A Tale of Two Retirements – My Perfect Retirement

Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) usually has a focus on the financial aspect. After all, it’s unlikely you can retire early if you don’t have your finances under control. However, there is a subset of the movement that highlights the emotional aspect of retirement; ensuring you have a plan for your days when those days are no longer controlled by someone else. I recently came cross two examples of retirement that crystallised what I do, and don’t, want. I’m formulating my perfect retirement.

The Retirement I Want To Avoid

This came from a totally unexpected source. Mr. ETT and I were both browsing the web in front of the TV (yes, we do spend some time like that). We thought we’d put something on in the background that wouldn’t take a lot of brainpower. We noticed a new series on Netflix called “Samurai Gourmet”. We like Japan, and we like food, so we thought we’d give it a go.

A portrait of the two main characters in Samurai Gourmet. Takeshi now has the perfect retirement.
Sure, he looks happy here…

The first episode begins with a man waking to realise his alarm hasn’t gone off. He frantically dresses, then rushes out to the loungeroom to ask his wife why she didn’t bother waking him on time. It’s there that he sees the farewell gift from his work – he has turned 60, and has retired. It’s clear that the retirement has been thrust upon him. He has no understanding of what life is like, no longer being a “SalaryMan”. His wife heads out, so he decides to go for a walk.

Once he leaves the house, though, he realises that he doesn’t know where to go, what to do, or who to do it with. From habit, he walks the way he always did, and ends up at the train station – but doesn’t have a job to get to. He discontentedly turns, then notices a small lunch place that he’s never seen before in his rush to work. He enters, and immediately feels out-of-place. All the other patrons are clearly employees, enjoying their lunch break.*

Takeshi Kasumi looking lost and flustered.
Takeshi is lost on his first day of retirement.

It is this type of aimless, lost feeling that I know I do not want for my retirement, whether early or not. By the time we get to retirement, we will be well into the second half of our lives. While I’ve got nothing against lying around bludging occasionally, I don’t want to waste the wonderful new opportunity that retirement presents. Much like recidivism rates of prisoners who are thrust back into society with no support, there is a genuine risk that by failing to plan, we are planning to fail. We may end up back at work for the simple reason that we don’t have anything else worth doing with our time.

Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to work if you gain fulfilment. But learn from real life examples such as Sex Health Money Death, who trialled early retirement. He then came to realise that further planning will need to be in place before retiring for the second time. That’s the beauty of Early Retirement – you don’t actually have to stay retired if you don’t want to!

*The rest of it gets a little (enjoyably) strange, but he does begin to realise that he is no longer bound by the “rules” of employment – he is able to have a beer in the middle of the day. He can live how he wants, not having to worry about what anyone else thinks, or follow anyone (just like the titular wandering samurai). He realises the freedom he now has, and vows to explore more. I’ll grant you, the realisation is wonderful! Mr. ETT and I ended up really enjoying this, and decided to watch the rest of the season.

An Annual General Meeting

Last month, I received an email invitation to attend the AGM of our local community college. This is not something I am generally interested in. Yet, I read between the lines, and it felt as though they weren’t sure they would have enough attendees to form a quorum. Mr. ETT and I decided to go. We have both benefited from the community college over the years, and want to ensure its continued operation. The community college taught me to touch-type when I finished school. It was The. Most. Boring. class I have ever attended, but it has been valuable, particularly early on. 25 years ago we were just coming off typewriters, so typing wasn’t the ubiquitous skill it is these days.

Canon Typestar 110 Electric Typewriter
We lost our electric typewriter to a repair store that went bust and closed shop overnight. Sad face.

I’ve done so many short courses since then, I can’t remember them all. However, to give you an idea, I’ve tried (in no order whatsoever):

  • Tai Chi
  • Small Business
  • Belly Dancing
  • Introduction to Accounting
  • German
  • Estate Planning
  • Art – Drawing
  • African Drumming
  • Silversmithing
  • Introduction to AUSLAN
  • Creative Writing
  • Reiki (hmmmm, they advertised the course as a type of massage for relaxation class. Turns out it was not what we expected.)
    and more…

The Retirement I Want

So what has this to do with my perfect retirement? After the AGM, there were some presentations from students completing courses with the college. A small group played guitar, and the college had displayed oil paintings from one of the art classes. The stand-out, though, was a retired gentleman named Peter who came to do a short recital in Russian. Peter started by telling us why he’d chosen to learn the language.

He was born in Austria, and came to Australia when he was 18 months old. Until a few years ago, he had no record of his family history. Out of the blue, he received an email from a lady in St. Petersburg, through one of the family tree sites. She thought that they might be related, but all he had was a single photograph of his grandfather, which he supplied.

A snowy streetscape in St. Petersburg, Russia.
St. Petersburg looks gorgeous.

It turns out that his family had lived in Russia since at least the 1600s. As World War 1 came to a close, Peter’s grandfather was working for a British mining company in the Ural Mountains. One day during the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist soldiers came to the company and said to all the managers “if you are still here in the morning, you will be shot.” Peter’s grandfather took his pregnant wife down to Crimea, and then out to Europe. The family scattered, and all contact was lost. Peter’s father and mother emigrated to Australia.

Once Peter established he had found a cousin, he and his wife decided to visit Russia and his newfound family. This was the first time they had ever been out of Australia. Luckily, his cousin spoke some English. Peter didn’t speak any Russian, so he couldn’t communicate with his cousin’s mother and the rest of the family. Despite this, they had the best two weeks together. He was sure that if they could have communicated, they wouldn’t have stopped talking the entire time they were there. Peter and his auntie committed to each other that they would work on learning each other’s language. Now after 3 years, they are returning to Europe to visit once again.

