Reflection, Research, Retirement

Retirement Responsibilities

So far, I’ve written a fair amount about the perks and freedoms of retirement. Without a doubt, the list of retirement pros is long. However, I would be neglectful not to portray the flip side. As the famous saying goes: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With (great) freedom comes (great) responsibility.”(Source)  I initially began the following as a simple list of bullet points that could be included in a retiree’s ‘job description.’  Once I started writing, I began to realize the vastness of this topic. My sincere apologies to anyone reading in a hurry!

Do Your Homework – After my husband and I made the financial decision to leave our jobs, I began to research the emotional side of retirement. I found the quickest and most interesting way to do this was to follow retirement bloggers. Instantly, I could read personal accounts of the daily highs and lows of retirement, and learn from others who had pioneered ahead of me. I believe that this single decision helped best prepare me mentally for my life after leaving the workforce…often in 800 words or less! Some great blogs to check out are listed on the sidebar of this post. In addition, I have quoted from a few of these retirement blogs in this article.

Find/Maintain Purpose – When high expectations are not met, boredom and frustration can set in. As author/blogger, Tom Sightings has recently posted, ““We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.” Not finding purpose is frequently cited as a chief concern among those struggling with retirement.

Expect the Unexpected – According to the Ontario Securities Commission Report (2014), more than 50% of Canadians, aged 50 or older, said something outside their control negatively affected their retirements. The unexpected can come in the form of health issues for yourself or a family member. It can also come from the sudden decline/loss of an investment or property. Backup plans and safety nets are essential, especially when you do not have a steady employment income.

Watch Expenses – Following the above, balancing and prioritizing finances are critical skills, especially in retirement. Budgeting for your expenses and cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary expenditures (i.e. living below your means) helps provide extra security in retirement and a less stressful post-career life. A Dave Ramsey quote (recently cited on Mr. Fire Station’s early retirement blog) is very appropriate here: “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”

Become a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades –  In the workplace, it is often easy to access the skills of other people, leaving you to focus on what you do best. Prior to retiring, my husband and I seldom worried about computer troubles, or editing, or…well, many things! Complicating this matter further,  living overseas gave us quite affordable access to housekeeping, maintenance workers, spa services, movers, etc., etc. The day that we retired, these all became ‘luxuries of the past.’ We have each become much more versatile in our skill sets.  We now know more about our computers than we ever thought possible. We confidently tend to household chores and maintenance tasks, We eat out less often. Even home manicures/pedicures/hair coloring are now part of my regular routine (shriek here)! Going along with the above bullet-point, the more that you can do for yourself in retirement, the broader your financial safety net will be.

Use it or Lose it – It is common understanding that a decline in cognitive and physical performance takes place in our senior years. Although many factors can contribute to this, the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is frequently cited.   Thus, daily activity, self-care and not letting ourselves fall into sedimentary routines is essential as we age. The great news from researchers is that although it may take more effort to learn new information during our retirement, our foundation of knowledge and experience can far outweigh that of youth. (Source) This same body of research indicates that those who keep themselves informed and up-to-date in their post-work life tend to have a much higher retirement contentment rate.

Enter with your own self-esteem and self-worth fully intact –It is said that in a wolf pack, wolves instinctively admire the role/position that other wolves have in the pack at that moment. (Source) During our career lives, it is often easy for people to connect with us, or instantly feel respect for us, simply based on our job titles. Replacing that career title with the word “retiree” usually does not pull the same punch. (Janis at RetirementallyChallenged covers this topic nicely!) It is essential to come into retirement with a healthy self-concept and our own intrinsic motivation. I can’t help but link a BlitzZoom video here—It’s appropriate…and makes me laugh every single time that I watch it!

Have a Caregiving Plan (both for giving and receiving care) –Last year, the cost impact of caregiving on American female caregivers, in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits, was $324,044.  [Source) Caring for an ailing parent, spouse or simply for grandchildren is a reality for many, especially retirees. Due to the demands of this multi-faceted role, it is important that caregivers also take care of themselves and get the support that they need. Essential resources for caregivers include: respite, up-to-date information, training, home modifications and support groups/family counseling. Blogger Kathy Merlo has recently posted on this topic, offering practical self-maintenance strategies for caregivers.

Nurture Relationships – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Having strong, positive relationships has been solidly linked with longer life.(Source) Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) For married retirees, the importance of healthy communication, flexibility and give-and-take cannot be understated.

 Give back – Retirement is a great time to reflect on the joys and opportunities that we have had in our lives. It is also a great time to give back to others. There are endless ways in which to do this. Local volunteer organizations, like Volunteer Canada,  connect volunteers with others who need their skills/support. Still hesitant? Helping others increases self-esteem and offers multiple health benefits. Volunteering also provides personal empowerment and stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve nervous and immune system functioning. (Source)  Linda, at Thoughts From a Bag Lady In Waiting, wrote a very eloquent reflection on her experiences volunteering at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece. Your giving back contribution does not have to involve a major commitment…every little bit counts!

The above only begins to scratch the surface of the ‘Retirees’ Job Description’. What responsibilities would you like to add? I would love to hear from you!






18 thoughts on “Retirement Responsibilities”

  1. Good post. It took me a while to understand the financial impact of retiring. There is no growth in income. Any investments are getting minimal return yet things keep going up. There are adjustments you can easily make (I laughed at your mani-pedi-hair comment as that’s the first one to make) but some things like health care costs you can’t. My other caution is that at least here in the US your identity is often wrapped up in your work. There was a bit of a free fall when that was gone. One of the great things though is the ability to be available to help friends. It was more difficult when I worked but now I can accompany friends when they need it. Most of all I love the freedom.


