I recently had an epiphany. For a blog purporting to be about retirement, I don’t talk about it much. Perhaps that is a good thing. It most likely means I have finally made the transition from being defined by my work and career to being defined by who I am. So on the 5th anniversary of my retirement date, I thought I would take this topic on.
Grab a coffee. This could be a long one.
While my 3 careers spanned only 44 years, I began working before that. I lived on a farm for 4 years before I left home and between animal chores and planting and haying, I think there is another 4 years of work in there somewhere.
My longest career was as a construction project manager for a major Canadian bank. While it totaled 38 years, 7 months and 13 days, it felt much longer than that. Perhaps, it was because I went through 8 reorganizations, 13 different bosses and worked 45-60 hour weeks, sometimes without a day off for as long as 37 days. In truth, I was defined by my job and employer and at times, I felt that this was my only self worth. I could not have been more wrong. 5 years out and I seldom think of my past working life. This was evident in a weekend phone call with my friend, who is now doing my old job. We did not even mention how work was going.
So, without further ado:
Retirement as defined by the Oxford Dictionary
- the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work
Retirement as I have defined it over the years
- getting out alive
- going through The Happy Door
- the best promotion you will ever work for
Retirement does not come at the same point in life or in the same way for everyone. In fact, some people never retire or never see being able to retire for financial or boredom reasons. I \m happy to say that this does not fit me.
Before I retired, I asked other retirees when they had decided it was time to hang it up. They all said pretty much the same thing. You will know when it is time to retire. Their reasons were all different though.
- you disagree with everything going on at work
- you are heading in to work on what should be a day off and you wonder why
- your much younger boss questions you as to why you do things a certain way – for the 29th time
- you are waking up to the alarm clock
But, a successful retirement does not just happen. You can not just flip a switch and expect to be happy or fulfilled, because you no longer have to go in to work. There is a lot of advance planning for the various aspects of retirement.
FINANCIAL – retirement is short term or stressful without financial security
- you should not go into retirement with huge debts, mortgages, kids in university, etc. You are about to take a 40% pay cut (on average). If you can’t pay your debts while working, this will not change in retirement.
- you should also look for cost savings to help in the transition. I ran a line item budget on income and expenses for 14 months before I retired. I cancelled my sports season tickets (we were missing half the games anyway), cancelled 2 magazine subscriptions, renegotiated my telephone/internet/cable services, cancelled the business insurance portion on my car insurance, etc.
- you will need income when you no longer receive a regular pay cheque – company pension, investments, government pension. I left a year before I was eligible to start my company pension, so needed bridging income to survive until then. My wife (bless her) was still working part time, I had my year end bonus and vacation pay (I retired near the end of the year) and I was collecting a Government pension. I was surprised on how little I needed to survive.
HEALTH – retirement is no fun if you do not have your health
- you will need to retain company benefits for health and dental or arrange for an alternative to cover your health costs, which tend to increase as we age.
- you will need to ensure you stay active to keep your fitness level up. I walk, hike, bike, ski and was finally persuaded that I needed a regular exercise routine, as well. I do a 65 minute strength, agility and balance workout every two days, augmented from time to time with my other pursuits or Yoga or Tai Chi. In fact, I was never in this good shape when I worked. Who had time, right?
HOBBIES, PURSUITS, PASTIMES – you need a reason to get up every morning. If you have no hobbies before you retire, the odds are against you having hobbies after retirement
- Travel – even if it is only to the next town or the next province, sometimes you just need to get away from the stress of retirement. In 5 years, I have been to 11 countries, 7 states and 8 provinces. Trips have been from a low of 7 days to a high of 60 days.
- Reading – I used to be an avid reader belonging to 2 book clubs and receiving 4 magazine subscriptions. Somewhere in my workaday world, I lost the ability to read and would simply skim the magazines and read maybe two books a year. I still do not read every day, but in 5 years, I have read about 30 books. I read the newspaper every morning. My wife says I skim it and she is right.
- Music – I try to play the mandolin. Lately with my photography and blogging, I have not had time for this. I promise to do better.
- Hiking – I have done major hikes in New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland France, Italy and the U.S., including the Bight Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, the BCMC in Vancouver and the Citadel Pass hike near Banff as well as walking most of the paths along the North Saskatchewan River valley through Edmonton. If it is a nice day, you will find me outside.
- Cycling – In the spring, summer and fall, we will cycle 2-3 times a week for a total of about 40-50 km.
- Yard and garden work – Nothing better in the summer. I do not even hate mowing the lawn. Shoveling snow is another matter altogether, but it is exercise, if you do it right.
- Home Improvements – This is a strange paradox. You may now have the time for home renos, but you may no longer have the money to afford them. That being said, I managed to replace all electrical switches and outlets, renovate 3 bathrooms, the closet and the laundry room, install new flooring on the main floor, replace all the baseboard and repaint all doors and trim in the whole house. Outside, I built 150 feet of new fence, rebuilt anther 40 feet and stained 100 feet of fence
- Cooking and Baking – or as my Patty calls it – messing up the kitchen. I always baked, but have taken on new challenges – Levain bread, Christmas goodies, ribs, Salvadoran, etc.
- Appliance Repair – After watching the repairman I hired look for a solution on Google and then charging me $200 for a repair that did not last, I thought, I can do this. I managed to fix the washer for $145 and the dryer for $5 and they are still working 4 years later.
- Photography – This is my all consuming passion, as anyone who reads my blog will know.
- Blogging – see photography
- Volunteering – I have not yet done this in a big way, except to volunteer to help family and friends. There are plenty of charities and groups around that could use the talents you have developed in your career.
RELATIONSHIPS – Retirement is less fun by yourself. While working full time, we often neglect family and friends. This is the time to catch up.
- spend more time with your spouse and know when more time is too much time. My wife was not sure she could stand me being around the house all day. I think she is still not sure.
- Spend more time with/visit the kids, grand kids, great grand kids
- Spend more time with neighbours, friends, former work acquaintances
- Spend more time with your pet, if you have one
RELAX – Doing nothing can be a guilty pleasure and none of us should ever feel guilty about it.
- afternoon coffee is now a delight
- afternoon coffee on the back deck in summer is even better
- close your eyes and nap – I still can not do this
- drink wine – it takes away the guilt
In short, you get out of retirement, what you put into it. If you are still working, do not rush life, your time will come. If you are retired, enjoy every day.
Now, I gotta run, I have two loaves of Levain bread about to come out of the oven.