Friday, December 14, 2007

Informal Survey Results -- perspective from other retirees

A few weeks ago I sent out a brief survey to some of my retired friends to get their perspective on the rewards and challenges of being retired. It was fun to read their responses, so I thought I would pass on their collective perspective, wisdom and suggestions.

Best thing about retirement?
For all the respondents, the best thing about being retired was FREEDOM. "No structure, deadlines, stress" was one person's response. Others said "freedom," "flexibility to do what you want when you want," "not having to hurry to get done with a project," "freedom," "flexibility," "control over my time." It was very interesting to note that all respondents mentioned freedom or flexibility in their response to this question about the best thing about retirement.

Biggest challenge in making the transition to retirement?
There were a variety of responses to this question. Several respondents mentioned a change in their relationship with their spouse -- adjusting to spending more time together, trying not to encroach in each other's space/domain/time. Several people mentioned financial considerations, including adjusting to a new (lower) budget. One person expressed concern over the erosion of his skills and gifts and felt a need to pass on what he had learned. Another said his biggest challenge was forgetting about work: worries about schedules, employees and job problems were still very real in his mind when he tried to rest. A few people mentioned that it had been difficult to slow down, noting that they had to make a conscious effort not to hurry to get things done, and a few respondents said that they missed positive feedback from others because basically there wasn't anyone around now to give it.

Downside of being retired?
My friends didn't report much downside to retirement, and several specifically said they had not found the downside yet! A few people noted health concerns related to aging and the associated higher insurance rates and increased medical expenses; a couple others mentioned missing the camaraderie of the workplace.

What advice do you have for someone planning to retire?
There were many interesting responses to this question. Here are some of the most common and insightful suggestions for planning for retirement:
  1. If you have any doubts about retiring, don't do it -- you're not ready!
  2. Develop outside interests before you retire to provide social contact and something to do with your time.
  3. Clean up as much debt as you can -- it costs more to live than you might think!
  4. Keep your own sphere of influence -- don't encroach on your spouse's time or space.
  5. Figure out what you really enjoy doing -- and then enjoy doing it!
  6. Don't volunteer for at least one year. Give yourself time to do the things you've been putting off since retirement.
  7. Give yourself 18 months to decompress -- then start planning for the rest of your life!

I'd be interested to hear your responses to the questions posed in this informal survey. Use the comment option below to add your thoughts to the mix!