My Perfect Retirement

Why is this my perfect retirement? Peter said that in the 5 years since retirement, he has been busier than ever.

  • He is involved in his community
  • He looked fit and healthy
  • He was enthusiastic about life
  • He was continuing to learn
  • He was embracing new opportunities when they arose
  • He was open to new experiences
  • He was still doing things for the first time
  • He was travelling
  • He had a focus on family

I know – I can’t have someone else’s retirement. I have to craft one for myself. Seeing good examples helps me identify the features I value in retirement. Also, we’re 20 years away and a lot of things can change in that time, so this is the “List of what I need for my perfect retirement (2017 edition)”.

I’m pretty sure we don’t have any lost relatives in Russia that can spark a new direction for our lives, but by identifying our values, I can put them into action in any way that suits me. I don’t have to live someone else’s retirement after all!

What do you value for your retirement?

14 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Retirements – My Perfect Retirement

  1. What a great story, I’m very happy for Peter and I don’t even know him. It would be great if that just happened, though in lieu of that I like that you are thinking now of what your perfect retirement would look like.
    I’ve been thinking about mine for years since talking to my grandparents about what they actually do all day 😉 It turns out their life is much more flexible and interesting than mine because they have two things I don’t currently – flexibility and time – to do anything they want whenever they want. That’s the aim.

    • Sigh – flexibility and time. That’s definitely a goal! It’s great that you talked to your grandparents. My nan just always seemed to be retired, so it wasn’t something I ever thought about.

    • Actually, that turned out to be one I didn’t finish. The lady didn’t actually teach anything – she just put music on and we were meant to belly-dance around like free spirits. I am totally ‘unco’ with no sense of rhythm. Let’s just say that when we meet there’s no risk of me breaking out into a belly-dance!

  2. I’ve been thinking about watching that show – I love all things Japanese (even spent my honeymoon there!). How is it?

    Also I’m so with you that I want to be just like Peter when I grow up. Almost like Benjamin Franklin, who retired from his printing press business to go on and achieve all the things we remember him for over here. That’s a great perspective on retirement!

    • I only recently learned that about Benjamin Franklin. Imagine if we could all realise even some of that potential – to contribute to society while working, and then again after.

      The show is quirky. Some episodes better than others, but it is short and sweet and funny. Good light entertainment that will make you hungry!

  3. Top article Mrs Ett and a great anecdote to emphasise your tale. As you know, I have retired early and as I’ve written about previously on my site, I went through the ‘honeymoon’ phase of retirement ie the perpetual holiday, and got to the bored, is-that-it part pretty quickly. I came to the realisation that successful retirement takes quite a bit of planning that I hadn’t done.

    Like you, I want my retirement to be fulfilling and meaningful which is what I’m working on now. It’s very difficult to go suddenly from work-mode to retirement-mode without plannng and I’m now seeking to tick all of those “My Perfect Retirement” boxes you mentioned. I can assure you that ‘flexibility and time’ are not as attractive as they seem once you achieve them if you’ve got little to fill all of that time with. It’s still a work in progress for me.

    • Thanks, Martin. I’ve been really impressed with the opportunities you have both made happen (your business) and accepted (freelance writing). That’s adaptation and flexibility, right there – really two more values I should add. I also realise that I can plan as much as I like, but I’m sure the reality will be different!

  4. I learned to touch type on an old school typewriter – people don’t realise how lucky they are to have a ‘delete’ key to correct mistakes, Tippex was my only friend back then!

    Really enjoyed Peter’s story – I hope to have his kind of retirement.

    Haha, belly dancing! A shame you didn’t get proper lessons. A couple of years back, my friends tried to get me to try pole dancing lessons – I declined as I didn’t think I’d be able to keep a straight face while doing it!

    • I’d forgotten about Tippex! (We call it Liquid Paper, it’s still around). We thought it was cool when we got sheets of the stuff that you put between the key and the paper, then re-type the letter. It would put white over the letter, and you could fix the mistake. Thanks for the memory, Weenie.

  5. Thanks for the wonderful story. I’m still in the early stages of defining my retirement (or rewirement as you suggested). That’s quite an array of classes you’ve taken. Good for you for being adventurous and trying new things!

    • Thanks Mrs. Groovy. I really like trying new things. Some stick, some don’t – but at least I know. I’ve enjoyed reading about your rewirement. I was really pleased to see that after catching up on afternoon naps, they are no longer such a need. It’s something I worried about for when my time comes, because I love sleep!

  6. What a lovely story.

    I absolutely agree. I have been retired 5 years now, and my retirement is definitely along Peter’s line. I am learning Spanish from scratch and refreshing my French. We travel widely, I make a huge variety of things in metal. And sometimes I am to be found sitting in the sun reading a book! Retirement has given me such a lot of choices!

    I also have another thing in common with Peter. When doing family history research, I also got in touch again with a cousin in the US, who I hadn’t spoken to in 40 years. Our families lost touch once a great-aunt died. Ancestry flagged up this childless aunt as common across several trees, and I have now met up with a whole family branch I had lost. She came across and stayed with us. We didn’t stop talking…The internet has opened up so many opportunities

    And yes, I also used to need (a lot of) Tippex!

  7. J @ Hey, It's Just Money! says:

    I started watching the pilot episode of this series but I cringed at that scene when he woke up and stopped it. Haha! I didn’t press play again. I loved Peter’s story, I want that retirement, too. I’d like to be active in the community and I want to still be learning things for the first time too! And wow to African drumming! Was it hard? I’ve always wanted to try it, but mostly because of Brandon Boyd (he makes it look easy and sexy).

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