Monday, August 19, 2019

Temper your expectations when it comes to retirement

A couple nights ago I was lurking on an Early Retirement forum (I rarely comment there) and someone wrote “How many of you early-retirees did so after years of planning, and how many felt pushed into it for health (or other) reasons?”

His question got a flurry of responses, many of them admitting they left the workforce early because of health issues or their positions were phased out, and figured they had enough squirreled away in savings or investments to give ER (early retirement) a go.

One guy wrote this:

What people should be planning for is not a 60ish retirement but an age 50-ish UWS (unplanned work stoppage).

For the first time in all my visits on that forum, I felt a sudden, real camraderie.  I knew I fell in there… somewhere.  Yes, I had been mulling early retirement a couple years prior to my departure from UPMC, but only because I’d been asking for help (or backup support at least) for 10 YEARS and was consistently ignored.  I was burned out.

One of my (very wise) coworkers once told me “Doug, do you know when your requests for help will be heard?  When you leave and the NEXT person who gets your stuff says they can’t manage the workload on their own.”   She was so right—that’s exactly what happened. 

(They wound up automating a quarter of my former stuff and parsed the rest out to several others.)

In 2013 I began making real plans for an early retirement in 5-6 years (and then a year later to 3-4 years as my stress levels kept rising) and then to 3-4 months after my douchebag manager informed me he’d be handing off his early-morning IT work to me as well. 

So in a way, my ER was both planned and unplanned.  I wanted to save for a couple more years, but at least when I handed in my notice I still felt I could pull this off, if I minded my spending.  I have (for the most part) and haven’t found myself lacking for anything.

Part 2:  Retirement often isn’t what you think (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing)

As the discussion about unplanned early retirement on that forum continued, one guy wrote his ER happened right on schedule; he left the workforce at age 55, just as he’d planned.  But he sometimes felt embarrassed because he wasn’t “living the retirement dream”.

Most of his days consisted of long mornings with a pot of coffee and an old fashioned newspaper, lunch at his favorite cafe down the street, an afternoon nap with an open book or his cat beside him. 

His nights were pretty much the same as they were when he was working, dinner and exercise and some time on his computer, then television or a movie. 

But several of his (still-working) friends & relatives found his retired life disappointing, and questioned why he didn’t move to a sunnier location or at least travel or take up some new hobbies. 

I related to this too, as I’ve often heard things like this:

“Doug, I feel sorry for you!  Are you just sitting there every day?”  or “Doug, why don’t you sign up for some cooking or web design classes?” or “When I retire, there’s no way I’m staying in Pittsburgh!  I’m moving to the beach and selling t-shirts or juice drinks!”

These people mean well, but they’re usually years away from their own retirement; it’s easier to dream of lots of things.  When I was them, I had different plans too.

There ARE things I want to do.  As for traveling, I’d like to “go Greyhound” and see Chicago (one of the coolest cities in this country) and visit my old friends Jeff & Corinne.  I’d also like to go to Washington DC again via Amtrak.   (I’ve traveled solo on both Greyhound & Amtrak before and man, just loved it.)  

(But I have to beat this damn TMJD first.  I never expected to have a row of health issues so soon after retiring.)

Anyway, this embarrassed man received another flurry of responses, some of them with one word:  “Freedom.”  He had it, his friends didn’t.   One early retiree wrote this:

“Sunday night I was sitting at my kitchen table, alternately reading and dozing, and I heard a stopwatch ticking from the other room.  It was the tv, the start of ‘60 Minutes’.  That stopwatch used to fill me with dread, because it signaled the weekend was over and I had to go back to work on Monday.  It took me awhile, but I no longer have the Sunday Blues.”

I felt a rush of affection for this man’s honesty.  No more Sunday blues.  That’s all you need to say.

1 comment:

  1. I understand all of this. I left work early because of back and shoulder problems along with other things such as hating my arrogant supervisor and I haven't done any of the things most people dream about. I stay home or go out as I wish, sleep when I want to, even in the middle of the day sometimes, stay up late watching dvds if I want because I can sleep in the next day. The freedom from any kind of schedule is wonderful. And if I feel the need to walk along one of our many beaches with my camera I just lock my doors and off I go.


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