Retirement primer: Teaching old dogs new tricks

When you retire, the learning doesn't stop. It's just time to stop chasing cars.

When you retire, the learning doesn’t stop. It’s just time to stop chasing cars.

Someone should have warned us about this retirement thing. They should have given us some sage advice that could have prevented the mild (as yet) malaise that set in by the first full month after selling a business and going on Social Security.

It would have helped to know the following:

• The moment you creep toward that magic age of 65, whether you’re officially retired or not, your phone and mail will be inundated with solicitations by insurance companies, reverse mortgage outfits and community volunteer organizations. Many of them entice you with a free dinner at a posh restaurant so they can strong arm you about shifting your retirement funds into fixed annuities, then try to make you feel guilty if you don’t rush right out to transfer those hard-earned bucks. Save yourself some grief and pay for your own night out.  Heck, even the hearing aid purveyors want to give you a $10 gift card to come and get a free hearing test. And if you don’t know how to say no at this stage of life, your retirement will turn into a community volunteer’s nightmare and busier than work life ever thought about being.

The folks that eat away at your time are still in the 9-5 world and just trying to earn a living, bless their little hearts. But they take up (make that waste) a lot of your time. Schedule them judiciously or just tell them politely you don’t need to tour a timeshare because you just bought an RV. You don’t need dental insurance because you have dentures. You don’t need new windows or siding because you just retired and have no disposable income. You’ve already invested your retirement funds and life insurance cash with your longtime and trusted agents. Or, do as my husband often does to get rid of a call center salesperson. He adopts a foreign accent and tells them the owner of the house is out of the country.

• While it may seem so appealing, now that you’re not going to the office every day, to stay in  your pajamas until 11 a.m. sipping coffee and playing on the ipad, the new wears off quickly. You’re reduced to crankiness and feeling totally out-of-sorts and finally realize it’s because you haven’t shampooed your hair, had your skin pores awakened with a hot shower or just generally taken care of yourself.

A good rule here is to develop some kind of routine that mimics your old workaday one. Okay, sleep an extra hour if it suits you, but go for a walk or get on the treadmill, hop in the shower, get dressed like you’re going to the office  (sans the earrings and makeup if you don’t feel like it) and do something useful.

• For many retirees, once the excitement of a new way of non-pressured life wears off, depression can set in. Where’s the motivation now? Where’s the purpose and the reason to get out of bed? The amount of seratonin and dopamine in our brains is already diminished at this age, so we’re in a position to get completely mentally compromised in retirement.

It’s important in retirement to re-purpose ourselves. Shift the skill set we acquired in our long careers into something we can continue to use so it doesn’t rust. Why do you think I’m writing a blog, for God’s sake?! The habits and ego boosts gained over 25 years of writing a regular newspaper column will not go quietly into the night. If I don’t feed the little monsters they’ll just fade away and leave me a blubbering and speechless idiot. Some would probably prefer that, but it ain’t gonna happen near soon.

• When you retire, if you’re joining a spouse in this new lifestyle, realize that sudden togetherness, full-time, is fraught with emotional land mines. We’ll leave that whole subject for another blog.