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5 Truths We Have Discovered After 22 Years of Retirement

Mekong River, Thailand. Source: authors.

Billy and I were fortunate. At the age of 38, we left the conventional working world and launched an independent lifestyle of our own creation. It was an uncharted road, with few support systems like we have today (such as online banking, safe withdrawal rates, and email to help us keep in touch with family and friends). We wrote our script for living as we went along, and now, at age 60 and into our 23rd year of financial independence, we want to share with you five truths we have discovered about retirement life.

It's a lifestyle, not a vacation
Many people think that retirement is one party after another with every dream becoming fulfilled: days brimming with rounds of golf, mornings of tennis, afternoons sailing in the bay, cocktails in the evenings, exotic vacations, and meals at the latest restaurants. Wardrobes are refreshed with endless shopping, bolstered by designer coffees and desserts.

This hectic schedule is neither sustainable nor recommended. Living your newfound freedom as a lifestyle instead of in constant vacation mode will give you stamina and your wallet longevity.

The stress doesn't stop, it just changes form
After years of planning to leave a job they dislike, and with the idea of never having to get up early, pack a lunch, and drive to work, many people somehow believe that life in retirement will be completely without stress. This is not true! While you may no longer need to deal with an overbearing boss or a bothersome co-worker, life still goes on. There are family issues, bills to be paid, perhaps car or home maintenance, and the very important task of keeping yourself young and engaged with life.

The trash still needs to be taken out.

Keep things simple
Life has a way of becoming complicated. Even planning a picnic or a group dinner engagement can take on mammoth proportions if one doesn't focus on keeping things simple. Wanting to cram years' worth of fun and ideas into a few hours can make for stress you don't really need. It can also cost more than you might like to spend.

Retirement is a work in progress, and you're in charge.
While you may have done your homework on the retirement front, there's still the chance that your dream lifestyle might need some tweaking. If you find that this is the case, you are not a failure. You are the captain of your ship and can decide what to change if you think something else might fit better. Life is not static. Leave room for some serendipity.

Don't take life so seriously -- have fun! It's later than you think!
This last point is so very important. No matter where you are on the continuum of life, it's later than you think. We can't tell you how many friends we have lost in the last few years -- those who were only in their mid-60s, even 50s. All this planning and focus on the future and not a moment to enjoy the present is unfulfilling.

Today is the day to smile. Find a way to laugh heartily. Try something new. Refresh yourself. Have no regrets. Because it's truly later than you think.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2013, at 7:33 AM, carlytx wrote:

    The first point is the most relevant. Retirement is a change of lifestyle. The key to a successful retirement is to plan and envision what that lifestyle will be like. Set goals to get there and if you begin early enough you have a good shot at succeeding. Of course you can not anticipate everything that may occur but with planning both for your financial needs and your lifestyle changes you will be that much closer. There are many sites that offer information to help on your way. One site that I found to be very informative is Retirement And Good Living that provides information on a variety of retirement topics including finances, health/exercise/nutrition, retirement locations, travel and more.

  • Report this Comment On August 12, 2013, at 11:10 PM, neurocycler wrote:

    Some practical financial advice would have been helpful. This is, after all, a site dedicated to financial planning. Leave the inspirational platitudes to Oprah.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2013, at 7:24 AM, rusty7333 wrote:

    good article!

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2013, at 1:23 PM, todamo13 wrote:

    All good, common sense points, but the last is especially important. My dad worked 40 years at one company and finally retired in 2005. He got cancer just a few years later, and passed away after a horrific 2 year struggle. One of the many terribly clear things burned into my memory from that time was near the end when he said "things looked so much brighter in 2005." It is ALWAYS later than you think.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2013, at 3:48 PM, RiReynolds wrote:

    Enjoyed the article, you figured stuff out a lot earlier but then, you retired a lot earlier!

    No it is not a full-time celebration and, as you age, you'll find those maintenance items (especially health maintenance) are a lot tougher!

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 2:31 PM, PhotoPhool wrote:

    "Keep things simple" may sound like simple advise, yet it's very difficult to pull off.

    After retiring at 55 just over a year ago, simple things became complicated very quickly - leaving the to-do lists as long as ever.

    Thanks for the reminder on keeping retired life in perspective.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 5:20 PM, JCoeur wrote:

    Don't retire simply because you don't like your job. Find a job you do like, or at least find something you can do in retirement that will keep you engaged and fulfilled, before you retire.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 7:08 PM, rambotrader wrote:

    Good article. Whilst the lifestyle changes people who retire can attest to the fact that the bills don't. So what is important is whether or not retirement has been set up to be what you want.

    And yes there is always less time than you think. I do feel sorry for the poor schmucks who are conned into working to a very old age (70s) and then retire and fall off the perch or are so ill that life does not seem worth living. Add to the mix the fact that governments do not want to pay retirement benefits and are forcing people to work longer and longer and hoping that they die on the job so that they can continue to waste money on the games governments worldwide play with other peoples money.

    Ain't life wonderful. Make sure you are not conned out of yours.

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