5 Surprising Retirement Truths

Retirement may not be exactly what you expect.


You’ve been working for decades, picturing the day when you will finally have no boss to answer to. You’ve fantasized about all the time you will have, all the things you will do, and how your life will be so dramatically different.

Not so fast. Retirement may not be exactly what you expect.

You won’t have as much time as you think. When you aren’t hurrying around to get everything done, guess what? You don’t hurry. When you are working, you don’t have time to waste. In retirement you have plenty of time to waste, so you will.

[See Filling Up 8 Extra Hours in Retirement.]

Retirement won’t turn you into Martha Stewart. Looking forward to your first Christmas in retirement? You’ll be the first one on the block to hang up Christmas lights. You’ll decorate every inch of your house and bake Christmas cookies for all the neighbors. You’ll be a regular Martha Stewart. Except that you won’t. Turns out, retirement doesn’t make you like to do things that you didn’t like to do before you retired. Which brings me to my next point.

You still won’t look great naked. Yes, you’ll have time now to jog, lift weights, or even sign up for boot camp. But there are so many other fun things to do when you can do anything you want, most of which don’t require such hard work. And while you really do want to be fit, the fact is retirement doesn’t make you like doing things that you didn’t like doing before you retired, and exercise was definitely one of those things.

[See 6 Reasons to Retire Overseas.]

It’s surprisingly hard to tell people what you do at cocktail parties. If you say you are retired, that begs the question, “Well what do you do?” You can’t say you bake cookies at Christmas and you can’t say you work out a lot. Perhaps, “Well I never hurry?”

Retirement won’t make your marriage more romantic. If only your hectic work schedules were removed from the equation, you would have the perfect, stress-free marriage. You would be like those retired couples on the TV commercials, strolling hand-in-hand through the town square. Except now you realize that you really don’t want to spend the entire day, every day, strolling hand-in-hand with your spouse through that town square.

[See 5 Reasons to Start Investing for Retirement Today.]

It turns out you’re still the same person in retirement that you were before you retired, although probably a nicer version. You’ll let that harried man at the drug store ahead of you in line. You’ll let that car merge in front of you. If the waiter is a little slow with the bill, you’ll just enjoy that extra cup of coffee. You’re in no hurry. You don’t have to rush back to the office.

While your life may not be that dramatically different, you don’t have that boss to answer to anymore. And, no surprise here, that’s a pretty nice change.

Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.