Is retirement fun? What do you do all day??
August 23, 2017 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are having ongoing conversations about saving for retirement, and something I'm coming up against is a lack of imagination for how good retirement can be--a retirement "dream" to plan for. So please share your retirement anecdotes and realities with me!

I can think only of On Golden Pond or of my old neighbors who watched TV all day, every day, and ate frozen Salisbury steak TV dinners most nights. Which seems terrible. Retirement just doesn't sound like a lot of fun! Why shouldn't I stay at my enjoyable desk job until I die?

This isn't about disability or planning for long-term care or other harsh realities. I'm interested in tales of day-to-day living, and about how nice it is to have extra time for [what?] and [what else?].

I'm also interested to hear about ways that old age doesn't hinder a person's enjoyment of these things. That you don't get to that point and think "eh, whatever, what's the point anymore?" Is exuberance still possible after a certain age?

BONUS CONCERN: Will we still have a functioning currency in 2065? Will it matter how many USD I've saved, or will it all vaporize into bitcoin or yuan or rubles or seeds?

I guess the tl;dr is just: Please help me see why saving for retirement is important. I know it's important in the abstract, but I don't really know, in a gut sense, why it would be important for me personally.
posted by witchen to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I'm friends with a fabulous lady who recently retired. Since then, she has:

* moved across the country to be nearer to family; she can now spend a lot of time with her grown kids

* taken several low-key, part-time jobs, mostly for her own enjoyment and also as a favor to friends in small businesses who needed reliable, temporary help

* gotten super-involved with a charity she holds dear

* taken the local social scene by STORM, i.e. joining like 20 Meetup groups and socializing most nights of the week (she was instantly beloved)

I can't speak to the financial side of this, but obviously she has the funds to live this way, with or without the small income from the occasional part-time jobs.

I'm far from retirement myself, but if I were retired I imagine I would want to live similarly as my friend - busy, happy. The freedom to find out how you'd optimally like to spend your day, and the ability to actually live like that, seems worth saving for.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Retirement may not sound like a lot of fun for you now, but retirement will be a lot less fun if you can't afford basic necessities, like medicine and food! (I worry about this for some of my relatives.)

I am not retired! However, I went to a Bunny 101 class (prerequisite for the House Rabbit Society for adopting, fostering or volunteering) and the lady that taught it was retired - she volunteered for the House Rabbit Society, and her husband was still working. My grandfather used to work with the Optimist Club, volunteering and coordinating events.

So I think volunteering or getting involved with organizations that you may not have time for currently is definitely something that can be done, and a way to enjoy retirement. One of my friend's parents built a cabin in the mountains, retired to it, and they spend their time farming, kayaking, flying, etc.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm still forced to sell my labor under the oppressive capitalist system BUT both of my parents who are in their mid-to-late 60's recently retired.

They enjoy traveling at the last minute and being able to snatch up spur of the moment deals on airfare because they don't have to answer to employers. They spend the day messing about in the yard, reading, cooking, and engaging in their hobbies. They also got a puppy.

My Dad still occasionally takes contract positions at non-profits (mostly helping low income students prepare FAFSA or managing free tax prep centers for low income residents) for fun and profit. My Mom does volunteer work. They've also spent a great deal of time helping me remodel my kitchen.

My Dad says he spends his retirement doing everything he ever sat in an office day dreaming about doing.

They enjoy having their retirement savings so they can travel, try new restaurants, go to cultural events etc. My parents are vibrant and enjoy their lives and are fun to hang out with. Watching them actually makes me feel a lot more hopeful about the future.
posted by Saminal at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

There are really two stages of retirement: the young-old where you are active and engaged in life and finally have the free time to do the things that you couldn't do when you had to work every day: garden, travel, learn an instrument, connect with family and friends, get involved in volunteer work/pay back to the community/make the world a better place. I have one friend who has won medals in international master's swimming competitions, another has become docent at local wildlife preserves, another who has fostered service animals in training as well as camping in some amazing location within a few days drive of our home, several who have gotten involved in the hard work of keeping our synagogue running. Even if you enjoy your desk job, might you enjoy it more if you don't have to do it full time? Or, at least if you knew you could say "take this job and shove it" whenever you wanted?

