I was recently asked that question, and it brought back a flood of memories from my “near-retirement” days.
I suspect most of us were nervous before we retired, but it’s not something we talk about. I believe there’s value in sharing the psychological journey in those final days before retirement. For folks nearing retirement, it’s reassuring to know they’re not alone.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk about it with a reader who is on the cusp of retirement. We had a wide-ranging discussion and the conversation became the trigger for today’s post. I suspect many of the questions he asked are also on the minds of other readers who are approaching retirement.
This one’s for you, Mike. Thanks for letting me share our discussion with the readers of this blog. I trust they’ll all benefit from our discussion…
Were you nervous before you Retired?
That’s one of the questions a reader, Mike, asked me on a recent phone call. Mike’s a month away from retirement and reached out to me a few weeks ago. I typically decline reader requests for phone calls (unfortunately, a downside of writing a blog with a large following). If I said yes to every request, I’d be spending far too much of my time helping folks on a one-on-one basis, time that could otherwise be spent writing and reaching thousands of people with the same effort. It’s a “scalability” thing, and I trust you understand.
However…there was something about Mike.
His initial email hit a chord with me. Here’s what he said:
Good morning Fritz,
Have heard you on several podcasts and just finished your latest discussion with Jason Parker. I will be retiring in January and your point about helping others hit a cord. I would love the opportunity to speak with you about your blog. I’m currently a financial advisor and feel there is a huge need for financial literacy for just about everyone. As a former teacher, my passion is teaching/sharing. Would like to understand better how you got started with your blog, what are some of the watch outs, and any other insights you could provide.
Thanks for your consideration and congratulations on living your best life!
What caught my attention? The fact that he didn’t ask a single financial question and was focused on helping others. He had some ideas about teaching/sharing and he was considering starting a blog. I appreciate readers applying the lessons I’m sharing in their lives and searching for Purpose in retirement. I also had a bit more free time than I usually do, so I agreed to a phone call.
Following are some of the highlights of our discussion, in no particular order. I trust you’ll find them of interest.
Questions From A Soon To Be Retiree
Should I start a Blog In Retirement?
My first reaction to any question that says “Should I start…” is to say yes. It’s critical, especially in early retirement, to foster your creative curiosity and try anything that interests you. Many won’t “stick,” but you’ll likely find a few that do. Once you’ve found one or two, you’re on your way to a great retirement.
Mike has a passion for teaching and is exploring various avenues to reach others. I strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in starting a blog to give it a try. 7 years ago, I started this blog on a whim. I’m 100% self-taught and technically inept. It’s easy to start a blog these days, with Bluehost and WordPress both designed for folks who have never built a website. Starting this blog is one of the best things I’ve ever done and has become a Purpose of mine in retirement. I hope it works out as well for others who are considering it.
That said, it’s important to consider your motives. If you’re doing it to make money, I suspect you’ll fail. For 3 years, I wrote every week without making a dime and only started adding those annoying ads when I retired. I get some complaints about them but believe I shouldn’t have to incur costs when there’s an option of generating some revenue for my “work.” As blogs grow, the costs increase (Mailchimp costs me $220/month based on my ~13k subscribers), and I felt it was time to at least cover my costs. Making money has never been my motive, and it shouldn’t be yours. Even now, after 7 years, the income from this blog basically pays my health insurance. Nice to have, but not enough to change our life. Unless you’re in the 0.1%, you won’t get rich writing a blog.
Experiment with writing, and only continue if you discover (as I did) that you love the process. I also encouraged Mike to explore starting a podcast and/or YouTube channel, as these platforms are also popular amongst the soon-to-be-retired crowd. “If you enjoy talking,” I said, “consider starting a YouTube channel and stripping out the audio for a podcast.”
I hope Mike finds something he loves, and I look forward to monitoring his progress.
How do you get Ideas for Blog Posts?
Interestingly, it was this question that led to today’s post. My initial response focused on how I usually “find” topics for this blog when I’m doing something mindless. As I’ve mentioned, most come to me when I’m doing my daily 1.5-mile dog walks on the trail through the forest on the back of our property. I really don’t know where the ideas come from, they just seem to come into my head at random times, and I always send myself a quick email with a working title and a few bullet points. When I get back to my computer, I start a draft post and keep them in my “draft” folder (as of today, I have 153 “working drafts”).
Two minutes after we hung up, I shot Mike a quick email. I reminded him of this question and then said our phone call had led to another idea for a blog post. Would he mind if I shared our discussion (keeping his identity confidential), as I felt it could bring value to the many readers who are nearing retirement?
Fortunately, he agreed, and this post was born.
What tips do you have for a Soon-to-be Retiree?
Mike and I really hit it off and spent the majority of our call discussing this one. It was a great back-and-forth, and I’ll attempt to capture the essence of the discussion with the following bullet points:
- Enjoy the Honeymoon: I believe the first 6 months after retirement can be the very best years of your life. After working hard for decades, you’ve achieved the dream. Savor that reality, and embrace your newfound freedom. Also, realize the initial euphoria won’t last long, so treasure every moment. I’m thankful that I captured my retirement transitions in the Retirement Reality Series, and encourage everyone to read them to get a sense of what lies ahead.
- Be Prepared for the “Messy Middle:” Your retirement honeymoon will come to an end, and it’s common to go through a difficult period of adjustment. Eric Weigel coined the term “Messy Middle” in his book Reimagining Retirement, and it’s a good one. Recognize there will be a lot of years in retirement after the honeymoon is over, and begin preparing your new work of discovering what you’re meant to do in your retirement years.
