CREATING THE PERFECT CRESCENDO IN RETIREMENT

Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. #retirement #midlife

INTRO

Today I have the next guest in my MIDLIFE SYMPHONY series where I've asked other others to share what they're doing to make the second half of life the best half of life. Suzanne (from Picture Retirement) is sharing today about how she and her husband have been working on discovering what is the perfect balance for them in retirement. It sounds to me like they've gotten it spot on - see what you think...


CREATING OUR CRESCENDO

A Symphony (Leanne's Word of the Year) has several movements, with highs and lows throughout. Just like life, it isn't one big happy rise to the great crescendo called retirement!

A great composer needs talent, vision, a strong work ethic, dedication and persistence to create a masterpiece. You and I may never create a memorable piece of music, but we can use those same attributes to write the score of our lives - our masterpiece is in the beauty of a life well lived.

THE LEAD-UP

Malcolm and I had a very clear vision during our working years that included an unwavering devotion to our daughter's development and education, our personal relationship and goals for early retirement. We made choices (often very difficult ones) that supported our beliefs and goals and retired at age fifty. There were bumps and setbacks along the way but we worked through the difficult times and achieved our personal and financial goals.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. Our focus on work and raising our daughter no longer consumed our thoughts or actions and we were free to explore 'what's next' in the context of just the two of us. The answer to that question evolved slowly through trial and error as we planned trips, bought bicycles, took golf lessons, read retirement blogs, volunteered in the community, joined groups and spent lots of time socializing with friends. 

The first two years were like repeating Freshman year of college. Fraternity parties and all! Twenty pounds later and lacking direction or purpose we slowed down, took a step back and did some reflective thinking. 

Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. #retirement #midlife
 Homemade cocktails anyone?

CREATING THE PERFECT BALANCE

Since that time, Malcolm and I have clarified our lifestyle goals and have learned to create balance while still having fun. Balance, for us, includes attention to things like health and fitness, finances, family, friends, hobbies and travel. We live slightly free-form, but very fulfilling lives that are not overly restricted with rules. We have accepted that 'purpose' applies only in terms of maintaining a degree of structure and discipline, and is not a tangible or attainable object or goal to seek. Pace seems more applicable to us at this stage of life.

A typical week for us includes household chores, exercise (in various forms), cooking together, having coffee with friends, planning our next adventure, reading, walking the beach at sunset, checking in on the MIL, catching up with darling daughter, writing posts for our blog, organizing and editing photographs, and managing finances. Structure comes from appointments and various short-term and highly flexible commitments. We both crave solitude and devote time to quiet reflection and separate interests on a regular basis.

Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. #retirement #midlife
Suzanne and her husband enjoying the beach

THE FUTURE LOOKS SWEET

The depth and measure of our crescendo is yet to be determined and in the meanwhile, we will continue to make sweet music. Life truly is a symphony. 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you approaching retirement with the idea that it's the final crescendo? Or are you looking at it as the launch pad for a whole new movement in your symphony - creating a crescendo that lasts for many years to come.

RELATED POSTS


Meet Suzanne
Hello, I'm Suzanne. My husband Malcolm and I retired in 2006 at age 50 and have been perfecting our Florida lifestyle since that time. Our blog is reflective of the shared interests and hobbies that enrich our days and provide structure and fulfillment to our retirement journey.

Visit Suzanne at Picture Retirement
Find Suzanne on Instagram 
Find Suzanne on Pinterest
Find Malcolm on Pinterest 


Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. #retirement #midlife
Arriving at retirement is not the crescendo you might think as the score begins again; this time with a different mindset. #retirement #midlife

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Cresting the Hill - a blog for Midlife (Middle Aged / 50+) women who want to thrive

35 comments

  1. Hi Leanne, Thank you for featuring Suzanne in this series. I have been a fan of her stunning photography and her inspirational writing since I met her last year.

    Suzanne, I like how you create comparisons with musical terms and the score of our lives. I appreciate how you share the ups and downs of retirement. Your words “evolved” and “different mindset” and “trial and error” resonate with me. You and Malcolm do remind me of how my husband and I appreciate solitude and separate interests. We also greatly appreciate our family and our time together. I love everything about this post! I especially like the concept of continuing to make sweet music. Thank you for sharing your beautiful song with us.

