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Navigating Retirement: Finding Balance and Fighting Boredom

Author Greg Davis
a retired couple

Today, at age 64, I have been retired for three years after a four-decade career in both the business world and academia. I do some freelance writing for my POF readers but without the stress of a daily job.

Truly owning my time is a luxury, and I am grateful for every moment. My wife retired at age 48 from her Pathology group at a regional hospital in PA. At her prerogative, she is now busier than ever doing things that she wants to do.

But being retired presents a new, unexpected set of challenges, too. Here’s what I didn’t see coming.

Empowerment in a Lack of Schedule

At first, it was hard to let go of the feeling that I needed to be “measurably productive” every day. My career was a big part of my identity, and I always gave 110% to my job.

Slowly but surely, though, my new normal developed, one that did not include as much stress or hectic scheduling. I still make lists because they’re a part of me, but schedules have a way of surprising you after retirement. And this is an uncertainty I don’t mind dealing with.

For me, I felt like I had to knock off the largest and scariest item from my “retirement bucket list” as soon as possible. 

Thus on 2-2-22 (as an accountant, I love cool numbers like this), I started my 15-month journey to becoming a published author in my first full year of retirement. I regard this as one of the major accomplishments in my life, but there’s a catch; this task meant that I was chained to my desk most days instead of making new friends and forming relationships in my new city of Philadelphia.

Uncertainty Can Cause Imbalance

Retirement opens you up to a lot of free time. This means you’re left with all sorts of thoughts. I would often think if I’d achieved enough in my lifetime and if there was anything more I could try to accomplish.

Sometimes, I feel a rush of adrenaline, and the need to do something consumes me.

One of the reasons leading up to this is an unstructured life. This includes the expectation of the long, vacation-filled excitement that retirement is often portrayed to be.

As I’m asked frequently by my friends who are not retired, what do you do with yourself every day? 

Well…my wife and I get up early (6:30ish) and either workout at a local gym or have breakfast together in our condo. She goes off to work three days a week. I stay behind at home and work on various projects, including writing personal finance articles for PoF.

In addition, I often complete gigs on Upwork, such as helping folks calculate their options for taking Social Security at the proper age.

You Need a New Mindset

Rather than collecting regrets about any lacking material things or financial freedom, I am trying to be grateful for the many blessings I do have in my life.

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Your age doesn’t determine the new mindset you’ll require after retirement. Leaving work is the beginning of a journey that opens the door to many other possibilities. For me, the strongest possibility and then reality was moving from my rural setting to Philadelphia.

It can be difficult to stave off the negative emotions and feelings that make their way across my mind.

The stock market decline of approximately 20% during my first full year of retirement in 2022 was hard to witness, but I chose to remain optimistic. 

To perceive the world in a certain light despite all the hardships you witness requires a certain kind of resilience and grit. I found this exceedingly difficult when you are retired and home most of the day – keeping up with the terrible economy and overall depressing news.

Retirement Looks Different for Spouses

Stay-at-home spouses may harbor different expectations – like one partner taking on a larger chunk of the responsibilities.

Others (like my wife) imagine all their time will be spent with the spouse. Which is, in retrospect, not the best idea. 

Although it makes sense for couples to spend time with one another, it’s necessary to maintain independent lives and schedules. This includes different friend circles and activities. This way, conversation could never run dry, and things become fresh and exciting.

The best way to go about this is, as I mentioned above, a conversation. Share your ideas, vision, and expectations – stay on the same page and meet in the middle. The cliché isn’t wrong; Communication definitely is the key to healthy relationships.

While my wife retired seven years earlier than I did, she was busy serving as her family’s caretaker for her mother for the first 3-4 years of her retirement. As is the case for many folks who work in medicine, their natural caregiver talents take over. She performed this function while we were living over 700 miles away in Illinois.

Thanks to her newfound post-retirement freedom, she was able to spend lots of time back in Pennsylvania, Caring for her mother and being the conduit to other family members when her mom was placed in a home.

Money Issues During Retirement

Retirement should be a time to explore, not a sentence to financial jail. Some couples go into extreme save-every-penny mode, while others treat their savings like confetti at a party.

The trick is finding a balance that works for both of you. If money becomes a battlefield, consider a financial advisor as a peacekeeper.

They can help you create a budget that allows for new experiences and cherished memories without putting your financial future at risk.

While we didn’t use a professional, my wife and I have used You Need a Budget, or YNAB, for the past 10 years to help us stay within our desired monthly spending. We also work with a financial advisor.