The second stage is the old-old. The body and the memory don't work as well as they did. You need more support and that costs money. You really couldn't hold down a full time job even if you wanted to. Less active, more focused on friends, family and home life. Money can really make a big difference in the quality of life at this stage - maintaining independence with some paid support vs. having to moving in with your kids (if you have them and you have the kind of relationship where that is even an option and you and they don't feel like it is a burden)

So, save for retirement now so you have the option of retiring at 62 or 65 - it gives you choices. More importantly, save for retirement so you won't be poor and without resources to take care of yourself when you 80 or 90. Society may pay some of your expenses but even if social security and medicare are as good as they are now, you will want some extra income to be comfortable. Furthermore, I think it is much more likely that the money you save now where be there to help you when you are old than that public expenditure will be there in more than a minimal way.
posted by metahawk at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2017 [21 favorites]

I'd like some retirement planning too! Not sure I want to give up the paycheck and health benefits. I have at least another year before I need to make a decision.

But I have a husband retired two years ago. He moaned and fretted about it for months before he actually retired. He read books and books and books about retirement. Then moaned some more. He was sure he was going to retire and then die (from boredom).

So he retired. And these days, I see him less than when he was working (and working overtime).

He joined a gym. He takes long bike rides (20 miles or more). He shoots in a pistol league. He runs with friends.

And he found a volunteer job. It's the volunteer job that takes him away several days a week and most weekends. He's helping out at an animal shelter and he absolutely loves it. He walks dogs. He scoops poop. He takes dogs to "meet & greets" so people can see which dogs are available. He picks up strays. He picks up donated dog food. He transports dogs to other shelters. He goes to the shelter on regular days and they call him anytime they are short staffed because they know he will drop everything to help.

He does watch tv in the evenings (if he's not at the shelter or out with the pistol league). But he goes to bed early and is up at 5 a.m. (yeah...crazy) so he can walk OUR four dogs a mile or two before the day starts. He walks them again at 5 p.m., just before they have supper.

Everyone I know who has retired says that they are busier now than before they retired...and how did they ever find time to do all the things they need to do. Yep. Every one of them swears that they are busier.

As I said...I'm looking for the same information. What will I do when I retire? But honestly...I think my time will fill up too--I'm going to get back into making stained glass; I can walk with friends three times a week on our rails-to-trails; I want to have a "summer day camp" for my four grandchildren so I can do with them all the things I wish I could have done with my children; I'll swim every morning; I want to see all the national parks (I have my pass!); I'm thinking of learning another language; I'm going to volunteer to be a room mother during the school year for my grandchildren's schools. I'm keeping a list of things I want to do (and the dog shelter is NOT on the list).
posted by byjingo! at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2017 [32 favorites]

People I know have moved to be near family, been more involved with their church, gone on a ton of cruises, tried dancing lessons, participated in music groups, spent time with their grandkids. One of my parents participates in a seniors program through their local college and takes courses for a pretty small fee. Not for a degree, just for fun.

Also, on a depressing note: since it is generally common knowledge that there is age discrimination against people who look and/or are over 50, 40, whatever, it's likely that the choice to stay in your enjoyable desk job may not end up being fully yours. If it is, then cool! But if you get laid off at 60 and you don't love your options for a new position, having the freedom to walk away probably would be pretty nice.
posted by eeek at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Maybe when you reach retirement age you still won't feel like retiring. But it would be much better to have savings and thus the option to retire, rather than having no choice but to keep working or try to live on Social Security alone. It's possible that health issues will make it impossible or impractical to continue working through your 80s. It's unlikely that you'll reach that age and find that you saved too much money and don't have any use for it. Having the freedom to do as you please is worth a lot.
posted by jkent at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I enjoy reading Mr. Money Mustache, a website that focuses on early retirement. Some bits are annoying or extreme and may not be your style, but one big take-away that I liked was this: think of retirement as the point at which you no longer have to do things you don't want to do just because you are getting paid to do them.

