What do I want to do Before I retire?

Silhouette of woman with hand on her face | What do I want to do before I retire
Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement lately. Surprise, surprise 🙂

You probably think that being a part of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) community automatically implies that retirement is a goal one strives for continuously and is something we think about often anyway.

But there is a more immediate reason. I always dream about retiring when I feel stressed at work. And this time is no exception.

The flu season is upon us and I can’t help but remember what this time was like last year. Without being dramatic about it, it brings up feelings of anxiety and stress.

We were inundated with bookings. Phones were ringing off the hook. We struggled to get enough supply. My colleagues were worried about getting Covid 19, either because they have chronic health conditions themselves or were worried about spreading it to elderly parents. It was left to me to keep the service going. And I did. There really wasn’t any choice.

It may or may not be easier this year. Certainly my colleagues don’t mind helping out this year (I am still obviously alive!). But this year, there is the added complication of Covid 19 vaccinations (a good complication, mind you).

It is advised that the flu and Covid 19 vaccinations be separated by at least 14 days. Mainly because we don’t know if there is any interaction between the two. And if there are any side effects experienced, we’d like to pin them on one or the other. So people need to be extra organised this year – having to organise 3 jabs instead of just the one.

Anyway, things got to a head (literally, inside my head) that I took some unplanned time off work, 13 days in total. Just so that I can have a break before the busy season ahead.

But of course, I don’t know how to relax completely. I made appointments to see my optometrist and GP. Finally got a blood test. Blah blah blah, mundane but important chores that didn’t get done in 2020.

Retirement? No, no no!!!

My eyes were so bad that I needed two appointments with the optometrist. At the second appointment, during a lull while he was setting up some equipment, I innocently asked if he would be retiring anytime soon. He’d been my optometrist for more than 20 years and I was wondering what to do if he were to retire.

Well! His reaction was comical. Why would I want to retire? Why did you ask me today, of all questions? I just received a letter from some corporation asking if I intend to sell my practice and retire soon. What would I do in retirement? I’d have to see my wife 24/7 – she’d have so many jobs for me to do around the house and garden. No, no, no, definitely do not want to retire. I would want to work a few days at the very least.

I replied, knowing he loves to travel – don’t you want to travel to somewhere that you can stay longer than two weeks or a month? Say, stay for 3 months and explore in a more leisurely manner?

His eyes lit up. Hang on, he says. He left the room and came back with his iPad. Here, let me show you some photos of when I was in the Serengeti a few years ago. I would absolutely love to stay for 3 months here.

And the photos were gorgeous … he was on a trip that followed the migration of wildbeests – every night, they stayed in 5 star accommodations and by day, they followed the animals.

Going to Africa on a safari to see these animals in their habitat was on my to-do list for retirement too. So this was handy – more info to file away to that part of the brain that deals with future retirement.

A herd of wildbeests crossing a river
Image by Les Bohlen from Pixabay

Retirement? Yes, yes, yes!!!

Immediately after this discussion, I was off to visit Frogdancer Jones in her Best House in Melbourne. We’d only met in person once, in 2019 at the Playing with Fire documentary in Camberwell.

And since I’d basically asked to tag along on her Antarctica trip, I thought it’d be a good idea to get to know one another in person.

We got along like a house on fire and didn’t sop talking for hours. Phew! I think we’ll be fine in a cabin on a boat to and from Antarctica 🙂

What really struck me was the stark contrast between my optometrist’s abject horror at the thought of retirement and FDJ’s obvious delight at being newly retired.

She was rested, napping whenever she wanted and has read 20+ books (it’s only March!), discovered new programs to watch on Netflix and Stan, renovated her en suite ….

She generously fed me delicious gnocchi made from home grown potatoes in a tomato and basil sauce – yes, all grown from the back garden.

And sent me home with 2 gigantic zucchini from the front garden, some lazy housewife beans, lime verbena leaves for a refreshing tea and a bar of hand made soap.

Reading her blog posts always inspire me. Face to face conversation with FDJ was even better! I went home, inspired by her effortless generosity and exuberance. I cannot wait to be retired myself!

2 giant zucchini
Frogdancer Jones' gigantic zucchini

And there was more ... on retirement ...

In the same week, FIRE Your Own Way asked on Twitter – What is the first thing you’d do when you retire?

My reply – NO MORE ALARM CLOCKS – and no routines … read for as long as I want, sleep/nap often …

So yes, it seems that I have been thinking a lot lately about retiring and what I’d do when I retire. Most of all, I am looking forward to having my own routines for me, not because I have to be in my best form for work.

And now ... the conundrum ...

As part of my GP visit, I mentioned about how stressed I feel thinking about the upcoming busy season at work. We discussed the benefits that I may gain from talking to a professional psychologist.

So off I went …

At my second appointment with the psychologist, I unloaded about how unproductive I feel at home, after work even though I had made progress from the first appointment. I had accomplished little chores each night and practised self care by reading (I love my new reading glasses!). She asked about my passion and I told her about the blog and wanting to retire at 55.

Her comment was … hmmm … what do you want to do BEFORE you retire?

I was flummoxed. Ummm … what do you mean, BEFORE I retire? In my head, I was thinking … working obviously, I have to work until I retire, duh!

She replied – based on how you are feeling now, despite having a full time job and a blog on the side, you still feel unproductive. How will you feel when you don’t have a full time job? Will you feel unproductive?

