5 Key Lessons I Learned After Retiring

5 Key Lessons I Learned After Retiring

It is hard to believe that I have been retired from the State of Illinois for almost 10 years now. I have to say, retirement is the dream time when my husband Keith and I travel, spend time with family, and do what we want. In retirement, I find there are several things I did right, and several things I wish I had taken more seriously when I set up my retirement plan. I wish I would have taken more time with my family because we have lost loved ones over the years and you can never get those moments back. Busy work will wait for me, but holding my loved ones will not.

When thinking about retirement, there was the myth that there would be all this time I would have. It is amazing how quickly that time fills up and the most important aspect for me is to be sure that it fills up with things that I want to fill it with.

Last year was the first that we were able to travel and see the fall colors.

Photo credit: Cindy Ladage

1. Don’t Volunteer Or Sign Up For Anything For Six Months To A Year

I must give my mom, Lora Disque, credit for this advice. She told me that after you retire it takes time to get a firm footing and figure out what you want to do with your time. I had been working part-time for the State of Illinois and had been setting myself up to get more deeply into travel writing. However, my husband was still farming full-time, so I had to work this out with the constraints of his job and family obligations. 

It took time to adjust to not having to be somewhere at a certain time each day. Setting a schedule, everyone has to adjust in his or her way. If you sign up for something too soon you may end up resenting the time you spend doing it or quitting because it is too much of a burden. My family ended up needing me quite a bit, which was something I cherished, and wanted to do because I wasn’t always able to be there while working before.

Talking with friends and family over time, I also learned about different groups like the local food pantry. This is a charity that I can help with without worrying about huge time commitments, which fits perfectly into my lifestyle.

2. Clean Out

With retirement, there is finally time to clean out the closet and adjust the house to the way you want it! I spent the first few weeks and months cleaning out closets and cabinets. There were many trips to charities taking unneeded items that had accumulated. It is amazing how many things I thought I needed that I didn’t. It is a wonderful feeling to have time to reorganize and get the house in order. This of course must be done again and again, but to have the time and initiative to take charge and reaffirm what you want and don’t want is an amazing opportunity. Organizing pictures is also a nice thing to be able to accomplish. That again is one reason not to sign up for anything until this chore is complete and to have the time to do this in a slow, methodical manner.

spoon river farm equipment

With Keith semi-retired, we can take more time for festivals, like the Spoon River drive, and stop to check out farm collectible hobby stops.

Photo credit: Cindy Ladage

3. Reaffirm Partner Relationship

Everything changes when one of you is home full-time. Family life adjusts when the children leave home, and it adjusts again when a spouse or partner doesn’t head out the door to a nine-to-five. TravelAwaits offers a retirement adjustment article for spouses that you can read here.

Adjustments were true in our case because my husband worked part of the time at home since he farmed. He was used to having the house/farm to himself at least part of the time. I had worked part-time, so he was used to me being around a bit, but all the time was a change for both of us. He was especially surprised that I didn’t just stay home. Once the house was in order, I was out the door. I was making up for lost “fun time” and he thought I would be around for errands. It took a while for our expectations of each other to settle. We also had to adjust to a different pay scale as well.

On the plus side, we had time to go to lunch, take day trips, and three-day weekends or plan trips in the off-farm season, which was wonderful. This summer we went to Ireland and this past June we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, which we put off for two years because of COVID.

This same adjustment happened once again when my husband stepped back from farming. I was then in his place and had to get used to him being around more. The best news was this fall we took our first autumn foliage trip and saw the leaves turn together for the first time in over forty years of marriage! It was a joyous time!

cindy's pumpkins from her garden

Retirement has given us more time together for hobbies like gardening. This year, our pumpkins were a bumper crop and the grandkids always helped out.

Photo credit: Cindy Ladage

4. Ask Yourself: What Do You Really Want To Do? 

Growing up, everyone asks, “What do you want to be?” For me, that answer was always a writer, biologist, or traveler planner. In my younger days, I was a biologist working in the environmental field, then I became a writer. However, in retirement, I wanted to travel, travel, travel! While still working, I was able to set up some travel writing opportunities. I was lucky because I knew early on what I wanted to do and that desire stayed with me after retirement. Finding something you are passionate about to fill your time is important whether it is a hobby or a part-time job. Knowing what you want to do, especially if your partner enjoys doing it with you, will bring great joy in your retirement years. At least it has for me.

John Edwards wrote an article that I recommend you read here. He included travel as one of the important things that are important to him and his wife. That is a lesson he learned during his first five years of retirement and one that has been extremely important to me as well.

5. Learn To Say “No”

It seems that since I am retired, everyone assumes that I am available for almost anything at almost any time. That is simply not true. I am often available for many things and am willing to help when I can, but I had to learn that it is okay to say “no,” and not have to say anything else. My father always said that was enough. While it is oh, so hard for me to do, I am learning to let “no” be enough when I don’t want to, or simply cannot be available. Time is a precious commodity. Whether I’m traveling in my backyard, the Midwest, or across the ocean, I am on borrowed time. Therefore, I have come to appreciate it down to the months, hours, minutes, and even seconds.

These lessons have made retirement more joyous and easier to navigate along the way.

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