Choosing a retirement pathMy working friends often ask about my retired life. What is retirement like? What do you do with all that time? Do you work? Are you ever bored? Does it make you crazy to be with your spouse all the time?

Retired for four years, now, the answers to those questions continue to change.

My first two years were focused on selling my house and moving to my husband’s house 500 miles away. We updated my house by remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms and painting and carpeting the house. During this time I also sorted, downsized and packed my possessions. The house sold in 45 days, and we were quickly onto the moving phase.

Combining two households and adjusting to living together for the first time in our 3-year marriage was the next challenge. It was harder than I expected after living on my own for seven years. We rented a storage unit for the extra stuff, and we set about converting my husband’s house into our home. We re-purposed a bedroom area into my study and studio, which gave me my own space and helped me feel at home.

The next two years were very different than those first two years. Suddenly I had an expanse of time to fill. I jumped into my hobbies of beading and jewelry making. I started sewing again, making pillows and tablecloths for gifts. I had more time for cooking, and my husband and I began to travel.

We started remodeling our house by rebuilding a screened porch and converting a dining room into a music room. We love re-purposing objects, and we enjoy working together on projects such as refinishing an antique park bench and converting a standard size antique bed-frame into a queen size bed.

This past fall, I began volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, and my husband and I took a class together in jewelry and metalworking at the local art center. I have to admit that I fully expected to get a job after retiring, but every time I remember the stress of my Program Manager job, I realize I do not want to work right now.

As I look around at my retired friends, I am amazed at the wide variety of activities they have chosen. If you are contemplating retirement, there are so many options to consider. Here is a quick glimpse of ten retired friends and ten very different retirement paths.

  • Lisa and Jim are in their 60’s, and they have been retired over 5 years. Lisa was a vice president in international banking when she retired, and she was interested in a less stressful job in retirement. She found a job as a teller at another bank in town where she knew many of the employees. Jim was a chemist in a nuclear facility when he retired, and he sought a job that would use his mechanical and carpentry skills. He first worked full-time for a home repair business and then moved into a part-time maintenance role for a commercial property manager. After working several years, Jim and Lisa decided to quit working, and today they divide their time between their homes in the Midwest and Mexico. When they are not walking at least 10,000 steps each day, they can be found reading, RV camping and visiting with friends and family. Last summer Jim completed the journey of a lifetime with a month long Rickshaw Run across India raising money for the charity Cool Earth.
  • Bob was in his 50’s, and his wife Sally was in her 40’s when they retired two years ago. Bob was a director of regulatory affairs, and Sally was a surgical nurse. Neither of them is planning to work though Sally has continued with her part time Mary Kay consultant job. They volunteer at their church in a variety of positions including teaching financial management classes and organizing international mission trips. They love travel and exploring the history of each place. On their recent trip to London they retraced the Beatles’ path in different musical venues. One of their Christmas gifts each year is an annual pass to the state parks where they enjoy nature and hiking. Bob is an excellent guitar player, and now retired, can devote more time to his passion. He and Sally both enjoy live and recorded music. They also spend time with their friends, children and grandchildren.
  • Tom is in his late 60’s, and he has been retired for nearly ten years. He was a lead mechanical engineer, and when he retired he worked part time as a mechanical engineering consultant for several years. Today he is very active in building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Tom and his wife Lee split their time between their Midwest and mountain homes. They enjoy skiing as many days as possible each winter, and Tom is also a part time ski instructor. Tom also plays guitar and is an amateur radio operator.
  • Dave is in his late 50’s, and he retired one year ago. His first priority was to downsize. He sold his house and bought a smaller home. After working many years as director of facilities maintenance, he chose a very different path in retirement. He invested in a start-up microbrewery, and now he is very involved in managing the day-to-day operations with his business partners. Dave enjoys international travel with his daughter, and he loves checking out the food and restaurant scene.
  • Paul is in his mid-60’s and retired over five years ago. Before retirement he worked as a construction engineer. Post-retirement he held several sales and construction management jobs. Today he works long work hours at a constructions site an hour away from his home, and he lives at a small apartment near his job and travels home on weekends. His wife Joan is in her early 50’s and is still actively working in interior design. When he’s not working, Paul plays guitar and is an avid reader and movie buff. He and Joan enjoy hanging out with their friends and children.

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