, or I was just bored with having my reward for achieving other people’s numbers be - even higher numbers next year.
So many similarities. Wisconsin...check. Long time employee of a company that was making a difference...check. Company lost it's way, not illegal, but not a place that I wanted to work...check I resigned 18 months ago, in my late 50's.

I didn't think about what was next for six months. I was in tech, and afterwards took a couple courses in an area that I was interested in. But decided I didn't want a full time job in that area. I tried a part time job working with disabled people and really like it. I'll keep doing that. I volunteer one day a week. I'm learning a new language.

I felt lost after I quit. But I know I did the right thing. I still talk to former coworkers and things have only gotten worse. If I had to do it all over again, I would have been out the door earlier.

Oh, and we left Wisconsin and moved to a place without mosquitos. :)
I spent half of my life in Wisconsin and it’s a beautiful state. However, I don’t miss the cold, bugs or humidity. Now I live in a mild 4 seasons that is largely bug-less:)).
If you don't mind working with numbers and want something to do during a long Wisconsin winter ;), consider volunteering with the Tax-Aide or VITA programs that help "low to moderate" income folks get their federal and state taxes done: Learn How to Volunteer With AARP Foundation Tax Aide and/or IRS Tax Volunteers | Internal Revenue Service
+1, It's a very rewarding position and people are so grateful that you saved them at least a couple of hundred dollars. Our training is done in January then tax prep starts February 1st and goes till April 15th. We do 3 mornings at different senior centers in the area and there's always a line at the door.
Transitioning into retirement can be stressful, even when it happens as planned.
Have you run firecalc? At what age does your wife plan to retire?
Give yourself time to find your new "normal".
If you desire to work or volunteer, search for opportunities that may energize you,
In the meantime, enjoy each day!
It is a gift
OP - Since you weren't planning to retire yet, why not get another job for few years. Especially since you wife is still working, it will give you structure and time to consider when you would like to retire.
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