Let's say you enjoy your day job so much you would do it as a volunteer. Your "retirement" may look a lot like what you're doing right now, but with the added bonus that you can quit whenever it stops being fun/meaningful enough. I have an uncle who works part-time in his retirement at a golf course, cruising around and shooing along slow groups. It sounds delightful. My mom does a lot of volunteer work; my dad flies and hangs out with his dog and goes fishing a lot, and they both travel to come see their grandkid (and my wife and I, I suppose). I've been planning for an early semi-retirement, which, for me, means being self-employed and being able to afford working a part-time, flexible schedule because I'm not depending on the self-employment income for my family's day-to-day expenses.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm also interested to hear about ways that old age doesn't hinder a person's enjoyment of these things.

Health can vary widely by the time you get to retirement age. People talk a lot about saving money, but it's probably even more important to take care of your health. I don't know how old you are, but I certainly didn't understand when I was young just how much your body can start to fall apart in lots of little ways that don't disable you but do make life harder. Not all of this is preventable, but some of it is. So make sure you exercise, don't smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and minimize processed sugars and processed meat. There is some conflict about some health advice, but these are not in question.

And you can keep working for money if you want to. The idea of everyone being entitled to "retirement" as a sort of long vacation is historically very new. People used to contribute to the family or the family farm (or business) for their whole lives - and I'm not convinced that was a bad thing.
posted by FencingGal at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

My dad was a workaholic physician. Old school. He took call just about every weekend, he made house calls, never attended a sporting event for us as kids (well maybe never, but I can count on one hand), and as a family we never ate before 7 because he was working. He was freaked out about retiring, my mom was freaked out about him retiring, his med school classmates all retired 5-10 years before him and he was 71 before he finally took the plunge. And you know what? He's totally loving being retired.

He's gotten really into cooking, primarily because there are cool gadgets to be had to cook with. He's got a pizza oven, and a sous vide bath and all sorts of other stuff and he makes incredible meals. He is volunteering as a physician at a few low/no cost clinics and is serving on an ethics board for the hospital he used to work at. He and my mom have taken some incredible trips, including one of those month-long around the world to see all of the great wonders. We moved to be closer about a year ago, and he's showing up for the kids' ball games. He is constantly on me that he wants to meet for lunch (and now I'm the person who is too busy to take that time off during the day). Like he's this happy, relaxed guy who is still making some incredible contributions, but who finally gets to just enjoy himself and I'm glad for him. Retirement suits him.
posted by goggie at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

My parents are where I get my love of traveling from, and they're spending their retirement bouncing from cruises to road trips up to see family, and everything in between. They're leaving in about a week for another six week cruise/road trip/cruise adventure. They're going to take a boat through the Panama Canal next spring on their way to Costa Rica.
posted by PearlRose at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mother worked as a doctor for 25+ years. Since she has retired she has had a few health hiccups (cancer twice, both knees replaced, etc), but aside from that she has filled her time rather gleefully with every sort of creative hobby you could think of, from wood working, to art, to weaving. Preparing for my wedding solidly occupied her and her friends for a year, she throws themed dinner parties from time to time, and every time a niece, nephew, or someone she even slightly knows get married/has a baby/graduates/etc, she makes them a quilt. Currently she and some of my aunts started a community theatre group and put on pantomimes every two years, and my mom makes all the costumes (very very elaborate costumes). She also started making rope bowls and selling them at a local farmer's market and donates all the proceeds to her local food bank. She also reads a ton, is a member of a couple book clubs and bridge clubs, is part of a monthly gourmet club with 4 other couples, travels a lot, and she sincerely enjoys sitting in the sunroom playing solitaire on her laptop. Basically, she does anything and everything she feels like and she LOOOOOOOVES it. She is a retirement queen.

My dad however is different. He does not have mom's skill at filling time easily and happily. He retired from his medical practice and pretty much instantly went stir crazy. He went back to university for a year and studied something totally unrelated, just for something to do. He does have hobbies, like his bridge group, gourmet club, being a member of some various local councils and groups, and painting and sculpting (and has actually had his works exhibited a few times in a local gallery), but dad needs PROJECTS and STRUCTURE, not hobbies. Ultimately he ended up maintaining his medical licence and continued to work part time for 15 years in a private company as a medical consultant etc. It wasn't about money, but rather continuing to have an intellectually stimulating way to fill his time. Lately, due to some health problems, he has had to step way back from that, but is still working some, writing papers, etc. But he still struggled to fill the time in ways that didn't drive mom bonkers, so she bought him a drone. That has been the most brilliant gift of all time, that has occupied him in a way nothing else has. I think he is finally happy to fill his time with less structure.

