For some reason, I had the idea that retirement age is 65, so I just assumed that is when I would retire.
Over the years, my wife and I have lived pretty much debt-free and have therefore been able to contribute the maximums to our 401k plans.
I really don't know much about stocks and that sort of thing, and am really not particularly interested.
Instead of all the slick, fast talk about investing that we often hear, all I know is to spend less than I earn, and this has probably served us much better than all the financial schemes folks engage in.
The company I worked for at my last full time position, had their main office on the east coast, and that is where all the administration tasks were handled.
I received an email one day from the main office, saying that my 401k consisted of very "aggressive" funds, and that I should move them into more conservative funds. I didn't know what all that meant, but agreed to allow the administrator to do that on my behalf.
I asked if there was a local financial adviser who could handle this task for my rollover funds, and it turned out there is. My wife and I went to see that person. To make a long story short, at 60, the financial adviser asked why we were still working.
So, we decided to retire right then. I won't go further into the details surrounding our financial decisions because these are so different for each person, but I think the other aspects of adjusting to retirement might be more interesting.
My wife and I had long prepared for retirement by identifying the hobbies we each enjoyed and making sure that during our working lives, we acquired what we would need in retirement for these. We decided that we were no longer interested in travel because we had both done so much of it during our younger years and had both already seen much of the world as a result.
There were two major adjustments that I found I had to contend with in adjusting for retirement, once I actually arrived at that point.
The first is that, having been raised with a strong work ethic and having my identity in working for so many years, it was a surprise that it was difficult to let go of that. I felt guilty in not having to do anything.
The second is that, despite having carefully worked out our budget with our financial adviser, we didn't account for the fact that, when working and having that regular income and associated disposable income, we tended to spend money in little bits here and there, that added up during the course of the month. There was more of an adjustment in our spending habits than we realized, even though we had always lived debt free.
It has been very fortunate that my work career has translated into a comfortable ongoing ability to get contract engineering work for 3 months a year, working 3 days a week, that pays very well. I don't need to start a business or work at Walmart as a greeter. This was a pleasant surprise, and I have been taking advantage of this turn of events every year.
My wife and I are both involved in volunteer work, teaching English as a second language through our local library system. There are many non-English speaking new immigrant people in our area who are most eager to learn our language and ways as Americans, contrary to popular media depictions of this group of folks. Many of the people we work with are women whose role is staying home and raising the family. When their kids are old enough to go to school, these women then have the time to learn English and begin their exposure to American life.
My wife's hobbies are quilting and reading. She has a very nice sewing/embroidery machine, and a seemingly endless supply of fabric. She has made quilts that hang in the local fire department, her church, and she is part of a volunteer group that makes blankets for premature babies and other items as needed.
My primary hobby is music. I have been teaching myself to play piano on and off, and have played guitar for many years, even professionally many years ago. Rather than rock as many might assume, I play solo instrumental jazz guitar and also solo acoustic instrumental guitar. There is a lifetime of exploration to be had in these areas.
We have both adjusted to retirement and have a nice pace of life going on. I am starting a 3 month contract for this year, next week. 3 days a week is a comfortable pace, and the extra income provides a nice buffer for unexpected expenses so we don't draw down our savings too soon.
Also, working a short term contract helps to keep structure in my life. When we first retire, we are looking at time as if standing on the beach looking out at the ocean. What will we do with all that time? We can end up just wasting away, or we can engage in the many interesting things going on in our respective areas and stay alive mentally and physically. It is our choice.