Are you wondering what life will be like thirteen years after retirement?
Are you having trouble seeing yourself as a “retired person”?
Well, read on.
I hope I can give you hope and examples as you think about what retirement will be like. (I’ve written about this before. Click HERE for earlier posts.)
Each person is different. Each of us can chart our own path through the retirement years. I retired early, at age 58. I’ve been retired for 13 years. Your retirement date may be similar or different.
It used to be, back in the mid-20th century when retirement became a thing, that many people did not live to age 65, so they never experienced retirement. Others might make it to 65, and then die within a couple of years. But things are different now!
You may have way more retirement years than you expect!
For women, life expectancy after age 65 in America is now 15 to 21 years, meaning that women will live to age 80-86! For men, it’s 18+ years, living to age 83 or longer. This means you may have a LOT of years to fill with activities once you stop full-time employment, and a lot of years to pay for your living expenses out of your savings, pensions, investments, and/or paid work.
In this post, I’m going to tell you my story: thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing. And how I’ve managed financially.
I’ll add some information on what friends and acquaintances are doing. Their stories are different.
Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing
When I retired from university teaching at the end of 2004, I had no intention of ending my work life. After spending 40 to 60 hours per week at a job, I could not imagine filling all those hours with hobbies or television. I knew I would want to work. Also, I needed to supplement my post-retirement income. So I created a job for myself: freelance writing and environmental work.
I became a newspaper reporter for four local weekly newspapers in the rural area where I lived. This part-time freelance writing job lasted from 2004 to 2016. Some years I worked for four papers, some years for two or three, and at the end of the 12 years, I worked for just one paper. This job ended when I moved away from the rural area.
My second part-time job actually started before I retired. I worked as a consultant for a large metropolitan county district court system, evaluating the communication skills of judges. This work lasted until 2011.
My third part-time job began in 2006. I applied to be appointed to a county planning commission, and was accepted. For this job, I attended monthly public hearings lasting from one to four hours, and made site visits with the county planning director two to three times a year for a half day. This job ended in 2016 when I moved out of the county.
I added a fourth part-time job in 2007: commercial building energy auditor. In this freelance job, I work with other retired people to assess commercial buildings for their energy usage, solid waste production, and water consumption. Then I write reports for the building owners, describing my findings and making recommendations. I’m still working at this job.
At the height of my freelance work in the post-retirement years, I was earning about $15,000 per year in wages.
My social security payments were about $14,400. I received $200 from a teaching pension, and withdrew about $1,000 per month from my 403b retirement account.
Three of my friends took different paths that did not include working at a job after retirement. One worked all the way to age 67, and now fills her days with activities like golf and attending her grandchildren’s sports events. She receives a monthly pension of about $3,000, and her husband receives about $6,000 per month. Their home is paid for, but they buy two new cars every few years.
Another friend who is divorced worked to age 62. She fills her days with Bible studies, reading, babysitting her grandchildren, knitting, and caring for a sick friend. She retired with a 401K worth over $1,000,000. Her home and car are paid off.
A third friend retired at age 55 and spends her days watching TV. Now 74, she struggles with social isolation and depression. She has no hobbies and lives several hours away from her closest relatives. She and her husband receive different amounts of Social Security benefits that together total about $2,400 per month. He works part-time to supplement their income. They have a mortgage and make payments on a pickup truck.
In addition to my three part-time jobs during the period 2004-2016, I volunteered at various nonprofit organizations. My volunteer work included working a monthly shift at a local food shelf, contributing to local fundraising causes, speaking at historical society events, and traveling to annual in-state and out-of-state archaeology projects to take part in supervised excavating and surveying of archaeological sites.
Since the election of 2016, I’ve been volunteering for the ACLU and working a weekly shift in the kitchen of a homeless day center.
My three friends vary in their time devoted to volunteering. One mentors heart patients and attends fundraising luncheons, one helps with church functions, and the third does not do any volunteer work.
During my first 13 years of retirement, I’ve gone on six international tours: Croatia and Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, Poland and Czech Republic, Northwestern Russia, Spain, and Turkey. I’ve also spent six two-week vacations in southern Mexico.
I wish I could travel more, but finances don’t permit it.
Of my three friends compared in this post, one has taken several international tours and domestic trips, another spends the winters in the South, and the third has been on one Caribbean cruise and several brief car trips.
