Retirement – 5 Years In

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
  • etc.

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.

27 thoughts on “Retirement – 5 Years In

  1. Great insight of retirement Allan. I highly doubt not a whole of people plan for retirement or know what they’re doing once they get there. Not all of us are lucky enough to get a work pension or extra health benefits after the job is all said and done. But we make do with what we have – and learn to live with the finances we have left. With 5 years of retirement behind us – we know that we would rather be doing this than working.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, pension plans, let alone Defined Benefit pension plans will be few and far between by the time most 30 something retire. While CPP and OAS are nice to have, nobody should assume they will retire to Easy Street with just CPP and OAS. Retirement is a job. A job with a very short commute, but still a job. Thanks for your thoughts Ann. Allan

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  2. Alan, Such perfect timing for this post! I retired from Nursing a week ago! I have worked ICU, House Supervisor and ER. I switched to Urgent Care a year ago but was still ready to retire!! I’m retiring younger than most (54) but although I especially love ER Nursing I related to all of your points to retiring!! Now, 1 week in, my flight or fight instinct for over 20 years needs to go away!! LOL!!! I thought I was all prepared but wow, every time I hear a siren I swear I’m on alert!! On the good side, my house is very clean!!! Believe me, I will read this over and over. Thank you for sharing this, you truly have given me some great insight and great tools to live by!! Lori

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    1. You have my full respect for the career you have followed. Bless you and you have earned your retirement. Glad if any of my information has helped. It took me 2 years before I really let go of my work life and another year after that before I shredded all the stuff I kept at home in case I needed to go back. I went back for a week to clear out my old office space and sitting in my old office made me realize I was in a much better job and place in retirement. Enjoy what you have earned. Allan

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Allan! I forgot to congratulate you on 5 years of retirement!!! I laughed when you talked about shredding your stuff!! I can’t imagine parting with even my uniforms yet…lol…but it’s only been a week!!! I am sure I will get in a routine and life will feel normal again!!! In the meantime, I’ll plan my next trip!! Lori

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      2. Thanks. Shredding all the stuff was kind of cathartic. As I trip across pieces of the old work life, I continue to be ruthless. Still like to talk with my old work friends though. Cheers. Allan

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    2. I am 9 months in and still am on “trauma alert” all the time. Your area of nursing and mine (OR) are high energy. You won’t come down from that for a while. I’m still working on learning to relax. I semi retired to work outside of the health region and am loving that. It keeps my hands “clean” but my mind active. Good luck

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post Allan! And congrats on fixing your washer and dryer because things like that can certainly be intimidating! But it just proves that we can (and should) learn something new everyday and that we are capable of doing things we never thought 🙂 Have a great day!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Angie. I almost was not going to do a post on this, but, as I lay awake with DST jet lag on the morning of the 6th, I wrote the post in my head. I really gotta get a life! As to the washer and dryer, Google can be a good teacher (if you get the right site) and repairs are cheaper than a new laundry pair, not to mention, we could not find a new pair we liked. I love the hands on stuff, whether it be repairs or cooking. My reply at work when someone said “You can’t do that” was “Just watch me”. OMG, that sounds just like Pierre Trudeau. I must have stolen his flippant retort. Time to meditate. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Thanks for reading and commenting Angie. llan

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post. Yes, most important we must have a reason to get out of bed each day. I stopped working due to health reasons and then I became retired so it was an easy decision for me. For years, when I needed to put my occupation on my visa and country entry forms when travelling I would put my old occupation. Now I am very happy and proud to put “retired”. I love it and now when I have a day of no plans I grab it with both hands. Life is full and great. Thanks, Lyn

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    1. Thanks Lyn. I met my former SVP at another retirement do about a year before I retired. He worked even crazier hours than me and retired early. When he was asked if he was doing consulting work, he said “Nope, I am retired. Each day when I get up, I take on a task. Sometimes it is only to read the Globe and Mail and sometimes I do not complete that task, but, I am OK with that.” Wow, that is embracing retirement. Alas, he passed away a couple of years ago at too early an age. Imagine if he had not retired. As one wit said, “Nobody ever makes a death bed statement saying they wished they had spent more time in the office. Hope you are well Lyn. Allan

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  5. I love this post. I hope its helpful to others. I am 55 planning to work until I am 62. 1st step to my retirement I am building a tiny house. 2nd step I am starting an additional career as a writer and public speaker. I will adjunct and teach one class a semester. I have plenty hobbies and enjoy down time. I am single and. I don’t have to worry about having a boring retired partner. I am looking forward to throwing the alarm clock out.😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Sounds like you have it covered. The one thing I was warned about by other retirees is not to make too many major changes in the first year or so. Moving house, moving to a different city/province/country, accepting too many volunteer positions, etc. Once you retire, you need time to take stock and figure out your path, going forward. All the best in your planning and thanks for reading and commenting. Allan

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    1. Thank you and thanks for reading. All to frequently, people do not think about retirement until it is almost upon them. I was fortunate to meet someone who stared me thinking along that path at the age of 19, by getting me started saving for retirement. Until that point, I never gave it a thought. Allan

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  6. I read this post with interest. Although I still have one part-time, lingering, slightly annoying job, I finally have started thinking of myself as truly retired. For me, the process was stressful because it came on gradually due to wavering of my health and also the slow crumbling of my last steady job (the one still lingering and festering–I don’t dislike them quite enough to quit fully, or at least not yet).

    I also play the mandolin, so I thought I’d throw that out there. I travelled some when I was younger, but now, I travel as little as possible physically–but quite a lot vicariously via blogs such as yours. I’m enjoying your posts. Keep it going!

    Re: Defining oneself by one’s work. That is widespread. Fortunately, I was broken of it fairly early in life when I was forced, more than once, to leap from one kind of work to another, often against my will. I spent the majority of my later decades as a woman working in the male-dominated IT world. If I had been paid as much as the men I worked alongside, I could have retired 15 years ago.

    I love, love, love the freedom of retirement. For me, the trickiest part so far is dealing with a complete lack of structure. I’ve found I’m capable of doing absolutely nothing for extended periods of time, but of course, one ought not to let that go on tooooo long.

    Keep on blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comments. Retirement is different for everyone. If my company had been going a different direction, I might have stayed another year or so. I liked the job, but hated the bureaucracy. I do not regret my choice.

      Speaking of mandolin, I need to find more time to pick this instrument up. I have so many other things on the go.

      I got lucky when I found my career. I never thought it would last, but worked my way up from the entry level position to department Manager, even though I was often overlooked for new posts and promotions. My former employer was very progressive in narrowing the gender pay gap, but I know a lot of professions still have a long way to go

      I have grown to like the lack of structure in retirement, but agree that you need to keep busy each day. So far so good. The good news is that I now have all week to complete weekend projects. All the best. Allan

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