What’s It Like To Be Retired

Despite the simplicity of the question:what’s it like to be retired? The answer is a bit hard to explain.

I think also part of the difficulty of explaining what it is like to be retired is the default pictures you carry around in your head of what it should be. For the ‘I never want to retire‘ crowd it would be someone just sitting around not doing anything. For the ‘entrepreneur type person‘ it would be starting a new business idea. And for the ‘burnt out employee‘ it would be an endless vacation but of course none of those are correct.

So the short answer is: it’s like Saturday all the time. You still have stuff to do, but you enjoy your day because you have time to relax and not worry about your job. The long answer is a bit harder to nail down.

I think in part the difficulty lies in the flexibility of the retired lifestyle. The flexibility also means that things shift around a bit more than people are used to. I’m not required to get up at a specific time or do things in any specific order. Other than the occasional appointment or event in my calendar I often had days at a time with nothing booked per say.

I also suspect that it is hard to explain because people really don’t grasp the idea of how much Parkinson’s Law applies to your time. For those of you that forget the law states that a given task will expand to the time allocated to it. So now some mornings I’m into a the book that I’m reading and can spend two or three hours just getting dressed, eating breakfast and reading while finishing the morning pot of coffee.

Another issue that comes up is the fact that I let my inner curiosity guide me a lot more in life now. I’ll read about something in the news and want to learn more. So I’ll do a few Google searches on it, read a few articles and/or watch some YouTube videos on the topic. This can depending on the topic consume an hour or two or even days as I request a book for the library and do further research on a topic. All because I’m curious and I can.

And finally I think one of the major issues people don’t understand is the fact you won’t want to do nothing. Okay, you might be a bit lazy at the start but eventually you want to contribute to something and accomplish something else. People really won’t do nothing for years at a time. The desire to create, build or achieve something is still there after you leave work. Each person will do things that matter to them and not anyone else. So progress on their given goals can be all over the map. So I know retirees that flip houses or run for political office or start a business. Some might become an activist for a cause or volunteer for an organization that matters to them. Then specifically for the majority of early retirees we tend to be self motivated people who tend to like to take on long and complex projects like getting to early retirement. So to suddenly do nothing for years on end is just laughable.

So with all that said about what early retirement isn’t, what am I doing with my time? The same things I enjoyed doing prior to retirement. I read a lot, enjoy some movies and TV shows (on Netlix or DVD from the library), cook, brew wine and beer, visit with my friends, do family activities like playing a board game or going swimming and of course writing on this blog and other projects. I just tend to do more of those things and take my time to enjoy the present more. I know hardly earth shattering but that is what I care about.

What do you plan to do in your retirement? Or what did you end up doing if you are retired?

7 thoughts on “What’s It Like To Be Retired”

  1. I was lucky enough to retire at 40 and for the past 10 years have experimented with this new lifestyle. I agree you can easily get lost in lots of ideas and thoughts which I still do. My solution has been a mixture of sports and house projects. The sports has been to join a triathlon club and Padel tennis club. This keeps me to a schedule of training and competitive events and for sure I am way fitter then ever. The house projects are a way to learn new skills, I tend to work alongside a professional then if it is something I enjoy and are ok at I take over and finish. I’ve become good at woodworking, terrible at stonework and ok at concrete. I’ve learnt that if I get frustrated or annoyed with a task then I down tools and go for a ride or run. A few hours later I can restart feeling more positive.

    For sure I miss the banter of office life but I get some of that playing sport. I’ve also got a wife and four children to keep me level.

    Would not change anything. I gave up a well paid career but money and success can’t compare with what I have now. Good luck with your new life!

  2. I worked part-time for 7 years before I fully retired nearly 10 years ago at age 45. The move from full-time to part-time was a bigger change to my everyday life than the move from part-time to full retirement. It was the move to part-time which enabled me to recover my personal life and begin doing things on weekdays during the day I could never do before. Same thing for being able to do things on weekday nights I couldn’t do before because I was too worn out from getting home from work and its long, lousy commute.

    Being able to do my regular errands on weekdays at 10:30 AM when the stores were nice and empty, instead of on weekends when it was much busier was a huge benefit.

    Working part-time did cause may scheduling conflicts between my work and nonwork activities as well as between two nonwork activities competing for my added weekdays off. Fully retiring nearly eliminated all of those conflicts and made them much easier to resolve.

    Fully retiring allowed me to expand some of my nonwork activities to include the days I used to work and rarely had the flexibility to change them.

    I basically come and go as I please, very rarely having to live by an alarm clock and very rarely having to travel any meaningful distance during the rush hours.

  3. Tim, I love this article, hits so many things right on the head. My girlfriend is 54 and fully retired and her retirement became my semi-retirement and we are both loving every minute of it.

    There is always things to do for us, we love hiking, biking (we own 8 bicycles), cross country and back country skiing, snowshoeing, paddling, walking (serious pace) and lots of wild camping and swimming. Housework and house maintenance is a full time job and that is something we take great pride in and see it also has physical and brain exercise .

    Long mornings to everyday being at Saturday, we are never in a rush and mostly always full of energy. And the best thing about it all, is that they are all choices, so when you feel like just doing nothing or the weather is terrible, you make the call to stay on the couch and google or read or cook or watch a movie or take a mid-day nap.

    This is what we call freedom.

    Keep up the articles, they inspire!!!!

  4. This article really resonates with me. My husband retired a year ago and is really enjoying the flexibility of his time and pursuing hobbies that he never had time for when he was working. And he’s taking better care of himself, which is great. I’m still working, but plan on retiring when I hit 55 next year. Seeing my husband’s happiness every day is very motivating for me to push through this last year of work.

  5. Hi Tim:

    I am 44, and plan on giving 2 weeks notice in the next month. Only been at this job for 6 months but found out it’s a toxic environment. I have about the same savings as you. I plan on getting my fitness and health back, recovering and resting from all the stress, doing some home reno projects and plotting out what my future is going to look like. We also have 3 kids, whom I will spend more time with, especially helping them with their school lunches, homework and such.

    Enjoy your blog, it’s helped given me the confidence to walk away from a work life that is doing more harm than good. I may stay retired or maybe take a certificate program and retrain into a career that is less stressful and more fulfilling. Who knows.

    Frugality creates options.


  6. I was fortunate enough to retire a couple of years ago in my mid 40’s. I completely agree that I’m doing the same things I did before I retired, but more of it.

    My kids still keep me on a schedule with school and activity drop off and pick ups. Because of that, there isn’t a tonne of free time. I do find that all of the chores and errands that I used to do on the weekend (and usually did not finish) are accomplished during the week, giving me more free time to spend with the family.

    I now also exercise 6 days a week, and have also been slowly completing my long list of home projects.

    The one thing I do miss about work life is the social interactions. The majority of my time I am spend alone as most of my acquaintances don’t have the luxury of free time during the day Monday to Fridays. Evenings and weekends are generally spent with the family.

    I can say that retiring early was one of the best decisions I have made. Life is too short spending your time at a job you truly do not enjoy.

  7. Retired 4 months short of my 56th birthday about 13 years ago. Love the relaxed pace. I upped my time at the gym, rising at 5:30AM four to five mornings a week. about 6 years ago began volunteering 3 times a week at a nursing home, just 90 minutes each time. Helping out with the grandkids takes up perhaps 1 afternoon a week with some occasional babysitting on a weekend. Reading articles on the Internet like this one. Funny cat et al videos. Reading. A lot of goofing off, hang out at Tim’s for an hour 3 times a week.

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