    1. These are excellent points, Kate. You are right about identity often being enmeshed with our careers. This is something that is often difficult to untangle. I couldn’t agree more about the freedom to be there for family and friends. It is an amazing gift. Returning from overseas, that has been my biggest delight of all…and was long overdue! Thanks again for sharing.


  2. Great post, Donna. As you say (and Kate too in her comment above), some retirement costs you can’t really control very well. Health care is certainly the biggest one. But like you, we’ve really curtailed our dining out at restaurants and other luxuries. We’re probably even eating better because of that.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Marty. I agree that eating healthier is another reason to eat at home. There are definitely some costs that you cannot control in retirement…and some that you just didn’t see coming! I also agree that controlling the costs that you can is a great habit to get into.


  3. This was an excellent post. I was bobbing my head in agreement throughout it. One of the most painful *luxuries* I had to give up was my cleaning lady. Sigh.

    I really agree with the point about how much of our identity – and ego – is wrapped up in our work. When work is not there anymore, finding a new identity can be challenging. I still kind of cringe when someone asks me what I *do*.


    1. Thank you for your kind words, Joanne. This post definitely went in a different direction than what I had originally intended. That is one of the great aspects of blogging — it allows our inner thoughts to come out. Doing my own housecleaning has been fine (so far). But..trying to figure out how to colour my hair without wrecking it…that has been a real drag!


  4. Beyond the ones you mentioned is…. Time management. When I worked, my time was managed so much by others. The meetings were scheduled, the work times were set. My life fit in when it could. (OK, not much life was fit in!) Now, time is all open. Which is both good and bad. The freedom & flexibilty is wonderful….to spend time having coffee with a friend ( or a glass of wine), to go shopping mid-week and not worry about needing to do the next thing on the to-do list, to take a class on something you always wanted to try. But then there are the days when you have nothing going on and can feel irrelevant, disconnected, worthless. (Yeah, still working on post work identity here). So, time manager is another responsibility or skill set you might need!

    I have found we eat out more now in retirement because we can go out midweek without the crowds. I’ve created a monthly midweek foodie group. and a monthly dinner and theater date-night. We keep track of what new restaurants we want to try and regularly set up dates with friends to visit them. OK, it is one of my fav things to do (good conversation, good wine, good food), so I guess it’s become one of my retirement hobbies! But I do my own pedicures…does that balance it out? 😉


    1. Thanks for the very thoughtful comment, Patricia. You are right, time management is an essential skill in retirement, even though it may be a very different kind of time management than we used during our work lives.

      Yup – doing your own pedicures totally balances out your foodie nights out. As my husband constantly reminds me, we retired by choice. So if we don’t maintain some of the luxuries that we love, why did we retire?


  5. Donna, this is a great list of considerations. As I read through them, I was mentally checking off against my own situation/concerns as I wend my way toward retirement. I absolutely agree about the value of reading others’ retirement blogs – I have found it super helpful to read about many different people’s experiences leading up to and after retirement.

    For me, clarity about my purpose and aims is a big one, as I fear that without the structure of a daily routine, I could end up on the couch all day surfing the Internet rather than doing all the things that I would be retiring to do. Another one is building a network of friends and acquaintances in the place we move to. And I haven’t even started thinking through the caring for/being cared for question…. On the plus side, we are both handy practically and used to doing most things for ourselves, with healthy self esteem, and financially independent with a margin for the unexpected.

    Thanks for stimulating my thinking!


    1. Oh yeah, I also wanted to say, I love the beautiful fly fishing photo! Fly fishing is one thing we would both like to do more of when we move back to BC.


    2. Hi, Jude – Clarity of purpose and network building are two essentials for retirement, especially when retiring to a new location. We also moved to a brand new area for retirement. We found that joining our town’s Newcomers’ Club was a great way to meet other people. Local sports teams (golf and baseball for Richard, yoga and walking club for me) were also incredibly helpful. I look forward to reading about your continued journey to retirement.


  6. Really great post! There are tons of books about the financial aspects of retiring, but fewer about the emotional aspects. It’s like we are all joining the same club, but one without bylaws, rules, or expectations (or, even a secret handshake). After two years, I’m still learning what works, and what doesn’t. I think that finding a purpose and nurturing relationships are the two most important items on your list – at least for me. Surprisingly, blogging has helped to satisfy both of them to a large extent.

    Thanks for the great links – and special thanks for including me!


    1. Thanks, Janis – You are right about blogging. For me it really helps to clarify my thinking, and grapple with new thoughts and emotions. You’re also correct about the obscure retirement club. If it isn’t going to give helpful guidelines then it should at least have a secret handshake!


  7. Hi, Betsy – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I couldn’t find your blog. Please send me the link. I would love to read it. Donna


  8. Hi Donna,
    Good one indeed! The #1 mistake most of us do is Starting to Plan to Save(and invest) in our 30s. If we begin early in our 20s then it could help us build a much bigger retirement corpus. I made the same mistake but now will guide my son to start saving early.


    1. Thanks, Carl. I appreciate the link to your blog. As I don’t tend to get into specifics of retirement finances on this blog, it is useful to have specific links to refer others to. I greatly appreciate you stopping by and commenting.


  9. Thanks for the post Donna! Retirement is indeed more than a financial situation, although that is an extremely important consideration. The decision to take an early retirement package happened so quickly for me that I never thought about the points you listed in this post beforehand. But I have actually enjoyed being unrestrained and unscheduled. It’s been an adventure. Yes I’ve invested a lot of time and effort. I’ve also been a little daunted by all the possibilities and slow to make decisions but I don’t think that I’ve felt this hopeful since my early twenties.


    1. Being unrestrained, unscheduled and reunited with the hopefulness of youth is a privilege indeed. Enjoy this time to your fullest!


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