Empty Nesters

The Joys of Being Retired

More freedom, being able to give back, and time to deepen relationships are common themes in your e-mails.

Several months ago, I wrote that one of my simple pleasures in retirement is having the freedom to run errands at noon on a Tuesday, with little traffic, lots of parking and ’60s music playing on the car radio. That prompted an e-mail from reader Bob Swahlen, who also experiences “the joy of having freedom and time,” with one exception: “I find Bo Diddley to be a good companion on the ’50s channel.”

Musical preferences aside, enjoying more freedom and time is a common theme running through reader responses to the question I asked about your greatest pleasures (or disappointments) in retirement. Having time on your hands takes some getting used to. But after making the transition, readers wax eloquent about their new circumstances.

For example, writes Louis Pinneri, “I describe this blissful state as a freedom from three stresses: the stress of work, the stress of commuting and the stress of squeezing everything into a Saturday and Sunday.”

For many of you, flexibility means having time to relax and enjoy yourselves. “It’s much easier and more cost-efficient to schedule vacation time,” writes Bob Whitney. “And if the airline has overbooked a flight and is offering a perk for volunteers who take another flight, why not?”

Jack Meredith loves the freedom to chuck the to-do list “and just catch a movie in the afternoon, when the theater is almost empty.” And for Sandy Unger, “it’s like experiencing some of your youth again, with the wisdom of a life well lived.”

Having the luxury of time also means being able to give back. “My greatest pleasure has been the opportunity to volunteer at a food bank, Habitat for Humanity and an animal shelter,” writes Ramin Hashemi.

When she was working, Julia Brown set up a family foundation to make charitable contributions. Now that she’s retired, Brown sits on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and donates “a substantial amount of time.” As a result, she says, “I am a much better donor now because I am far better able to see the impact of contributions.” (In ad­dition to volunteering, Kiplinger’s readers participate in a mind-boggling array of activities, which I plan to write about in a future column.)

Closer relationships. Many of you use your expanded time to deepen your relationships. After three years of retirement, writes Phil Stillman, “the greatest pleasure I’ve had is to spend time with my wife.” Nancy Schmoyer feels the same way about “spending more time with my (still busy) retired husband.” And for many of you, grandchildren top the list. “My greatest pleasure is interacting with our three granddaughters, who live 10 minutes away,” says Mark Snyder. “Grandchildren are so important,” writes Cindy Gnech. “Our two live about two hours away, and we see them for two days every other week.”

Unfortunately, not all relationships have survived retirement. “One unpleasant surprise was losing pretty much all of my work friends,” writes Lisa Scott-Ponce. So she was happy to discover that “seniors in my exercise classes are quite friendly and open, and I have developed a whole new group of friends for lunch dates.”

For many of you, time is its own reward. “My greatest pleasures are not setting an alarm clock and enjoying leisurely mornings with coffee,” says Jo Bennett. For Nancy Sikes, a former middle-school English teacher, “My greatest pleasure is being able to eat and use the bathroom when I need to and not when a schedule says I can.” On the other hand, says Sikes, “I no longer have the excitement of an early morning phone call saying there’s a snow day. Now, snow is just snow.”

But for David Gelb, “One of my favorite things to do in the morning on a rainy or snowy day is to turn on the radio at 6:30 a.m. and listen to the traffic reports, knowing it’s no longer my problem as I roll back to sleep.”

Most Popular

How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!
estate planning

How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!

Upstream basis planning is a trust strategy that can save wealthy people on their capital gains taxes and income taxes associated with highly apprecia…
July 3, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 15 Best Growth Stocks for the Rest of 2022
growth stocks

The 15 Best Growth Stocks for the Rest of 2022

A sharp selloff in growth stocks this year creates opportunity for keen investors. Here are 15 top-rated picks to consider in the second half of 2022.
June 28, 2022

Recommended

How 13 Types of Retirement Income Get Taxed
retirement

How 13 Types of Retirement Income Get Taxed

When you're planning for retirement, it's fun to contemplate all the travel and rounds of golf ahead of you, but don't forget about taxes.
June 30, 2022
33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes
retirement

33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes

Even with the federal exemption from death taxes raised, retirees should pay more attention to estate taxes and inheritance taxes levied by states.
June 23, 2022
10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees
retirement

10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees

Moving to a low-tax state in retirement can help make your retirement savings last longer.
June 23, 2022
Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees
Tax Breaks

Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees

We rated every state, plus the District of Columbia, on how retirees are taxed. Some of the results might surprise you.
June 23, 2022