Thursday, December 24, 2015

Retirement: A Guide for Men

            A few years ago I worked with a psychologist on an article about retirement. Our premise was that it used to be easy to be retired: You sat on the porch for a few years complaining about politicians, your sore back and kids these days, and then you died.
            Retirement today is not so easy, mainly because, for most of us, it promises to stretch on for years. So our thesis was that it’s important and healthy to retire to something, not just from something.
            With that in mind, I’ve put together, from personal experience, a short list of suggestions about what to retire to:

·      Breakfast. You now have time for breakfast, eaten sitting down, preferably with your spouse. This works well for Kim and me except when she leaps from the breakfast table to go outside and photograph Sandhill Cranes taking off into the sunrise.
·      Wine. I of course mean this as an educational project – drink to learn about wine.
·      An afternoon nap. This is especially valuable after an evening of wine education.
·      Counting your money.
·      Exercise. In your retirement years this probably involves walking rather than running, doubles rather than singles, golf rather than football. But still – it’s exercise. I remember reading somewhere that the body is God’s temple, and we don’t want to get God’s temple all sweaty, do we?
·      Taking a class (see Wine, above).
·      Friendships. When many of us were working (I’ve read that this applies more to men than to women), we tended to cultivate contacts rather than friendships. We connected to people who would be useful in our careers. This is no longer the case, as retirees by definition have no careers.
·      Politics. I don’t mean running for office – heavens forbid! – but there is certainly plenty to do in following politics and writing outraged email or posts on Facebook . This option is not likely to make you happy.
·      Household repairs. Sorry, but you have run out of excuses for not fixing that dripping faucet, squeaking door, window that won’t open, or, in my case, GFI outlet that doesn’t work. This is why you count your money: to see if you can hire someone else to do it.
·      Going outdoors. You may want to carry a camera or a rake, you may even want to cook or sleep outside, but even if the weather is less than perfect, being outdoors usually tops being indoors, especially if you just retired from an indoor job.
·      Helping in the kitchen. Often when I offer to help, Kim suggests I go out and clean the birdbath.
·      A part-time job that you really enjoy. I put in three years as a Starbucks barista, and I work when I feel like it doing freelance writing and editing. The small amount of money I earn goes toward taking Kim out to dinner on “my night to cook.”
·      Netflix. To demonstrate that I have not surrendered all self-discipline now that I am retired, we only watch at night. Every night.
·      A puppy. Just kidding about that one, as puppies are a lot of work and you have retired from working. On the other hand, taking a dog for a walk involves exercise, and your dog counts as a friend. If you have an old dog, keep it – no point setting a bad precedent!
·      Exploring the Internet. If you choose this option, you can disregard the other items on the list.
·      Sex. George Burns said that having sex when you are old is like shooting pool with a rope. Be creative. Be aware that you are not going to retire to a life of sex if you spend your time exploring the Internet.
·      Travel. Kim and I prefer road trips and trips by rail (see our blog at, but be sure you count your money first. The idea is to go while you can. Walking on the beach is less fun in a wheelchair.
·      A large sailboat. Buy one, fix it up, and sail up and down the coast. I don’t really recommend you do this, but Jim and Angie are glad that they did it, which is not the same as being glad that they are still doing it.

·      Writing a blog.

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