Tag Archives: guilt

Looking Back

I started this blog a year ago (November 29, 2013), almost one year after beginning my retirement on January 1, 2013. In that first post, right after Thanksgiving 2013, I said that I felt fortunate that I could choose to retire, and I am still thankful for that.

In my first post to this blog, I said that I did not like the word “retirement” because it seemed negative and “an absence of something…rather than something positive or affirmative.” I described myself as being “in transition” as I tried to figure out what retirement would mean for me.

A year has gone by, and I still have the sensation of “transition” and of not quite knowing where I am. I do not miss the daily grind of a paying job. I have kept myself busy. I am contributing more volunteer time than was possible before my retirement began. I think I have made a positive difference in many small ways in the world around me. Retirement still carries the connotation of an ebbing tide, yet my own retirement has begun to reveal affirmative qualities. One affirmative quality is the opportunity to do more giving of my time. When work claimed a larger share of my weekly allotment of hours, I had a limited supply of time available to give. Retirement has expanded the supply.

In my second post, I said that retirement felt like a never-ending weekend. Before I retired, my weekends were often filled with household chores. The need to attend to various household repairs and improvement projects continues into retirement—only the work does not have to be crammed into the weekends. Household chores and projects are not always a fun way to spend the weekend—nor a never-ending weekend—but getting projects done provides a small feeling of accomplishment. And small accomplishments add up to something positive to add to the retirement ledger.

In that second post, I commented that retirement means freeing oneself from the curse of Monday Morning Dread, that nagging apprehension that comes on a Sunday when you have to be at work on Monday morning. Even after retiring, I had pangs of phantom MMD. These days, I no longer suffer from phantom MMD, which may mean that I am finally becoming adjusted to retirement.

These days, I am more likely to lose track of what day it is. I used to think that if an older person did not know what day it was, he must be losing it mentally. But now I am more inclined to think that losing track of what day of the week it happens to be may be a sign of improved health and wisdom.

Retirement guilt was the subject of my third blog post. I mused about whether I should have continued my working career instead of retiring at a relatively young 63 years of age. Although I could have continued working, it would not have brought me any greater satisfaction. Looking back, I think that I accomplished the most that I could have accomplished in my job. The work environment had begun to change in ways that did not feel supportive. It is better to have left when I did, rather than to hang on for a few more years at the risk of becoming embittered. I have not felt any sense of retirement guilt lately.

I am learning to celebrate retirement, instead.

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Retirement Guilt

At the end of this month, I will celebrate my one-year retirement anniversary.  I have enjoyed quite a few days of the endless weekend during this year.  More than a few times, however, I have found myself wondering if maybe I should not be doing this.  I could have stayed on the job longer.  Many men and women continue their working lives into their late 60s or even into their 70s and beyond if they are able.  I sometimes feel just a little bit guilty about ending my career at 63.

In spite of these tender misgivings, I feel fortunate that I had a choice about whether to retire.  For many—too many—retirement is not a financial possibility due to the absence of employer-sponsored retirement plans and lack of retirement savings.  Those who need to continue working in order to build up their savings for retirement do not have the option to retire at 63.

But, should I feel guilty because financial necessity did not dictate a delay in my retirement date?  Even if the need for more money were not driving me, should I feel guilty for giving up the job that I was capable of doing for years to come?  Did I throw in the towel too soon?  Did I chicken out?

I had opportunities and worked hard.  I made choices in my work-life.  I chose a career that was lower-paying than what I might have earned based on my training and experience, but it had a decent retirement plan, which might not have been available to me elsewhere.  My wife and I lived within our means, paid our bills and put away savings.  Being careful about money throughout our working lives made retirement possible for both of us at relatively young ages.  What do I have to feel guilty about, after all?

I feel that I have earned the right to retire.  I need to remind myself of this whenever I feel the urge to lament my early towel-throwing behavior.  The alternative to retirement—staying on the job longer—would not have been any solace to other people who have no choice in the matter.  Nor would it have ultimately meant greater success at work—unless success must be earned by simply not stopping until you cannot go any longer.

Continuing to work for the sake of not giving up has a dark side, though.  Life does not last forever; nor does good health.  In making my decision about when to retire, I could not help but think about my father, who died of a heart condition at age 60.  Makes you think.  I am not genetically without hope of continuing to be around for a while longer, however, considering that my mother lived into her 80s (after retiring at age 62).

As I approached and passed age 60, one recurring nightmare for me was the thought of keeling over at work, suffering a fatal heart attack or a debilitating stroke.  I am retired now, so I don’t have to worry about that nightmare.  I realize, of course, that a heart attack or a stroke might still get me, but at least it won’t be happening at the workplace.

Retirement is a day-by-day process.  I am hoping that the twinges of retirement guilt that I have felt more than a few times this past year will gradually fade away and that by the end of year two I will wonder why I ever felt them.

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