During my 13 years of retirement, I’ve traveled to four family weddings and one funeral. I’ve also made a half-dozen trips to visit my brother in Colorado and my sister in Tennessee. I’ve visited several national parks, Washington DC, wildlife refuges and conservation centers, zoos, arboretums, and museums. For a decade, I owned a mobile home in a senior citizen park in Arizona, and traveled there annually during the winter to visit and get warm.
I also devoted time to my hobbies — things I wished I’d had more time to do during my full-time working career. Since retiring from full-time work, I’ve read a lot, hiked and camped, collected rocks, done woodworking, spun fibers into yarn, knitted, visited historic sites, sewed, taken photographs, done beadwork, made jewelry, taken part in fur trade rendezvous, and attended American Indian powwows. I bought some guns, learned to shoot, and tried deer hunting and target shooting. I continued my activity of tapping maple trees for sap in the spring to make maple syrup, and I split wood for my wood stove, learned beginning Spanish, and learned to understand local American Indian spiritual traditions.
I’ve enjoyed a rich variety of activities during my first 13 years after retirement!
Of my three friends, one plays golf and is an avid gardener, one reads and knits, and the third reads and watches TV.
Grandchildren — they are what is missing. I was not fortunate enough to have grandchildren arrive in my life. I know that many retirees, and most of my relatives who are retired, spend loads of happy hours and days with their grandchildren. I applaud them for their good fortune!
My three friends have grandchildren that live in the same state, and spend time with the kids either weekly or as often as possible.
After enjoying my rural dream house for 13 years, I moved to the city
Like many others, I dreamed of living in a house that was perfect for me after I retired. I was lucky enough to be able to design and build a home that included many of the hoped-for qualities of my dream house.
My house was large – 2560 sq ft, plus a 1500 sq ft garage and wood shop. It was located in a wooded rural area 14 miles from the nearest town. I had six wooded acres of my own, plus miles of country roads to explore along with state parks and recreation areas. I had privacy, quiet, and contact with nature that included deer, bear, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and foxes. I was free to do as I pleased (within reason and budget) and enjoy each day.
But I realized after a health issue that my years of splitting wood and operating a wood stove for heat, shoveling snow, performing yard maintenance, and living alone far from medical care should come to an end. I began the process of selling my home so I could move to a smaller place without maintenance responsibilities.
Of my three friends, two live in the houses they have owned for years, and one has moved to a smaller house.
After facing a health issue, I began to live each day like it was the only one
In February 2011, I had a heart attack while walking my dog on a 20- degrees-below-zero morning. I did not recognize my condition as a heart attack. I thought it was pneumonia.
So I took the dog home, packed an overnight bag, and drove to the closest hospital, 16 miles away. When I arrived, the emergency room staff quickly determined that I did not have pneumonia, but was having a heart attack. They loaded me into an ambulance and transported me to a heart center 80 miles away. The next morning, I had an angioplasty and a stent placement. Two days later, I was home again.
My family is one that has a history of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity going back 140 years (that’s as far as we can trace). All of us take cholesterol medication, and some of us try to eat right and get plenty of exercise, but those precautions aren’t enough to overcome heredity, said my cardiologist.
My event was a warning. It told me that someday soon, my time would be up. Worst of all, there’s nothing I can do about it.
So I decided that I would enjoy each day, do what I liked to do, and try to have no regrets when time was up.
I’ve been fortunate that my health has been relatively good up to now. I have osteoarthritis and herniated disks in my spine that make walking difficult and climbing stairs painful and kneeling almost impossible, but these are not life-threatening conditions. I have not had to battle cancer, diabetes, or other serious diseases.
The actuarial tables used by life insurance companies indicate that my life expectancy at birth was 72.6 years. Upon reaching age 65, my revised life expectancy was 15.6 more years. So I figure I will have between 1 and 9 more years on earth. I want to make those years as good as possible.
Of my three friends, one has faced serious physical and mental health issues for 30 years; one has developed diabetes, arthritis, and depression; and the third has struggled with obesity, depression, and multiple joint replacement surgeries. Growing old is no bed or roses!
Thirteen years after retirement, what will be your situation?
Maybe you had not thought much about life after retirement until now, reading about my experiences and those of my friends.
It’s never too late. Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
How will you spend each day? Do you have meaningful work, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, travel plans, grandchildren?
Do you have health concerns?
What kind of housing are you in now? Do you need to plan for a change?
These are the issues I and my friends have been dealing with during our years of retirement. I hope you will take the time to start or continue to plan for your retirement, whether it’s coming soon, has already taken place, or will happen in the not-too-distant future.
Let me know your plans. I care!