Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing

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

Paid Work

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.

Evaluating Judicial Communication as a Consultant

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.

Getting ready for a commercial building tour

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.

Volunteer Work

Screening dirt from a fur trade site in Wadena County, Minnesota, 2009

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.

International Travel

Women over 60
I have enjoyed international travel.

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.

Domestic Travel

Small elk herd near Bailey, Colorado

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.


RV Camping

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.

What’s Missing

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 in August 2016

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.

It took 6 years, but I finally sold my home in August 2016.  After living in a temporary situation for four months, I moved into my condo in a metro area suburb in December 2016.

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

My dog Shunkie, who is 12

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?

Are you planning for a long retirement?

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!

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24 thoughts on “Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing”

  1. Rin, Thank you for sharing about these 13 years of your retirement. I am amazed at all you have done! It sounds like the years have been packed full of a life of living. I haven’t retired yet and think about the “when” question everyday. I want to make sure I have given it plenty of thought as there is no going back to my job after I retire. I have several interests and do want to travel. Again thank you for sharing.

    1. Linda,
      Thank you for writing! I’m glad you are thinking about retirement BEFORE actually doing it. I’d like to recommend several books on retirement (see my blog “Three retirement books every Boomer should read”, especially the one called “The Five Years Before You Retire.” I didn’t find that book until long after I retired. It would have helped me a LOT. Also, you might find my series called “Beginner’s Guide to Meaningful Retirement Living” Parts 1 through 4 helpful for your planning. Let me know how you’re doing as you draw nearer to the day you retire.
      Dr Rin

          1. I have read your blog posts on retirement and am so impressed. Thank you for such thorough research plus your writing skills are wonderful. I took the quiz too and although I didn’t write out my goals I believe I know them in my head (hope that counts). I plan on doing some more reading too. I have been thinking about retirement for the last couple of years. My husband had a forced retirement eighteen months ago however, after 5 months went back to work. He now is waiting for me to retire as he found it difficult to find ways to spend his day. He will be seventy in two weeks and I’ll be sixty-six in July. The decision about when to collect social security still has me puzzled. My husband collected at sixty-six, however I haven’t started collecting yet. I have talked to people. read opinions, etc and I don’t know if there is a correct answer as to “when” is the best time to start social security. We have done a lot of talking about when we will both retire and I believe we are pretty well prepared. I am not sure what I am waiting for! Once again thank you for this wonderful blog! You are a gift to many!

          2. Linda,
            Thank you! I appreciate your kind words and feel happy to have helped you as you get ready to retire. So many writers helped me and I am lucky to pass it on to readers like you. I’d love to hear from you again about your retirement when you make the decision.

            Dr Rin

  2. I enjoyed this post very much. My husband and I retired early 15 years ago. We moved to a big home in another state and both basically had no hobbies other than the typical TV and, for me reading. 11 years later he died from cancer and I was left to try to figure out my life. No children or grandchildren.
    A year ago, after my husband died, I moved back to my home state, but not the same city, and bought a smaller but nice home, which I love. Luckily, I’m financially set. I have a few friends here and try to do much more than I ever did when I was married. I volunteer and joined two groups. But at the end of the day, I’m lonely and still miss my husband. I’m healthy, so far at 70, but I do deal with depression and anxiety. My ex SIL shared my home for two years, but is moving out to live with her boyfriend and our friendship will wane, not do to me, but the situation.
    I make myself stay busy, but I don’t deep down enjoy it all that much. It’s just something I have to do. As I get older, I find life just a struggle mentally. In a way my life ended when my husband died 4 years ago and now I’m just going through the motions. I think it’s very hard for a lot of widows/ widowers.

    1. Mary,
      Thank you for commenting. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. After so many years together, it is devastating to face the future alone. It sounds like you are doing all that you can to build a new form of life for yourself. Life can be a struggle for us as we age. I have to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going, even when it seems pointless. But it’s very meaningful when we find that we have helped someone else. I hope you can find a way to help through your volunteer work. Thanks for writing. Let me know how things are going for you.


  3. Thank you Dr Rin for sharing your life’s adventures. I feel I know you that little bit more. You have a lot “under your belt”. Interesting to read about the different paths your friends took and the position they are now in.

    I plan not to work into my 60’s. In the UK, the retirement age sits at 66. Dare I think what the age will be in years time . Retirement appears a long way off which Is why some fail to plan that far ahead.

    1. Hi Phoenicia,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I am always impressed by your organized life and how you manage work and family. As you think about retirement, I hope you will save and plan for the future as you already do for the “present”. Retirement comes sooner than you think. The years fly by!


  4. Your willingness to share the story of your life’s journey in posts on your blog always impresses. Once again, you tell the story of your retirement with remarkable self-awareness. As I read about these 13 years, I notice that you continue to re-invent your life to make the most of every opportunity. I’m sure that the next 13 years will bring more adventures in your new home as you embrace the opportunities in an urban lifestyle.

    1. Hi Jeanette,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve had to re-invent and update plans and sometimes scrap them completely in the face of events! I am grateful that my earlier life prepared me for my current life, although at the time “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” were not welcomed. I felt a lot of pain and struggled for many years to survive some of the things that happened. But today, I feel confident that I can face what comes.

  5. A wonderful account of your life as a retired person! I’m re-reading this to note the similarities to my retirement, which just happens to be at the age of 58 as well. You’ve done an impressive number of things. This is retirement as it should be—a time of discovery and revitalization!

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