Retirement Time Banner

Theorists who point to the psychological values of work usually mention that one of its virtues is that it structures time.  Yes we might dislike who does the structuring and how, but when many retire they find that suddenly blank canvas that is every day hard to fill.

When we think retirement planning the customary referent is money---IRA’s, 401k’s, annuities and all that.  But ahead of retirement we need to think about time planning as well.  I have personally seen some of the ways that goes.

My dad had instant boredom.  Breakfast became sitting around waiting for lunch, punctuated by a trip to the mailbox  and an episode of The Price is Right.  My ex-brother in law (my sister dumped the guy years ago) does nothing in retirement but play golf.  That puts him ahead of my dad, but what does he do on a rainy or snowy day?

My wife has a friend who actually needs a date book, and who is running to this meeting and that club and this organization all the time.  For us, that would be frenetic retirement.  We called those people activities jocks back in college.

I get asked why, in retirement, do I teach online at 4 or 5 schools, sometimes all at once.  That’s one of those “take the 5th” sort of questions, as I don’t want to say I don’t do much nor do I want to say I’m losing sleep working too hard.  The truth wanders somewhere in between, but I do emphasize it is indoor work , done from home, and that online is asynchronous:  I do it when I want to, with 4-5 of the days each week being pretty light duty. 

I begin conversations about structuring time in retirement by asking people “what will you do on a rainy day?”  Golf, gardening, walks through the park and other things are terrific, but in many climates it is often too hot or too cold or it rains or snows.   And it’s a sad but true fact that the skeleton and related apparatus can act up on us with age and we can’t easily swing the club, kneel down over the petunias or put one foot in front of the other for 2 or 3 miles through the park. 

Around our house we live what a dear friend of mine calls the “life of the mind”, which I find a rather hilarious term.  But for sure, we spend part of each morning reading the papers (in print and online), and we have e-readers that store books we devote some time too.  Sara knits and makes cool stuff with that, plus increasingly is taking time to mess with Photoshop and Dreamweaver software again.  I play piano and guitar and generally produce old rock riffs and other things that are pleasing to me but far from being the life of the musical mind.

We also spend an hour every day, 365 days a year except when ill, exercising.   It takes some time to get suited up for that, some time to get presentable afterward, plus the hour itself we hope that a little huff and puff  will help us keep breathing a good bit longer. 

One of our hobbies is doing lunch.  We have a pretty regular Wednesday with one friend, and regular Thursday date with another.  Both are retired.  Our friends who still work have busier lives, but once a month or so we get together with some of them.  Sara also has a standing "ladies" lunch and dinner date with different groups. We describe our favorite lunch spots in our Restaurants page.

Sara's retired from giving speeches around Kansas, but still really enjoys leading eight to ten Kansas Humanities Council book discussion groups each year. She loves the best books so encountered, and usually finds some value in all but a very few clinkers.

Emailing friends, keeping up with Facebook buddies' photos and other posting, and even playing a few silly Facebook games - all these add spice to most days.

Now all this is us, and we know not necessarily the right cup of tea for all readers.  Each of us can think of things we can pursue with some regularity during retirement, and we often find some of those things emerge as we spend more time in Retirement Land. We didn’t plan to have the lunch hobby before we retired; we did plan to exercise.  Stay open to new possibilities as they come along.

We of course have no kids, so no grand-children.  Some of our friends enjoy that.  Neither of us is into doing volunteer work, and we don’t travel much anymore.   And we do work part-time, which is something a whole lot of other Boomers are doing.  The retirement spent in a fishing boat or a hammock or a golf cart does not appeal to lot of us as it might have to our parents’ generation. 

It’s been going on 10 years for me and 9 for Sara since we entered our same old building, and trudged up the stairs to our same old assigned office.  During that time we have not had a collective minute of boredom.  We find that taking naps qualifies as an activity, as does hugging a kitty (mostly for Sara). Nobody said we have to structure time by being awake.  And we spend a good bit of time talking to each other—about our courses, world events, local events, and some things best described as gossip sometimes.  Retirement allows time for communication.