My point is that what makes retirement "fun" differs tremendously between people. Retirement doesn't have to equal not working any more (like it did for my mom), but rather working LESS or DIFFERENTLY (like it did for my dad). Both my parents I think would say retirement is "fun", but their version of retirement is very very different. And they would be miserable in each other's retirement (if you know what I mean).

I think the single most important thing that will lend itself towards a happy fulfilling retirement is community involvement. Whether you need hobbies or structure, being active in your community can give you that.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

My point is that what makes retirement "fun" differs tremendously between people.

So true! My parents idea of retirement fun is yelling at TV news, complaining about young people and going to a different grocery store every day. I can't seem to interest them in other activities, even bingo ;D

My idea of retirement is going to be a super volunteer, finish my BFA and travel some :)
posted by Calzephyr at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

I completely retired about a year ago at age 69. I think I'm not very good at it. One contributing factor is the habits of economy built up over a lifetime. (What? Drive 5 miles downtown for one tiny chore?) I've taken up my flute again, I still have my boat. But I have a lot of free time.

Money is not a factor with us. Our financial adviser asks how much money to set aside for travel. Some, not very much. Apparently, travel is a major retirement activity.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:54 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is exuberance still possible after a certain age?

Having just returned from a three-day trip to see the eclipse, which would have been impossible if I had still been working in a school system, I can answer this without hesitation.

Yes, it is.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Septuagenarian plus one here. Retired at age 68. "In retirement every day is Saturday".
Conscientious planning and preparation are essential. Be aware that there are lots of opportunities to continue meaningful work on your own terms, both paid and unpaid volunteer work. I'm fortunately healthy and remain physically active. Gardening is physical and mental health activity if you have space where you can do it. You might find a volunteer group like we have here who maintain city center flowers and other plants. Do you have craft or hobby work that interest you? Would you be interested in building things? How about making small things? Do you have a book or screenplay to finish?

I read several hours daily and also do hard physical work almost every day and ride my bike occasionally. My to-do list is endless, by the time I've finished something I've added more tasks or things I want to do.

Looking forward to spending more time with grand kids.

Yes, I love retirement and all the things I can do with my time now.
posted by X4ster at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

My dad just ... works. He took up a craft decades ago that turned into a semi-business on the side of his day job. When he retired he kept doing the craft, and now he goes to his workshop in the morning and comes back home at dinnertime. I don't know how much money he makes, but it's more than a pittance and he's nationally known for what he does.

When my mum retired she said, not without glee, that she'd worked hard and paid taxes for over forty years and she was damn well going to enjoy a bit of relaxation before making any decisions. It's been about six years, and she's still at it. She's learning to paint icons (something she'd always wanted to do), she babysits my nieces (which wouldn't be possible if she was still working, they live in another town) and exercises a bit, but mostly she potters about the house and enjoys nice little things like a good cup of coffee or reading in the middle of the day. She's also still learning to not feel guilty for not doing anything useful.

I don't know that either of them would identify what they do as having fun, but I do think they enjoy their lives, spending time together and being able to do what they feel like. They're both in their late sixties and fairly healthy, so I guess they could be more outwardly active, for lack of a better phrase, but they've always been quiet people. They've developed an everyday routine that might look terrifying in its lack of excitement, but it makes them happy and content.
posted by hannala at 12:35 PM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

My mother retired and then promptly went back to work because she was super-bored. But! She worked as a teacher full time for many years; now she works part-time -- 2 or 3 days a week, usually just part of the day -- as a literacy coach in a rural district that's never had access to a literacy coach before. (She's also the top call on their sub list, so if my dad's working a lot and she's bored, she can pick up full days as a sub; if she wants to go see her grandkids, she can do that instead.)

