Hardly a day goes by when I’m not asked how retirement is going. It’s great, for sure, and I’m extremely grateful for being able to enjoy the benefits of retirement. Over the past seven months, I’ve become adjusted to a new kind of rhythm and have enjoyed many advantages of being retired. Here are some observations.
More flexibility. It was a bit jarring to give up some of my travel plans this year, but once I realized that I can travel anytime I want to for the rest of my life, it wasn’t so bad at all. Now I can schedule what I want when I want. And if I didn’t have this flexibility, I couldn’t be taking my grandson to playgrounds or schedule doctor’s appointments at 9:00 am or meet up with fellow retirees at a coffee shop on a random Tuesday morning.
More energy. Teaching can be draining. Teaching middle school is exhausting. As much as I loved my career, I am glad to have more energy these days. And if I do feel drained, I can just sleep in.
No monotony. I’ve had many working people tell me, “I don’t know what I would do if I retired.” I retired not just because I have so much I want to do, but because I know I’ll discover more things to do with more time and energy. Trust the process. Retirement is anything but boring. I do manage my time by making lists, which have the danger of making me feel overwhelmed, but I always remind myself of the advice from a fellow retiree: “If I do everything that’s on my list today, I won’t have anything to do tomorrow!”
I also like the idea of thinking of myself as self-employed, as my friend Eric Kim suggested. “Retired” sounds like I’m sitting around doing nothing all day. This could not be further from the truth.
No longing for my former life. I am actually surprised at how little I miss teaching. It was a great career, I still have the occasional school dream, and I have fond memories of students, but this retirement thing is just too good to pass up. One of the unexpected surprises of retiring near where I taught is that I see so many former students/families around town. It’s always nice to hear “Mr. Flanagan?” whether I’m fumbling through the self-checkout at the grocery store, chasing my grandkids at the playground, walking into daycare, or even sitting at a bar.
New perspective on money. Although I retired early, I am fortunate to have a pension that I can live on. Sometimes I wish I had more, but the reality is I have more than I need and far more than what most people in the world live on. And I love the advice given to me by my financial advisor: “Don’t lower your standard of living – if you’ve saved money for retirement, now is the time to spend it!”
Finding community. Without daily contact with my school community, I knew I would need to find more ways to become connected to where I live. This is an ongoing process, but I’m so grateful for finding the Westerly Anti-Racism Coalition, a community of people who are passionate about making our town a more equitable and just place. It has become one of my favorite things about where I live.
The best thing of all? I still wake up every day feeling like it’s a snow day!