How to retire, Part 1

Many people, men especially, work for decades and then, voluntarily or not, retire without a clear idea of what they will do after retirement. In some cases they have a plan, but find it’s not doable due to financial, medical, or other reasons. I have some suggestions that have worked for me and seem to for others I know.

1. Develop a hobby or pursue one you already have. For many men I know, golf works. It’s not my cup of tea, but it works for many and helps provide some moderate exercise and socializing. For me I found several that have kept my interest: geocaching, cryptography, guitar, writing, reading. My interest in geocaching has waned somewhat, but I still go out regularly with a buddy. I can no longer play guitar due to arthritis in my hands, and that’s a big hole, so develop more than one hobby if you can.

2. Join a group. You will find that the friends you socialized with when working will tend to drift away. They or you may move to be near kids or grandkids. Some who are still working aren’t available at the times you want to do activities. There are usually community groups for retirees or ones that share your interests. For me, I found Sons in Retirement (SIRs), but for you it may be Elks, Kiwanis, or some charitable organization. Volunteering works for many and I spent several years at some activities, but they don’t all work. I wanted to socialize and that’s not always easy. Recording books for the blind was tedious and solitary, so I quit that. I ended up serving on a civil grand jury, which was a living hell. What worked for me was using my legal skills serving as a judge pro tem with the county, helping parties try to settle cases before going to trial. I enjoyed that for five or six years, but eventually I got tired of the commute downtown and the suits and ties.

3. Exercise. You may be able to combine that with item 1 or 2, but don’t become too sedentary. Maintaining your fitness and health is a huge factor in being able to enjoy your retirement. I still run 5+ miles twice a week in my mid 70s , but I’ve always been a runner. You should do whatever fits your fitness level and preferences, but do something.

4. Make new friends, especially at least one close friend. Group socializing is great, but you need someone to whom you can tell your health problems, complain about your spouse, brag about your grandchild’s latest accomplishment, or just go to lunch. When I first retired, my closest friend was still working and when he retired he moved out of state. I signed up for and joined several guitar/folk music groups. None were well-organized and after a few months of meetings, they all petered out, but at the time I joined one group, I noticed another guy, a recent retiree, who lived near me who had just joined. He mentioned that he had uploaded some videos to YouTube, so I searched his named and found them. He played very well, and liked the same style of stuff I did. So I contacted him and suggested we get together one-on-one to share stuff. He agreed and we’ve since become best friends. I got him into geocaching, too. Twelve years later we still get together every week, alternating between geocaching and TV shows that our wives don’t like. He still plays guitar, but I can’t now.

I also helped form a book club within the SIRs branch. The intimacy of a small group is very different from the big luncheons with a speaker. We meet monthly, mostly via Zoom now, and several of those members are now good friends. Note that in both cases I took the initiative. You can’t sit around waiting for someone to invite you, although that’s great when it happens. You need to proactively seek new friends. Pick up that phone or send that email.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll give you more suggestions from my own life experience.

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