My grandparents had a wildly exuberant retirement. They took up traveling, and I got an e-mail from Tanzania (when e-mail was still only barely a thing) when my grandfather was 78 saying how much fun he was having in Africa and how glad he was that he got to go to Africa while he was "still young." He never left the US except for WWII and one trip to Niagara falls until he retired; in the next 30 years he went to every continent but Antarctica and basically never had a bad travel experience because he was so exuberantly enthusiastic about literally everything. (He came away from France convinced that the French are the nicest people in the world and that they absolutely adore American tourists.) He went round and round the US visiting his 4 children, 5 step-children, and 26 grandchildren (and however many great-grands before he died, I lost count), attending graduations and weddings and birthdays. He took up golf. He took up tennis. He went hiking in the Appalachian Mountains weekly when the weather was good. He played in a card league, and he and his wife went to parties almost every night of the week with their friends. He loved being around kids so he was a volunteer grandparent at a local low-income school where he'd read to kids and eat lunch with them and things like that. He went on religious retreats twice a year -- one for couples, and one silent retreat by himself. He served as a lay minister and took communion to the infirm elderly in his community. He sang. He watched baseball almost as religiously as he went to church.

Only in the last two years of his life (after he turned 90) was he "old-old" and he had to restrict himself mostly to in-country travel (which was fine, he wanted to see his kids and grandkids a lot as he felt like the end was getting closer) and cut back the athletic undertakings (although he still went to a gym for older people four days a week to stay reasonably fit, working with a physical therapist), and as he got a little tireder they only went to raucous parties three or four nights a week. Having saved well for retirement not only allowed him pretty wide freedom in the first 25-30 years he was retired to travel and undertake all the things he was interested in and spoil his kids and grandkids, but when he became "old-old" he was able to make choices about his end-of-life care, instead of having those choices foisted on him. (He was able to stay in his home for as long as he wanted to and could hire in carers; when he decided the house was too much and too inconvenient, he was able to move into an assisted living facility that he chose, and he liked a lot. He was able to pay for therapies and supports that kept him healthy and active a lot longer than many older people, and provided excellent care as he began to decline.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

My mom retired several years ago at 65 and my dad is retiring next year at 70. My dad is a workholic where his job is his life (he's an academic so it comes with the territory) whereas my mom was an office drone. My dad was utterly flummoxed by my mom's behavior when she retired--to the point where he called me and took me out to lunch one day to "talk about Mom" and scared the ever loving shit out of me (does she have cancer? are you getting divorced? what????) until he told me what it was all about.

The first year after my mom retired (this was before I had my son, so no grandkids to dote on/babysit yet) she just kind of puttered around. She discovered the internet and cat videos, she gardened, she read, she just kind of... hung out. My dad apparently thought she should be skydiving and learning to play the harpsichord or something, because that's how he rolls. But my mom--she'd worked in middle management office jobs since she was 18 years old. When she retired she was done with people telling her what to do. At least for a little while.

If you have the means, your retirement is what you want to do, and that's different for everyone. My mom is an introvert and a homebody and just kind of tired from a lifetime of unfulfilling work and emotional labor, so she is just chilling for the most part. My dad, when he retires? Honestly I have no idea what that will look like because he's an extrovert, and a force of nature. I suspect that he will drag mom on overseas junkets several times a year.

My inlaws are also both retired and they travel a lot. Like, several times a year, they're off to Italy or Spain or Cuba. That's kind of what I dream of doing, because I love to travel. But I will not have the sweet public pensions they both have, so we'll see.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

My mom has been retired from teaching for 20 years now. She worked part-time for a text-book selling company for a little while, which kept her circulating through the district schools and keeping a toe in those social waters for a bit. Then she volunteered as the president of our hometown symphony guild for many years, which did fundraising and events and educational programming and all kinds of things. She loved it. She has also travelled a ton all over the world, sometimes with her now ex-husband and even once to China with a university alumni group. She spends her days doing social things with local groups of other retirees--a teachers sorority, a book club, bridge club, mahjong club, etc. Members of the groups take turns hosting. She doesn't have any grandkids (sorry mom!), but if she did, I'm sure she'd spend some time with them a few days a week. She runs errands and putters around the house. Her boyfriend has a lake house, so in the summers they boat around and host cookouts. She goes to her boyfriend's church with him sometimes. They have a few social group events that they attend together (Tuesdays at the pub!). But day-to-day, she makes projects for herself around the house and runs errands to support said projects. Projects like: clean up the storage room, redo the office and clean out files, buying new shit like curtains, gardening and bird-feeding. My mom has always been the kind of person who likes to stay busy, so she does.

