Retirement – It’s Not What You Think

Statistics tell us that 10,000 baby boomers in the United States will reach the retirement age of 65 every day for the next nineteen years. Some will keep working either because their retirement savings were wiped out in the banking crisis or because they have worked all their adult lives and that is all they know. Those are not necessarily bad decisions, as long as those decisions are made for the right reasons.

Hiking up Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

When I announced to friends and acquaintances that I was planning to retire at age 62, I cannot tell you how many people tried to warn me against that idea. The reasons given were typically:

  1. You will be bored.
  2. You will lose 25% of your Social Security benefit, and you won’t have enough to live on if you live to a certain age.
  3. Inflation will eat up your purchase power when you are on a fixed income, and you will not be able to maintain your lifestyle.
  4. The cost of health insurance will eat up your life savings, especially if you become ill.

While none of those ideas are wrong, they all have one thing in common. They are all rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown. The unknown is often scary. Anyone without a sense of adventure will always seek the most comfortable, the most predictable, and the most secure path through life. This story is not for those people. My message is for any younger reader who wants to know what retirement might have in store for you, because unlike life after death, I am still able to contact you from the other side and give you a glimpse of what retirement might be like.

First, you will not be bored. Boredom is for people who never developed any interests outside of their careers. And you will finally have time to do many of the things you put off while pursuing career goals, raising a family, or seeking to fulfill your version of The American Dream. You will suddenly have time to go hiking or skiing, time to play with grandchildren or nieces and nephews, time to volunteer at a school or a shelter or a hospital. And perhaps best of all, now you will have the time to travel! All those expensive vacations you put off your whole life, other than maybe Hawaii or The Bahamas, are now a real option.

Macaw photo op at the Bird Park in Iguazu, Argentina

I don’t have time to be bored. I am doing things I always wanted to do and didn’t have time. I am writing for three blogs and I have a children’s book ready to self-publish. I am traveling (40k air miles in 15 months). I also just completed training to be a Certified International Tour Manager through the International Guide Academy. I am now qualified to work as a tour director anywhere in the world, and I am applying for jobs I only dreamed of when I was younger. Who knows what 2013 will bring?

If retirement is not what you think, then what is it? In a word, it is opportunity – the opportunity you have worked your whole life to experience and enjoy. It is a gift of time, something you haven’t had enough of since you were a child – time to read, time to write, time to play, and time to work at whatever you have been putting off.

You don’t have to be all that adventuresome to enjoy retirement. You just have to decide what is important and to live within your means. I accomplished this by moving outside the United States for the time being. I have been blessed with excellent health my whole life, and that is a gift I don’t intend to squander by sitting around. I still have three continents I haven’t yet visited, and I have my blog name to live up to. Part of my legacy will be that of a global explorer.

Florence and I in Argentina near the majestic Andes Mountains.

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45 comments on “Retirement – It’s Not What You Think

  1. You are living the life! “Boredom is for people who never developed any interests outside of their careers.”… so true, and what a sad existence for people who don’t. You seem so happy, and this shows in your writing. Kudos to you, and cheers!!

    • While it is presumptuous to think younger people want my advice, I nonetheless offer my thoughts freely only because I had no one to advise me about important life stuff, and that was my loss. If my input helps even one other person along the way, my efforts are rewarded.
      Thank you as always, Lauren, for your cheery comments and support!

  2. Michele says:

    Always enjoy your blog posts, Mike and this one is no exception! I am looking forward to my retirement and hope to be as happy in it as you are!! Keep up the blogging as I look forward to reading your next installment!! P.S. Give Flo my best!!!

  3. Viv_Lavie says:

    This is so inspirational! Thank you!

  4. annewoodman says:

    I am glad you can still speak to us from “The Other Side.” I heartily agree that people who have developed interests don’t have time to be bored. So true!!! And I think many decisions in our lives are rooted in fear. I’m glad you’re enjoying your time doing new and exciting things… I intend to join you and other fun retirees in the future. ; )

  5. allison says:

    Wonderfully put! We hope to retire to Panama in two years, and I will be almost 50 years old. The most frequent question I get is, “What about your daughter and when she has a family? You are there and she will be far away.” Guess what! When I am no longer working everyday of the week and only have the weekends off, I will be able to be with my family for as many days as they will have me and not have to work around a work schedule. My husband won’t be falling asleep on the couch by eight pm because he leaves at 3:30 am to beat rush hour traffic in Washington, DC area. Retirement is what each person makes of it. Of course I am afraid and nervous and so excited all the same! Let me be bored for just a little while! Bring it on 🙂

  6. Retirement? What’s that? LOL, Mike nicely done, as usual. We looked into Panama a few years ago and methinks it may need addressing again in the near future. Thanks for the info and always excellent writing.

  7. Angeline M says:

    So glad this was reblogged by RD Revilo so that I could find your blog. I had my 65th birthday this past June and plan to wrap up the work thing this June. Boredom???????? I don’t think so. My husband and I have contemplated Mexico as a place to live, we figure the kids can come visit us there.

    • Yes, RD gave me a huge boost with his reblog. When my daughter said she was sorry I was moving so far away, I reminded her we hardly ever saw each other when I live a hundred miles down the freeway. So what’s the difference, right?
      Thank you Angeline for your fine comments.

