About four years ago I wrote my first blog. It was called “Retirement Doesn’t Stop The Music.” The blog was on a site no one I knew was aware of. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the exercise of writing, even though there was no one to read it. That blog was a response to an association executive who claimed that retirement did in fact stop the music. I disagreed and said, “The music of your career doesn’t have to stop when you retire, it just gives you the opportunity to play some different tunes.”
Yes, there are less invites and the recognition begins to dwindle. At the same time there are less demands, commitments and obligations. As Sherry Lansing, former head of Paramount Studios, said about management executives, “People don’t retire, they rewire.”
From my personal perspective as a now 12-year retiree, there are three stages you will likely pass through in retirement. None of these passages last a specific length of time. Each person’s stage time is different in length and character.
As I crossed my 82nd parallel in March I was reminded about that blog. I thought it might be a good time to take stock and revisit my previous analysis about retirement.
Aging has been a wonderful and sometimes curious adventure. In the beginning it was interesting, liberating and fun. The last few years have turned a tide with more doctor visits, less flexibility and some increasing limitations.
The first stage I found was the Transition. This is the time you decide how you want to live, where you want to live and what you want to do. If you’re smart, you started working on this long before the gold-watch day.
For me, it led with a few false starts. I thought about a number of business ventures, none of which materialized. Also witnessed a number of other recent retirees try to start new or competing organizations with little success. I tried some teaching, but found the effort to deliver some understanding about entrepreneurship and marketing to fresh-out-of-high-school students very unfulfilling.
I was able to start enjoying some personal travel and fell into what became a multi-year consulting assignment through a former employee. I also took up golf, which easily made up for all the frustrations I left behind at the office. About the same time I found out about doing consulting projects for USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.
One problem I have observed, which seems to hold back a number of retirees in transition, is their difficulty in letting go of their ego and understand they are not in demand any more.
My transition lasted about three years or so and led directly into my Optimum retirement. Life was great. My health was good and afforded me the opportunity to exercise, play mediocre golf, go on bike trips in the U.S. and Europe, and have an active social and entertaining lifestyle. It was at this point I began to refer to myself as a “happy has been.” I was traveling 16 plus weeks a year on USAID projects as well as personal trips that inked about 55 countries on my passport.
The USAID projects took me to Romania, Egypt, Bulgaria, Hungry and Thailand. The mission was to help third-world business people understand and prosper in a free-market economy. These four- to six-week projects also provided the opportunity for extended travel in the region.
Having a compatible partner in all these activities was a major added plus. This period lasted about seven years or so.
I certainly didn’t try to end it but circumstances forced me into the beginning of an Adjustment period.
Although far from life threatening, a number of health issues began to surface. Had to cut out the USAID projects (didn’t want to go to Iraq anyway), give golf back to the squirrels and am having to downsize somewhat the more adventurous part of our traveling. With now over 80 countries on my passport and having been on all seven continents, we are now looking at more relaxed trips on cruises and/or private tours.
There has been more time for reading and reflecting on current events, history and my personal memories. At the same time since dealing with my health concerns, I have been impacted by the health and passing of family and friends which makes you more aware of your own mortality.
Is there more? I certainly hope so. Although moving at a slower pace, all in all, life is still very enjoyable. With a little luck, there’ll be a few more parallels to cross. I still like the music.