My dad, on the other hand, has always been the kind of person who checks out at the end of the day and watches tv until he falls asleep. So now that he's mostly retired, he smokes cigars on the porch and plays poker apps on his phone. There's a reason my parents got divorced a million years ago.

So basically, it's up to you! You can either stay busy or you can sit around.
posted by greta simone at 1:32 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can use the free time for other money-making endeavors. My step-mother designed and had their retirement lake house built (just before retiring), then bought another run-down lake house, and she has been renovating it and renting it out on Air BnB. So she spends her winters dealing with renovations and corresponding with would-be renters and her summers dropping off clean towels. My dad tells her to relax and pay someone to do that, but she says "What else would I spend my time doing? I don't want to just watch T.V." She'll make a profit, though it's not clear whether that profit will be more or less than the return they're getting on their savings, but she's very clear that she's doing it because she wanted a project, and she's obviously really enjoying it.
posted by slidell at 1:33 PM on August 23, 2017

My parents are political activists in their retirement. And they have more friends than I do.
posted by kapers at 1:59 PM on August 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Me, I'm gonna save to do National Parks travel (should the parks system still exist.)
posted by kapers at 2:00 PM on August 23, 2017

I have heard of people who travel in RVs and who go from place to place, working as the day manager for parks in exchange for a free place to hook up their RV. Sounds like maybe a month at each place, and they enjoy it.
posted by megatherium at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Why shouldn't I stay at my enjoyable desk job until I die?
I don't think you're even being facetious here. This is astonishing to me; I would rather sit and watch paint dry than do my desk job! But you are one of the few people who do enjoy their job, so there is no reason why you should retire any time soon. There will come a time when it will be difficult for you to work though, so you will want to be saving some money for that time so that you can afford to live comfortably.

Will we still have a functioning currency in 2065? Will it matter how many USD I've saved, or will it all vaporize into bitcoin or yuan or rubles or seeds?
Who knows what the world will look like then? But there is a good chance that saved money will still be worth something, so it is definitely worth putting some aside.
posted by LauraJ at 2:45 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Recently retired here (at age 62), although from a home-based business that while lucrative really only demanded half (or less!) of my time. I could and did see my job as helping people, but now I'm able to use whatever skills, talents, and interests I have to more directly focus on making the world a better place. So far, that has translated into political activism. As an aside, the (Trump) resistance movement includes an astonishing number of Baby Boomers so I'm clearly not alone.

Mr. DrGail and I spend at least an hour every weekday morning at the gym. I get more exercise than ever, and feel great. And I can learn about whatever interests me. The internet is a remarkable resource.

For some intellectual challenge, I'm coaching and mentoring younger professionals in my field so that all I've learned through the years doesn't go to waste. I'm definitely ready to get and train another dog, then do Therapy Dog work with it. I did that with our recently-departed Westie and it was a win for everyone involved especially including the dog.

I've got ideas for some projects and service businesses at least some of which I'm sure I'll follow through on, but right now they seem like more effort than I want to expend so I guess I'm not really ready to turn to those activities yet.

I certainly didn't understand when I was young just how much your body can start to fall apart in lots of little ways that don't disable you but do make life harder.

Besides exercising and eating right to prevent/forestall/ease the inevitable problems, try to avoid injuries. Every broken bone, sprained joint, etc. eventually comes back to haunt you. Ask me how I know.
posted by DrGail at 3:18 PM on August 23, 2017

My parents-in-law are in their 80s but still healthy. They choose a foreign language each year and take classes, either at night school or from a private tutor (or once they asked and were allowed to sit in on high school German classes). Then they take a trip to a country that speaks that language at the end of the year. They also have a small house in the other hemisphere, so they can spend summer there and have two summers a year.

They belong to a botanical society and go to lectures and also go walking in remote areas to find rare plants. They have an amazing garden and give tours of it to bus groups of tourists when they are there.

My mother in law also takes ballet classes for beginners. And she volunteers at the local SPCA so she can hang out with the kitties. My father in law is teaching himself computer programming. They both read the whole newspaper every day and do all the crosswords.

And they host exchange students (and also take in stranded travelers, domestic violence victims, etc who need a place to stay.)