  8. Douglas E says:

    Got here via RD Revilo, and will simply say Amen. “Retirement” is a bad word for simply another phase of life. It allows us to be open to so many things that come along – like for me, an academic year in Heidelberg because the scheduled faculty person had to cancel at the very last moment. Fantastisch!

    • You sound like a kindred spirit, Douglas. I am glad you found my story. (Thank you again, RD.)

      • Douglas E says:

        Agreed. I could search your blog, but perhaps you could direct me to why you chose Panama. I am intrigued by Central America – Panama and Nicaragua in particular. Like your picture from la Argentina – we lived in Buenos Aires for nine months and visited from Mendoza to Ushuaia.

      • Douglas, we chose five countries to visit last year based on where we thought we might wish to live: Panama, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. There were places in Nicaragua that were incredible (Matagalpa and Ometepe Island in particular). Sadly, we found the degree of poverty to be depressing, and we didn’t think it would be easy to fit in. In the end it was a toss-up between Chile and Panama, with Uruguay close behind. My wife and I both have family in the U. S. and ultimately, geography played a role in our decision. I still miss Chile although my wife preferred the North, and I preferred the South. (Santiago would be our compromise.) Argentina was more like a playground we both would want to go play in if we lived in S. America. Uruguay was agreeable to us both, and it is more politically stable than its larger neighbors.
        Thank you for your interest. – Mike
        PS – I welcome you to search my blog. I have written about each of the countries except Uruguay which I have been saving and will write about soon.

      • Douglas E says:

        Thanks for the info regarding your selection process – it sounds very much like our kind of thinking, e.g. we love Argentina and could easily live in Pinamar, but it sure is a long way to travel to see the kids and grandkids. Obvious solution – have them move as well!

  9. You’re right about retirement and too many people’s fears. It is so rich with opportunity if you allow it. Enjoy!

  10. Great story! I retired at 57 and began my adventure with six months travel round Australia and New Zealand, which I blogged. We have just moved from London to Dorset and are starting a new era of life. I had imagined it would be slower but not at all. There is so much to do and to explore. Have fun!

    • I envy you those extra years. I should have listened to my father who retired at 60 and regretted working as long as he did. The only alternative is to forge ahead with the years I have left. I am already busier than I ever imagined, which is a good thing! I look forward to reading your stories, too.

  11. Sue and Reg says:

    Congratulations on your retirement and sense of adventure. My wife and I recently retired as well. Life offers such rewards when we get out of our comfort zone.
    Best wishes!

  12. John and I retired at 55 and 51 respectively. But, it not really the right phrasing. Changing adventures would be more accurate. Thanks for checking out my blog!

  13. 100% agree with you. In a couple of months I would join you in the Kingdome of Retirement. But I have no time even now, on the verge of retirement. ))))
    Bravo!

  14. kristc99 says:

    This is a wonderful post. Thank you so much! What a joy to be able to do what you want to do, not just what you have to do. We’re in David, Panama now. Maybe our paths will cross sometime!

  15. what a great post! it will help others who ‘don’t understand’ why one would want to wean away to another country.
    i like your blog!
    z

  16. expatlogue says:

    I love this post! What a dramatic break from the usual predictions of doom and gloom. People paint such a bleak picture of getting older. As I find myself on what some would call the “wrong” side of thirty five, my own mortality is becoming evident. I no longer look the same in photos taken years apart. My remedy for when despair tries to get a toehold is to imagine all the things I’ll be free to do once my children are older, but my husband exclaims, “We’ll be too old by then!”
    I tell him that’s nonsense – I see it as similar to how we were before we had kids and posts like this make me look forward to it all the more!

    • Honestly, I feel like I owe it to my children to serve as a role model for getting the most out of life after they empty the nest. While I don’t feel like I could climb the mountains I used to climb or run another marathon like I did when I was 52, “retirement” is just a box you check on the census form. You are correct – it is nonsense that you will be too old by then. Just don’t let your husband get too comfortable in his favorite chair. An amazing world awaits!
      I appreciate your comments. BTW – I love your blog stories, too! You are an amazing writer.

      • expatlogue says:

        *Blushes* Wow, thankyou! Coming from you that’s a real compliment. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to let up on my husband 😉
        Keep up the inspirational posts – I’m not getting any younger, wisdom is what I’m holding out for 🙂

      • You bring to mind one of my favorite quotes (source unknown):
        Knowledge is when you realize how much you know; wisdom is when you realize how much you don’t know.
        I believe you are already wise well beyond your years.

      • expatlogue says:

        Wise enough to keep quiet and let your words ring out 🙂 You’re very kind.

  17. Amy says:

    Indeed, there is no room in life for boredom! The entire universe lives inside each one of us, waiting to be explored. Comfort, security, predictability while “easy” are not what life is about. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, so live today. The comments you received when you announced you would be retiring early are along the same lines of the ones my husband and I received when we told people we were quitting our (good, stable) jobs to travel around the world. I hope to continue doing the things I love now through retirement and beyond!

    • Had I not started a family soon after college, I know I would have started traveling much sooner in life. Ah- but that was ‘the road less traveled.’ I am now trying to make up for some lost time. I applaud your choice. Buen viaje!

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