You obviously have a financial plan to take you to retirement. Instead of thinking about what you want to do when you retire, how about thinking about what you want to do before you retire? Let’s transition you towards this retirement.

No joke. This question has kept me awake. It is 2.59am and I cannot go back to sleep. 

My constant struggle with productivity

I think I have an issue with allowing myself to relax. I always feel guilty that I am not more productive. Without meaning to, I am always comparing myself to others’ prodigious productivity.

I tell myself – you don’t have any excuses not to be productive. You don’t have to cook and clean and take care of a family in addition to working full time. What’s your problem?

Four people I’ve spoken to about this in recent weeks have all said the same thing to me – You are so hard on yourself. But am I, really?

Do I just have high expectations of myself? I don’t know. Perhaps. What I know is that when I don’t fulfill those expectations, I feel defeated. Then I procrastinate and am paralysed and don’t do anything. Arghhh … why do I do this to myself?

I get the psychologist’s concern. If I always feel unproductive now, then how will I feel when I am well and truly retired? While I may spend the first few months being blissfully happy with no routines, staying up late reading and when I’ve travelled to my heart’s content, what then?

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So what do I want to do before I retire?

Perhaps I should reframe the question as – what can I do now instead of waiting for retirement?

I want to work on my fitness and weight loss goals now. There is no point arriving at retirement with a body that can’t enjoy some vigorous activity, especially while travelling. Since I live a fairly sedentary lifestyle now, I will need to up my game by increasing time spent outdoors. Losing 10kg is one of my 2021 goals – I am pleased to report that I have made a start on this and lost 2kg so far.

I’m loving growing my own vegetables – I have so much to learn and would love to expand into growing dwarf fruit trees and maybe venture into beekeeping … I’d love to be self sufficient by the time I retire and have thriving food gardens.

Building and maintaining relationships – this suffered to a certain extent in 2020. There were of course, a lot less get togethers due to Covid lockdowns. But as a result, I am not as enthusiastic as I once was for organising meet ups with friends. But as more of us are vaccinated, hopefully my enthusiasm will be rekindled. Regardless, I have to work on this more.

Building and maintaining this blog. It breaks my heart when I read someone posting in Facebook groups about how late they think they are at starting saving and investing for retirement. I want to shout – no, start today, it is not too late. So I want to continue sharing my story and other late starters’ stories. Yes, I will have more time to work on it when I’m not also working full time but I can devote what I can to it now. Instead of feeling frustrated that sometimes I am just too tired to work on it. And that I am not being consistent. Blah blah blah.

I would also like to explore some volunteering before I retire instead of waiting till retirement. Right now, I contribute money to various charities and causes. But I’d like to contribute my time too, eventually.

Hopefully, doing all these before I retire will lead me to find some purpose and still feel productive when I do eventually retire in 6 years.

Final thoughts

I don’t want to arrive at retirement with only a financial plan in place. 

Right now, I long for retirement as a means to escape the stresses of full time work. I yearn for time to do my own thing and for slow travel and perhaps to tick things off my bucket list before the threat of dementia descends.

But really, I need to start exploring now and think about what I can currently be doing to live life to the fullest, instead of dreaming about what I’d do in retirement.

How about you? What do you want to do before you retire?

9 Replies to “What do I want to do Before I retire?”

  1. I was glad you popped over for lunch. It was a wide-ranging conversation!
    I can highly recommend retirement, but then, I put a lot of thought into how I’d fill my time before I eventually took the plunge.

    1. Now that I’ve sorted the money part, it is time to focus on what I really want to do, during the transition and when I finally arrive at retirement. It’s exciting but scary at the same time, I must confess 🙂

  2. Thank you for this great post.

    I also sometimes feel guilty that I am not more productive. I try to assume that people share their “best” to try and make others believe that they’re more productive than they actually are. At least, that’s my view – sort of like how people share their best moments on Instagram.

    I think retirement is important to plan for, both financially but also in terms of lifestyle. Too often we focus on the financials and pay no attention to everything else that’s important in retirement.

    1. You may be right in that people share their “best” productive selves 🙂

      It is much easier to focus on the financials (for me anyway) than to focus on lifestyle before and after retirement – I’m now looking forward to exploring what I can do in the transition phase.

  3. My sense of self has always been strongly linked with my work and so I realised I need to prepare mentally for life after work as well as financially. I had a year off work a few years ago which was helpful as a ‘practice retirement’- I didn’t miss work at all lol!
    The book ‘How to retire happy wild & free ‘ was helpful & I now have a long list of things I want to do when I retire. I have started volunteering instead of waiting, reconnected with some old friends instead of always being too busy/too tired for them.

    1. I bet I won’t miss work at all either, haha!

      Thank you for your recommendation – I will check out the book and yes, it’s time to reconnect with old friends and start volunteering in some way

  4. I was thrilled when I read on Frog Dancer’s blog that the two of you would be travelling to Antarctica together! Wish I could tag along as well, ha ha.

    Your psychologist brought up an excellent point. Too many of us just barrel through this phase of our journey, trying to reach the end goal as quickly as possible.

    It’s important to step back and consider the life we’re living now. I like thinking of it as she suggested—as a transition into retirement. It sounds like you’re on the right track!

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s an important topic.

    1. Thanks, Chrissy! I was surprised that she brought it up now as I’d always thought I still had plenty of time to think about retirement, being more than 5 years away. But she is right – this is a transition time. I’m now looking forward to exploring activities and lifestyles and even start living some of that lifestyle now instead of waiting till I retire.

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