They couldn't do most of this without robust retirement savings.
posted by lollusc at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

We are in the transition to retirement: I work three or four times a year as a consultant and my spouse is in his last year as a school principal (or so he says). We are temporarily living apart and he commutes to his school - he's home several weekends a month and all school holidays and summers. Three years ago we bought a fixer-upper home in the resort area where we had spent time recreating and where we wanted to spend our retirement, and we've been remodeling and landscaping it while we're still working. We chose this area partly because this is where we most like to be, and partly because the borough has a very generous property tax exemption for seniors.

Our retirement will look different than a lot of others, because while we do want to travel occasionally, we mostly want to have people here at our home. We have a cabin on the river that we're upgrading to rent as a B&B in addition to hosting friends and family downstairs from time to time. We're also in the process of converting a half acre of our property into a small commercial orchard with the goal of raising a variety of fresh fruit for our neighborhood, which is a long way from the grocery store. My spouse has obtained his river guide license and thinks he may want to guide part-time in the summer and fall when he retires. We have a duplex in another state managed by a professional company.

We have three defined benefit retirements between us, some savings and a plan to get the house fully paid off. Our health care is covered by our retirement plans, and we've purchased long-term care. Mostly we've focused on positioning ourselves to have multiple sources of income and to have some choices about what we want to do.

As you get closer to retirement age, you'll think of things you like to spend time doing that could consume bigger chunks of your time - if you had time. When you retire, if you plan carefully, you'll have that time and the money to do what you want to do. Enjoy the journey!
posted by summerstorm at 6:29 PM on August 23, 2017

Will it matter how many USD I've saved?

Every 10 years, hire a fee-based financial advisor to look at your financial plan for retirement. They will give you ideas, but they can't sell you anything so it is truly an outside look at how you are doing.

I did that recently for the first time at age 55 and it was reassuring to know that I have a good plan. But if I had seen a fee-based planner at 35 and 45 it might have helped me to get a better plan, earlier.
posted by ITravelMontana at 6:42 PM on August 23, 2017

I have been retired for many years. I am now 87 years old, was married for over 62 years. My wife passed away 30 months ago. She was handicapped. Progressed from cane to crutches to wheel chair to a special van to be able to get her to doctors, etc. She was involved in many things. Politics, church, family history research and raising 4 kids.
We drove a motor home to Alaska during a summer. Spent 3 months traveling and drove more than 15,000 miles and we had a ball with just the two of us. Ship cruises were a great pleasure for my wife. Me - not so much.
We both spent 30 or more years doing genealogy research. We both had great success. It is more time consuming than work ever was. We have a rich documented family history for our kids to have.
That is why I could never go back to a job. To much to do. An acre lawn to care for, maintain the house, keep the car in to shape. Painting, installing hardwood floors, and rugs in some rooms. It is never ending and I'd not change it for anything.
Being alone now has its challenges. No one to answer to. I do like that. I have friends to talk to, dine with, talk about the good old days, etc. I have 9 grandkis (8 are boys) and 2 great grandkids that I don't see often as they are in the Military a long way off.

I get bored once in a while, maybe for an hour, then I realize something needs to be done and away I go.
I have a paid up mortgage and sufficent funds not to worry about money so much. I worked for the the government for 31 years and was good at my job.

So I am fortunate to be able to live alone comfortably. But many people seem to have a need to always be involved is something or other. Another reason for happiness is NO facebook, No twitter and No instagram. Just to much nonsense going on. Why some people need to seek the opinion of many, many other is a mystery to me.

This may not offer an answer to your question but it does provide you with what I do in retirement.
posted by JayRwv at 7:06 PM on August 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

My late father in law was a man of many hobbies. He practiced a few of the them while he was working: HAM radio, gem faceting and geology primarily, along with photography (which he also did professionally, both in the Navy during WW2 and for his city's utilities department). These expanded after he retired, but he added genealogical research, woodworking, painting. He was a WWII vet, never had a lot of money, and was endlessly curious. He lived retired for 30 years and was never at a loss for something to do (I wondered how he found time to work, with all his interests).

