As part of a holistic approach to Retirement Planning, we should consider how to fill our time when we can quit our “day jobs” including pastimes for self-enrichment. I joined a Facebook group awhile back called Design Your Dream Retirement and this was part of the focus. It helps provide food for thought on looking at the big picture.
Hopefully, we can allocate some time to travel and take wonderful vacations once in retirement, but since our wealth won’t be limitless, we have to find things to do in our “free” time. One would think it would be easy to stop going to work and do “nothing“, but this gets old for most people. 2020 and 2021 so far have had huge changes in our day to day life due to the pandemic, and many of these changes have been for the worse in terms of our mental health and wellbeing. There are reports of high levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression affecting many people, and organizations like the CDC try to help give everyone tools to cope.
Our family has all been home together working and attending school remotely for most of the last year. This has been challenging, since we are all in close quarters and dealing with the stress of the pandemic like everyone else. My wife and I are very busy at work, but not having to deal with rush hour traffic and reduced carpooling for the kids gives us more “leisure” time, but not a lot of outlets to take advantage like going to restaurants, movies, etc. Although we are not retired yet, it previews certain aspects of retirement, and shows how crucial it is to have rewarding elements to fill our “free” time. I have definitely spent too much time watching Netflix or playing online PC games. Destiny 2 and Call of Duty Warzone are my current games by the way. These pastimes are fine in moderation, but not enough for a healthy balance.
Personally, the last couple of years have been difficult because I had a few health issues along the way. Until 2019, I had never had surgery other than removing an impacted wisdom tooth. I had a partial thyroidectomy in 2019, and was apprehensive about my first time under general anesthesia. I kept imagining that I would be alert, but unable to move or speak, like in a horror movie! That didn’t happen and surgery and recovery were uneventful. Then in June 2020 I had to go to the ER for what turned out to be a kidney stone. Those suck! I also have gout, so I think I’ve had enough of the painful medical issues…
In August of 2020, I completely tore my Achilles tendon, on the second day of a week-long vacation on Cape Cod Massachusetts :(. I opted for surgery in September 2020 and many months of physical therapy. I just “graduated” from PT a couple of weeks ago in early February 2021. At least I had already gone through the experience of general anesthesia the year prior, so there’s that…
Earlier in the Pandemic, I was able to spend time on my Other Interests, particularly EBikes and working out to stay healthy. Getting injured and recovery last fall put a damper on that and I spent a lot time in physical pain, lying down, and unable to get around easily. It had been hard not being able to leave the house, now I couldn’t even leave the room!
Definitely a dark time, with a lot of introspection. It exacerbated some of the worst elements of the pandemic, but also provided some healthy benefits:
- I got plenty of sleep!
- I increased my Duolingo streak for learning French (830 days and counting!)
- I learned more songs on acoustic guitar
- I got more experienced cooking family meals with Hello Fresh (once I could get around a little easier)
- I developed a connection with our new pet cats: Coda and Meeko
Note: I have had several allergies since I was young (a long time ago as my daughter would remind me), one of which is cats. My wife loves cats, but we knew we could never have one because of my allergies. Well, we got not one, but TWO cats and I have to grudgingly admit that I like them and for some reason my allergies have not been very bad at all. Cats are definitely different from dogs, and I will always be a “dog person” too, but having a family pet does help. Especially now, our pets provide comfort and will definitely be part of the retirement plan.. My wife has gone into a mild “cat lady” mode and is always suggesting other cats we need to get…
Another positive is that I have a renewed commitment to staying healthy. Going through PT and rehab for my leg has been a long, tough road. I committed to it and I need to continue to improve and also prevent further injuries. I think skipping “leg day” for too long caught up with me. 🙂 Now that I “graduated”, I miss the PT sessions because I enjoyed the connection with other people (in person!). Without PT appointments, I need to motivate myself and this is difficult too. I can definitely see slipping into a pattern of more isolation and less activity. I know that I will need to incorporate interactions with others through volunteering, group activities, or part-time jobs when I get to my “real” retirement to avoid this.
I will spend my increased free “alone” time on the structured and ongoing things I’ve been working on besides exercise: caring for our pets, learning guitar, learning French, following the stock market, etc. A benefit of many of these pastimes is that they are cost effective or free. I don’t currently go to a gym to workout, so no recurring costs. Our budget will change significantly once we achieve financial independence, since saving for retirement is our biggest expense. Keeping costs low and eliminating debt like our mortgage will leave more available for splurges or to help our children. Eventually, I want to give back through volunteering, which will also help cultivate connections and contact with others (once this pandemic is over!). All of this requires planning, commitment, perseverance, and staying flexible, just like the financial side of our retirement plan.
|Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner and content on this site is meant to provide food for thought, not professional advice. I share my experiences to show what worked so far and what didn’t, YMMV. Please consult your financial advisor or tax professional as needed.