- Written by Tom Blake Tom Blake
When I was pondering retirement from the deli I had founded and worked in for 25 years, the main thing I looked forward to was having “free time.” With it, I could do nothing — if I wanted — which sounded great after all those years of serving sandwiches.
Three years ago, I sold the deli. I’m glad I worked until age 75. Working until then helped me build a small financial nest egg and kept my body moving and my mind active.
However, I realized quickly that I didn’t want a lot of “free time.” It wasn’t good for me. I’m not built to sit around; I found I must have projects to work on.
Every morning, I make a to-do list for the day. If I haven’t crossed each item off by day’s end, so be it. But, the list keeps me focused.
Soon, that “free time” became “busy time.” And from three years of busy time came five lessons learned in retirement.
1. The most important retirement lesson learned is the need to have social interaction with people. To be too isolated is not good for one’s health.
A good way to interact with people is by joining groups. Meetup.com lists thousands of groups and activities and should provide plenty of ideas for people not sure what to do to meet others.
Another important note about social interaction after retirement: Mix interactions with younger people into your life — kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, or friends younger than yourself — to keep you thinking young.
2. The second retirement lesson I’ve learned is the importance of keeping my body moving. It’s a daily priority for me.
My goal is 10,000 steps a day as measured by my wrist Fitbit device. I don’t always reach that goal, but I’m there four to five days a week.
And I admit that there are nights, when I haven’t quite reached the 10,000 goal, where I walk around the kitchen and living room enough times to get the goal. It’s a little weird, but it keeps me moving.
Weather permitting, I do stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) four to five times a week with a buddy. We meet all kinds of friendly men and women who are walking or paddling. So, there is social interaction in addition to the exercise.
3. The third retirement lesson I’ve learned is the need to have a purpose in life — something with meaning. It doesn’t have to be a huge project.
Volunteering and helping others is a great way to fulfill this human need. Some people use the words “giving back.” There are lots of people around who are way less fortunate than I am. They can use a little help.
How I help them doesn’t matter — giving of my time, or what little money I can afford — makes me feel good.
For people still working, I think it’s important to start planning for retirement before the big day arrives. Find an interest, a purpose, or a passion so that you’ll be up to speed when the time comes.
4. The fourth retirement lesson I’ve learned is the importance of keeping one’s mind and brain stimulated. For some, it’s the love of reading that fulfills this need.
For me, it’s my writing. I’ve been a newspaper columnist for 23 years. I love it; every week I generate a column and/or a newsletter article. I am grateful for the opportunity.
5. The fifth retirement lesson I’ve learned is to be willing to step out of one’s comfort zone.
If you’re single, and you’ve made a list of the qualities you seek in a mate, don’t be shackled by the list. For example, let’s say one of the qualities is to meet a widower of the same faith.
But you meet a divorced man instead. And he’s not of the same faith or the same nationality. But you like him because he’s a gentleman.
Step out of your comfort zone and take a chance on him. Let yourself be enlightened. You’d be surprised at the number of seniors unwilling to do that. Don’t be an old fuddy-duddy.
Those are the five biggest takeaways I’ve learned in three years of retirement. In 2018, I’ll probably learn a few more retirement lessons. But, if I can master these five, I will be ahead of the game.
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