- Read a Lot of Books: I’ve always enjoyed reading but never had time as I do now. Mike’s also a reader, and I encourage him to take advantage of his time and freedom to self-educate on any topic that interests him. Track your progress (click to see my Goodreads account and what I’ve read since retiring) and read a wide variety of topics to expand your mindset. Of course, I read a lot of retirement books (see my list of recommended retirement books), but I’ve really fallen in love with non-fiction history. I’m currently reading Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (Amazon link – I’ll get a small commission at no cost to you if you order) and can’t help but be fascinated by the experiences that Lewis & Clark had on their great adventure. History is a new love of mine in retirement, made possible by the reading of books.
- Pursue your Curiosity: The true joy in retirement is the ability to do anything that interests you, but pursuing your curiosity is a skill that’s out of practice for new retirees. After years of being told what to do, retirement is the time to explore. Listen to your mind and try as many new things as possible. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one or two things that become true passions, and you’ll be on your way to the retirement of your dreams. In my case, both The Retirement Manifesto and the work my wife and I do with Freedom For Fido were the result of experimenting with something that intrigued us. In my humble opinion, a successful retirement begins by learning how to pursue your curiosity.
- Focus on the Non-Financial: By the time you’ve made the decision to retire, you know your numbers. As you prepare for the transition to retirement, spend as much time on the non-financial elements as you’ve been spending on the numbers. As I wrote in The 90/10 Rule of Retirement, you’ll likely find yourself thinking about money a lot less after you retire, and the non-financial areas are the places you’ll find true joy. Spend some time now thinking about those areas of your life, there’s evidence that the success of your transition will be directly correlated to the amount of time you spend planning on the “soft side” of your retirement lifestyle.
- Don’t go back to Work … until you’ve learned to exercise your creative muscle. As you work through that “messy middle” you’ll find yourself missing many of those non-financial benefits you once received from work (relationships, sense of identity, purpose, goals, sense of achievement, etc). While it’s easy to fall back to some sort of work to fulfill these basic human needs, I encouraged Mike to hold off on making that decision until he had explored other non-work avenues to achieve the same thing. Consider doing non-profit work, and get involved in new areas of your community. If you can’t find something that’s meeting your needs, you can always go back to work. Give yourself time to explore and don’t make going back to work your initial default.
What should I “Watch Out” for?
Retirement is one of the biggest changes you’ll ever make in life, and it’s a black hole. Not only are there the countless tactical details that must be taken care of (health insurance, creating a retirement paycheck, etc.), but there’s also the reality that you’re going to have to find something to do with all of that new time in your life.
Given that you’re currently reading a retirement blog, I suspect you’re a lot like Mike. You’re aware of the huge change coming to your life and you’re seeking to learn from those who have traveled the path ahead of you. Counting today’s post, I’ve written 387 articles on the lessons I’ve learned on the journey (check out my archives for a summary of every article written). I find it impossible to summarize everything I’ve learned but would encourage you to check out the following posts before for a few tips on things to consider:
- 20 Steps To Take In The Year Before Retirement – my “most read” article, with 100k views.
- How To Build A Retirement Paycheck: #2 on the most-read list (90k), my guide to the bucket strategy.
- Our Retirement Investment Drawdown Strategy: #3 on the list (65k), our strategy for the drawdown phase.
- The Ultimate Pre-Retirement Checklist: A must-read for someone approaching retirement.
- Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be: The reality of making the transition to retirement.
Were you nervous before you Retired?
As we approached the end of our call, Mike asked me a question that really resonated with me: “Were you nervous before you retired?” I didn’t hesitate in my reply:
“Of course I was, and I suspect every other retiree was, too.”
I went on the explain the significance of the change that retirement brings to your life. It affects everything: finances, relationships, time, purpose, identity, etc. Add into that the uncertainty around inflation, recent market performance, etc. and it begs the question: How can you NOT be nervous when you’re facing what will likely be the biggest change in your life? According to this article, “51% of investors who are not retired expressed high stress about their long-term and post-retirement financial futures…”
However, by preparing for the change and applying the lessons learned by others, there’s no need to fear the changes retirement will bring to your life. Check your progress against these 5 Most Important Factors In Your Decision To Retire.
If you can check all of the boxes, enjoy the excitement of the journey. You’ve worked for decades to get to this point.
The fun is just getting started…
Mike was wise in reaching out to someone who’s a few years ahead of him on the path, and I enjoyed our discussion. I hope you’ve benefited from reading my thoughts and responses to his questions.
Were you nervous before you retired?
Of course, it’s a natural reaction to one of the biggest changes you’ll ever face in life.
The good news is, we survived. Better yet, we thrived and you can, too. Yes, it’s a major transition. However, by taking the initiative to learn from others and applying the lessons they’ve learned, retirement may well be the best time of your life.
That’s certainly true for my wife and me and I suspect it will be for Mike as well. Hopefully, by reading this post, the same will be true for you.
You’ve worked hard to get here.
Relax, it’s time to enjoy the best years of your life.
Your Turn: If you’re close to retirement, are you nervous? If you’ve already crossed The Starting Line, were you nervous before you retired? What advice would you give to someone on the cusp of retirement to help ease their anxiety?
Fritz Gilbert is the Founder of The Retirement Manifesto, a Plutus Award winning blog dedicated to helping people Achieve A Great Retirement. After 30+ years in Corporate America, most recently as a Commodity Trader, Fritz retired as planned in June 2018 at Age 55. He and his wife are looking forward to extended travel and “giving back” to their community through charitable work in retirement. This blog was published on his website on Dec. 15, 2022 and is republished here with his permission.