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SF Blog: Don't Be Tired In Retirement

Tips to retiring smoothly

Not long before I retired from full-time employment at Successful Farming a couple years ago, my spouse Sandy let loose a slip of the tongue. She said something like, "When we're both really tired, we'll...."

A funny slip it was, but one that has some deep-seated truth.  The idea of being “really tired” in retirement is a real possibility for those who aren’t prepared for this next stage of life.

Being an agricultural journalist, I think I've picked up some of the farmer's dedication--and single mindedness--about a career. I love the work, the cause, the people, and the land. Why retire?

Many farmers never fully retire, I know. But, all of us eventually do grow "really tired," ready for a different tack on life.

Whatever form your retirement takes, here’s a baker's dozen ideas I learned in the time I spent preparing for the break from full-time work.

1. Talk to a financial adviser. Have a model run on your finances to see whether your savings will keep you comfortable for the foreseeable future. Once you see you can afford to retire, a lot of the anxiety goes away.

2. Make a list of the things you've always wanted to do. This is good therapy if you think you won't know what to do with yourself when you're not working full-time. It was surprisingly easy for me to list at least twenty items, all of which seem like fun or halfway important.

3. Get in shape. Exercise is the perfect counterbalance to napping. You have time to do both now.

4.  Travel. Do it while you're still up for some rambling.  Consider making your first trip a long one. We went to California, visited family and then just wandered up and down the coast. The trip was a good way to make a clean break with the old routine, though I couldn't help but stop at a few farms along the way.

5. Take up a new sport. There are plenty of possibilities for the fourth quarter of life--golf, bowling, horseshoes, bike riding, walking, tai chi, yoga, etc.  (My pick from this list surprised my friends, and even myself.)

6.  Exercise your brain. There's some scientific evidence now that brain training, along with a healthy diet and lifelong learning, can help keep your mind healthy and fend off forgetfulness. A computer game using what’s called speed-of-processing exercise also may reduce your risk of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

7. Get outside. Not just for a ride in the pickup or the tractor. Take a walk in the woods, across a pasture or along a creek. I'm even bought a tent (and a good air mattress) so I can go camping once in a while.

8. Do some writing. Start a journal or online blog, or maybe just pen an old friend a hand-written letter. I wrote a few Christmas cards last year for about the first time in my life. It felt more meaningful than dashing off a text or e-mail.

9. Spend some extra time with people you like and love. When you’re working all the time, you miss these opportunities. There is research to suggest that your immune system is strengthened by being around other people.

10. Keep your hand in farming. Just don't overdo it with recreational tillage, mowing the farmstead every other day or by getting in the way of the "kids." One farmer I know spends a lot of time at the sale barn finding good buys on feeder calves. I tend to our Nebraska farm at a distance, and take great pleasure in our operator’s success.

11. Pay attention. People, animals, the weather, the sports page, whatever. When you're rushing around working all day long, you basically think about one thing--work. In retirement, you can focus on the larger world around you.

12. Make a new friend. I'm getting to know a fellow from the neighborhood whom I had barely spoken with in 30 years. His wife recently passed away, and it seemed like he could use another friend.  He’s been good company, and I hope I have been, too.

13. Embrace grand parenting. If you're blessed to have grand kids, it's time to plant the eternal memory of your special time with them. I owe my grand folks for about half of what I know and care about--and as hardworking farmers they inspired my career that brought me here.

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