Our upbringing and life experience help shape our spending and saving philosophies. By talking it through, spouses may be better able to understand their partner’s point of view. It may even strengthen their emotional connection.

My wife & I do have monthly “Money Dates,” where we have dinner and wine at a nice local restaurant and review our net worth statement and budget analysis.

In addition, we discuss any upcoming trips or major expenditures so that we are prepared for any additional cash needs within our portfolio.

For example, we discussed the need to replace my wife’s 15-year-old convertible during the 2023 holiday season. With the proper planning, we replaced it with a low-mileage vehicle in March.

Mental Health Issues During Retirement

I must admit retirement can be a challenge in a marriage where each party does different things to use their new-found free time. 

Through my wife’s juggling of volunteer efforts as well as her civic role on a city grand jury during the weekdays, she has become busy in retirement. Add in the practices and training sessions required for her dragon boat racing team and related weightlifting workouts; She is busier now than when she was employed as a pathologist.

In all candor, this has led to some mild depression for me as I have had to find things to do on my own while spending my days alone. 

Growing up on a farm in a very rural setting for much of my life – as well as spending time writing my book inside our cozy condo – has shielded me from fully enjoying big city life.

After a 45-year hiatus from playing live competitive chess, I have devoted 2024 to fully engaging in the many chess tournaments that are offered here on the East Coast. Also, my wife and I have joined a local fitness facility which has been helpful.

The Shocking Parts of Retirement

What shocked me the most during my initial three years of retirement?

The biggest shock in retirement was not taking the constant vacations relaxing on a beach that I had dreamed about for many of my working years. 

As I turn 65 later this year, I notice that I can’t be out in the sun as much anymore as strongly recommended by my dermatologist! Nor do I enjoy the hot temperatures & higher humidity that summer months bring…like I used to.

Since my wife is busy with her volunteering job efforts at a local homeless shelter as well as grand jury duty 1-2 days a week, we have trouble finding time for any substantial vacation travel. Most of our trips are long weekend getaways, which are still a lot of fun but for me, they end too quickly.

We were able to enjoy a ten-day guided trip to four Canadian cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec) in 2022 with eleven interesting and delightful couples from across the US – a wonderful and fun-filled retirement vacation.

The Verdict

In summary, I have enjoyed my three years of retirement as I am spending more time with my wife (we celebrate 34 years of marriage on May 19!). 

While we are not traveling as much as originally thought, we are enjoying weekend trips to fun places like Atlantic City, NJ, and Gettysburg, PA.

I am also realizing that I need to stay active as my body has more aches & pains as I approach age 65 in six months.

My wife and I are currently discussing a move back to Hershey, PA, next year where our relationship started way back in 1989 when we bought our first house for only $75,000.

My final advice: retirement is worth the wait, but don’t be surprised if you face a few curveballs along the way!  



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6 thoughts on “Navigating Retirement: Finding Balance and Fighting Boredom”

  1. Thanks so much for this. I feel like it was written as encouragement for me. My employer of 16 years, suddenly started pushing me to leave. Mostly over plagiarism among my students, (I’m against it) So I am still working out what I want to do (there I go) but I am happy to have the opportunity to be out of the grind.

    Reply
    • Your are welcome John as I’m pleased that you found this article helpful. It sounds like you’re ready to leave the education field for a well-deserved retirement. I wish you good health and happiness!

      Reply
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. hey man congrats on retirement and not getting too bored! sounds like you are making the most of the new found time you have 🙂

    On another note being from and still living in NJ, I might not recommend Atlantic City. maybe not the most classy of places and has really suffered the past couple of decades with the closing Revel and Trump casinos. My recent foray in AC 3 months ago to watch a Ring of Fire MMA fight at the Trop was really fun, though it involved engorging myself in tons of unhealthy food at Carmines, watching a fight in the stands during the MMA fight were Tropicana security and AC police were brought in, and then late night gambling at the Borgata where I was staying and inhaled enough smoke I likely have COPD.

    It was fun for me being an NJ born and raised guy- just be aware it’s not for everybody! Probably a reason why the Miss America pageant is no longer held there!

    Reply
    • Hello Rikki,

      Thanks for your comments as I agree with your opinion on the downfall of ACNJ as we noticed some depressed areas when we took a Lyft to White House subs & Docks Oyster House. It was a fun weekend getaway but as you indicate as a NJ guy, it’s not for everyone. Stay safe & enjoy life!

      Reply
    • Thanks Paul as I appreciate your valued feedback. I wish you & your family a safe & enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

      Reply

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