My point is not that you should do the things he did, but to help yourself prepare for retirement by cultivating interests and hobbies now. Don't spend all your free time watching or streaming or surfing the web. But don't put all your energy into purely physical pursuits, because you can't depend on your body to keep up with your interests.
posted by lhauser at 9:02 PM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

So my father retired two years earlier than he was supposed to, on account of changes in admin rules. While it did not come as a total surprise, what was a blow was that some of the savings w/his organization disappeared in a mass of litigation as well. So, two less years of earned income, and a significant savings loss. That's the stuff of retirement nightmares. I only realize now how stressful this could've been.
Except that it wasn't. My father loves, really loves, money management. He made a bunch of safe investments, socked money in various accounts, bought the best possible medical cover, and fully provided for himself and my SAHM mum.
In the fifteen years since then, my parents have traveled all over the map, visited their kids in various parts of the country, helped me set up my own place, spent time w/grandkids, formed a brand new social circle, and even managed a health scare or two. Last I heard, they're making plans to renovate the house. They seem busier than I am.
Planning ahead has enormous benefits, especially in face of earning and economic uncertainty.
posted by Nieshka at 12:53 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a great many retired folks in my life and it looks freakin' fabulous from where I'm sitting. I can't wait to be retired (I'm only 36). They are all so busy pursuing their various forms of leisure that they all say they don't know how they had time for a job before.

My grandparents were adventurers. They had a small boat and spent their retirement sailing it everywhere, across the Great Lakes, to the Florida Keys, to the Bahamas, up and down the East Coast, and I can't even remember where all else. They also had a small RV and took the grandkids on all kinds of road and camping trips. They wintered in Florida every year. They spent tons of time with family and a tight-knit circle of lifelong friends from their church.

My FIL manages the books and all administrative details of his wife's business, as she still works (by choice, not by necessity). After a lifetime of waking up before 5 AM for a long commute, he sleeps in super late. He takes care of stuff around the house, swing dances, sings in a choir, and takes huge long walks every day. His wife works in theatre, so they attend all kinds of shows. They travel internationally several times a year, mostly related to her job.

My mom's major passion is travel and she takes 3-4 big international trips a year plus a handful of smaller domestic ones. Right now she's visiting Mongolia and Siberia. When she's home, she putters around the house a lot, walks every day, and attends half a dozen Meetup groups for golf, theatre, happy hours, dinners out, etc.

My dad and his wife spent the vast majority of their time at their cabin. My stepmom walks, bikes, and works out like a fiend. The rest of her time is largely spent on her passion, which is fostering service dogs in training. My dad boats, fishes, works on his little hobby farm, hunts in the fall, tinkers on various projects, and reads a lot.

I have several retired neighbors. They all walk a ton, have amazing gardens, travel a lot, visit with their kids and grandkids quite a bit. My next-door neighbors have horses and take them on on big camping trips every summer. They host a lot of social gatherings for family and friends. They can be seen leisurely enjoying coffee every morning and happy hour on their deck every evening.

None of this would not be possible if they hadn't had robust retirement savings. I have a friend coming up on retirement in a few years and she probably WILL have a very quiet retirement like the one you describe because she has very money put aside for it.

Why shouldn't I stay at my enjoyable desk job until I die?

Because this isn't terribly realistic and probably won't be at all within your control, whether due to layoffs, age discrimination, changes in industry, health issues, or some combination of the above. Saving money is something you can control.
posted by anderjen at 7:01 AM on August 24, 2017

I was thinking about this Ask and it occurred to me that retirement started to sound way, way better once I had a kid. Being a working parent is fucking exhausting in a way that just working full time at a low-key job I enjoyed never was. I still enjoy my job and it's still a job that blessedly limits itself to 40 hours a week and does not follow me home, but raising a young kid is making me yearn for days and weeks spent doing absolutely nothing. My kid will be well into adulthood when I reach retirement age so I may change my mind back again, but right now the entire concept seems fricking amazing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2017

My dad and his girlfriend are both retired and he was gloating about how great it is the other day. They're in a bowling league, and they take ballroom dancing classes, Mary spends lots of time in her garden, Dad's learning how to build a boat, and they take road trips to visit family and friends in other parts of the country, taking detours to see interesting sites along the way most years as well. I live across the street from them and feel like a sucker getting up and going to work every day sometimes!
posted by peppermind at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2017

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