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We all have retirement dreams and aspirations, but sometimes the reality is not what we imagined. We asked retirees what they realised after retiring that they hadn’t expected or planned. Here’s what they said.
Graham, 70, small business owner
I’m no longer a worrier. Things that once kept me awake at night just don’t these days. I used to fret about money; would we have enough? I worried about my health and my family’s health. Would I be able to keep things going at work by myself? I worried about our daughter and her young family, about everything really. It was a really bad habit and hard to break.
Now that I have more time and energy, I spend it doing things that I really enjoy. I find myself focusing more on the good things in life. Retiring has helped me see how much I have to be grateful for.
Susan, 68, finance production manager
I’ve always worked in a very busy environment. The finance world is stressful and exciting. My days were tightly planned, I worked long hours and the adrenalin was always pumping.
Now I’ve retired I feel empty. There’s nothing. It’s like a void. At first, I was able to travel but COVID-19 put a stop to that. I did try volunteer work, but that didn’t fill the void either. I think I’m one of those people that still needs to work. I didn’t expect to feel this emptiness.
Adam, 62, marketing consultant
I didn’t plan on changing my diet and boosting my overall health. Since retiring and moving from the city to the coast, I find it so much easier to make better food choices throughout my day. I used to be that guy who was always flat-out meeting deadlines, entertaining clients, juggling work and family. Eating on the run was my normal. I worked late into the night and would eat whatever I could find to keep me going – mostly empty carbs and sugar.
Since making our sea change in 2018, I’ve lost 14kg. I don’t follow any special diet, but I’ve made small changes that all add up. We have a vegie garden and keep chooks, and I cook more at home. I’m eating more greens, less sugar and drinking less alcohol. Way less! I walk every day and I’m in the local outrigger canoe club. I really didn’t expect to feel this fit and healthy when I retired.
Pip, 61, pharmacist
I discovered volunteering. Many organisations and charities rely on volunteers and the personal benefits of volunteering are surprising. Helping other people can be so rewarding. It gives me a sense of purpose.
Whether it’s giving kids in a third world country free English lessons online, helping out in a local community centre or becoming an animal carer, everybody can make a difference. And that feeling you get – the satisfaction of giving back – it’s tremendous.
John, 69, executive producer
For me, the real surprise is the sheer luxury of time. Having all the time in the world to spend pretty much as I like can’t be overestimated. My family tells me I’ve become more ‘engaged’ with them, especially with my three grandchildren. I have time to listen now, and really listening is an art.
I have time to read so many good books. I never used to read fiction. I only read books that might make me better at my job. I’ve discovered technology is great for learning new things.
Since retiring, I’ve learnt Spanish, done a ten-day meditation retreat in the mountains, taken dance lessons and started working on my family tree. I’ve even made a podcast. I would have done all these things years ago if I’d had the time.
Bill, 63, school principal
My husband passed away just over a year ago. We were together 38 years. He died from pneumonia while on board a cruise ship together. We were just six hours outside of Myanmar. Of course, it changed absolutely everything. All our plans out the window. I’ve had to learn to be alone again.
I’m getting used to making every decision on my own without having someone to talk things through with. I decided not to sell our big three-bedroom apartment, but I’ve booked a designer to come in and redecorate in the spring. I still coach netball and love that. It keeps me grounded and busy.
In many ways, I’m living one day at a time. As soon as we’re on top of this COVID-19 thing, I’m planning another world cruise.
Jennifer, 67, cook
I started a new retirement career. I’d always worked in hospitality, but it was long hours and physically demanding.
When I retired, I was at a loose end and not sure what to do with myself. My husband suggested I open a chocolate shop. We saw a financial adviser and talked with friends in retail. Three years ago, we opened the shop.
Apart from COVID-19 lockdowns, which have slowed business down, it has been a great success. The chocolates are handmade in NSW. We are one of their few outlets and we stock other goodies that customers request as well. I never imagined running a little shop of my own could be this much fun.
Judy, 70, grey nomad
My husband and I always wanted to spend our days travelling around Australia. In 2008, we sold our home and became full-time nomads. We love this country. There’s really nothing like having the freedom and flexibility to see it up close.
What we didn’t expect was the intense interest and support other people have shown about our travels. We’ve been featured in magazines and our Facebook page has hundreds of members. I keep it up to date with highlights of our trips and we share our tips and some tricks we’ve learnt along the way.
We meet people from very diverse backgrounds on the road and they all have interesting stories to tell. Selling up and becoming nomads was a huge leap of faith. So far, all our unforeseen surprises have been good ones.