Stories of retirement: The before and after

The first wave of Baby Boomers has crashed onto the shore of retirement.  Some are partially retired, some have retired and then returned to some form of work, and others are now fully retired.  A few are not planning on retiring at all.  Many are full of anxiety and fears as their retirements approach while others cannot wait! We can learn a lot from the before and after stories of retirement of this first wave of boomers.

The Big Bad Wolf at the Door

74% of Pre-retirees say their biggest fear about retirement has to do with finances.  Do I have enough money?  Will I outlive my money?  Will I ever get out of debt?  Will I be able to afford the lifestyle and health care I want?  The volatile stock markets, low interest and fluctuating returns on investments create a very scary environment for retirement.

Reading BooksHowever, after retirement, the money fear disappears for 26% of those who were concerned prior.  Great strategies to deal with that financial fear before retirement could include:

Many studies suggest that those who work with a financial planner have more confidence than those who go it alone.

Fears are real

Other common fears include missing work and being bored, being lonely, and suffering with declining health.

Related article:  Retirement is about more than just money

I have spoken to retirees about their before and after retirement stories and these are examples what I have heard:

“Before I retired I just worked all the time.  I didn’t think I had time for exercise, good nutrition, or hanging out with friends and family.  My blood pressure was getting high and out of control and that was the wake up call.  I cut back on work, started cycling or working out daily.  Now I am fully retired from my job, I do property management for my rental unit and a couple of other buildings.  I took up the guitar again, and keep up the fitness habit.  I figured out that I have about as much time as anybody else and that I actually was replaceable at work.”

Related article:  Health and wellness is important to retirement planning

“My wife and I did not really talk about what we would do or I would do…she had her life already sorted.  I just figured I’d have a blank canvas and make it up as I went along.  When I did retire I had a tough go.  I felt underfoot at home, had nowhere else to go really, nobody to do stuff with…they were all still working.  I took quite awhile to get a new routine going.”

Related article:  Designing your retirement lifestyle

“We had a business that was open 6 days a week and the other day was for the books, inventory, ordering, and cleaning up.  I read an article on workaholism and my husband’s doctor told him he was having stress related symptoms.  He told him to go walking in nature.  Then we went to 4 days a week, bought a cottage and a dog.  We started a succession plan, and a few years later, sold the business, and then the house.  We bought an Airstream and the plan is to live at the cottage until the snow flies and then hit the road for the south.  We are kind of making it up as we go along but so far it is pretty good.”

Creative thinking, serious planning, and a vision of what you want from the rest of your life can make for a rewarding and live-life-to-the-fullest future.

Do you have a before and after retirement story to share?

Written by Donna McCaw

Donna McCaw is the author of It’s Your Time about the choices and decisions in preparing for retirement, a storyteller and speaker who helps people make informed and positive transitions to retirement. She does courses and presentations on Retirement Readiness and Women and Retirement.

5 Responses to Stories of retirement: The before and after

  1. Donna,

    When I was working, I was aware of retirement planning as a money matter. Not a lifestyle issue; can’t explain that other than working to have money to pay for everything (I had no debts because I couldn’t afford them) was my lifestyle.

    I think of the name of this website, retireHappy, as misleading. Happiness in retirement is as individual as fingerprints. But if you don’t have cash in retirement, it is guaranteed that you will be unhappy.

    I was unemployed at 56. It seemed the only offers were minimum wage jobs, most part-time. My retirement capital would not last 5 years. Unhappy, not enough money.

    I decided to see if I could generate $400 a week with my retirement capital. I now had a job with very few expenses and a minimum expectation. It took about 6 months to generate $400 of new cash per week. Definitely happier.

    Over the years I’ve gone through 3 market gyrations, 4 if you include 2016 and I still generate much more than $400 a week. Still happier than when I had no prospects.

    Over the years I’ve gone on vacation with confidence as “my job” is portable as long as I have Internet access. Very happy, actually.

    Maybe my most prominent money management skill was to not carry any consumer debt, including financing cars. It was a lesson I learned when I was 20 and at some point realized that if I didn’t change my attitudes toward debt and reckless spending, I’d be in deep trouble very quickly. It took about a year of strict control to eliminate the consumer debt. It never happened again.

  2. Congratulations on your portable investment strategy. You did the debt reduction to elimination, manage expenses well, and make your money work for you. Well done and enjoy your happy retirement! Your unexpected retirement at 56 is something I hear all too often and most are just not ready to cope with their new reality!

  3. I’m both afraid and excited at the prospect of retirement. I can’t see myself jumping into it full force..a plan is necessary. Unfortunately so mamy stories that I read about retirement are from people that already have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. What about the average “Joes” like myself? 54 years old, with $130,000 and a small work pension of $600 per month when I’m 55? I still have a mortgage too. I’m exhausted and want out of my high stress job…what can I do?

    • Heather,

      Afraid and excited… Wonderful! ☺

      Let me repeat some of what I wrote on this post; I was unemployed at 56, could only interest some employers for minimum wage jobs, some of them part-time. I was only afraid (excitement was additional fear) as my retirement capital was a bit less than yours and no company pension. I am still a renter, but zero debts.

      I was and am not smart enough to find a good advisor since most of the ones I found over the decades were the other type.

      But today with inexpensive computers, Internet, discount brokers, lots of free and some almost free data about anything, it’s relatively easy to manage your own money.

      You have to make decisions. Think of the available financial products as items in a grocery store.

      Do you know about all of those items?

      How well do you know some of them, the ones you use for instance?

      What about the ethnic foods? Those prepared in-store? Ready to eat? Frozen? Local? Imported – from where? Those nutrition labels?

      You know a lot. Can you prepare a meal? Are you chef? Do you know about the tools, like colander, mandolin, pepper mill, etc?

      Set a time goal, a money goal, a risk goal, etc. Start with one hour a week, or a day; be curious.

      Think that you can learn some of this stuff, find an online financial glossary somewhere (Yahoo has one).

      If you don’t do anything, the excited emotion will morph into a second dose of afraid.

      By the way, finding a suitable advisor is difficult, time consuming and guarantees that you not, N-O-T, learn anything about managing your money.

  4. Heather
    You are not alone in this situation. Claude’s point about educating yourself is a good one and there are lots of web sites like this one and and many more where you can start now. Authors like Lyndsay Green, Gail Vaz Oxlade, Gordon Pape and others are very good to read.
    Some folks do not need to retire but just take a leave to regain their energy and health. Perhaps delaying your retirement would be easier if you were not so exhausted.
    All the best!

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