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    1. Hi Erica - I loved how Suzanne ran with the Symphony theme and used it to define how retirement can look if we find our sweet spot. My husband and I are also enjoying the time we spend together, but also allowing each other to have some space to pursue our own interests.

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    2. Hi Erica, I love Leanne's WOTY and how it mirrors life, especially this stage of life, in so many ways. I do feel that the past fifteen years have 'evolved' through trial and error, patience, and preparing for the long haul. I am grateful to have a partner who shares my views for what contentment looks like and walks beside me in this journey.

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  2. Hi Suzanne and Leanne, another very interesting and inspiring midlife blogger to learn from! Thank you for sharing your lovely words and the analogy of the symphony to midlife, it was a great way of looking at life.

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    1. Hi Deb - I'm loving having guests on my blog again and I'm looking forward to sharing your post here soon too. It's so great when bloggers support each other isn't it?

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    2. Thank you Deb, it was an honor to write for Leanne's blog. I always look forward to what you have to say and admire your approach to a happy retirement.

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  3. Hi Suzanne, It's wonderful to read how you and your husband have created the perfect balance in your retirement and will continue to make sweet music. I'm happy with what I've done so far (creating a crescendo as you put it) and will do my best to make it last for many years to come :) Thank you, Leanne, for featuring Suzanne here. I enjoy reading your words of wisdom and Suzanne's too. #lovin'lifelinky

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    1. Hi Natalie - I think retirement can definitely be a crescendo if you approach it in a way that works for you. It's a different formula (composition/opus) for each of us, but when we hit the right notes it certainly is the peak of life so far.

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    2. Natalie, I have to confess that I did not know you were retired. Maybe I need to go over and read some early posts to get your back story. I love the way you set goals and stay busy by doing fun and productive things. Your monthly recap always makes me feel like I am standing still. No doubt, you have it figured out. I think the challenge for us lately has been to keep things fresh. Our travels help with that part by giving us something to look forward to. Even a trip a few hours from home (like we are enjoying now), puts the pep back into our step!

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  4. Thank you Suzanne and Leanne for this inspiring post. Life is a series of phases or as you say "symphonies" and you have planned very well for retirement. I'm also a retiree and echo your thoughts and words about retirement. It took me a while to get used to retirement as I couldn't slow down, but now I'm discovering the joys of being "unbusy" and having lots more "me" time.

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    1. Unbusy is one of my favourite words these days Kathy - I'm so tired of justifying my life to others, so now I just do what makes me happy and what works for my husband and me in our little empty nest. It's a very pleasant and peaceful stage of life - the melody is sweet indeed!

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    2. Hi Kathy, I think it takes a while to let go of work mode and recognize that it is perfectly acceptable to be a little selfish about the things we say YES to at this stage of life. ME time should be a priority! I always say that self knowledge is the key to any stage of life, but it is especially helpful when designing our retirement years. Kathy, it was nice to meet you here on Cresting the Hill. Thank you for your comment.

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  5. Hi, Suzanne - I enjoyed learning more about you through this post. We really do have much in common. In fact, our lists of activities from a 'regular week' (if there ever is such a thing in retirement) are very similar. Household chores (check). Exercise (for us this primarily includes the gym, hikes and long walks). Cooking together ("Together" may be a stetch. I cook, Richard does dishes so I'll saw that counts). Having coffee out (this is actually a big part of our week and something that we desperately miss when it doesn't happen. It truly is the little things!). Planning our next adventure (Yes! We are now at the initial discussion stages of Camino #5). Reading (Yes!) Walking the beach (Not usually at sunset but we may just need to add this). Checking in on the MIL (that's Richard's MIL and my amazing mother). Catching up with our four incredible sons and three grandchildren. Writing blog posts, organizing and editing photographs, and managing finances. Check! Check! Check! I love the similaritiies!

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    1. Hi Donna, Malcolm doing the dishes is where we part paths, but other than that, I have always thought that we have similar dispositions toward retirement. Raising four sons is wow and double wow! I had my hands full with one very willful daughter but would not trade that time for the world. Thank you for your comment. Leanne is a brave soul to invite participation from the likes of us.

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    2. Hi Donna - FOUR sons! I knew there were at least two and now I'm even more impressed! I think you and Suzanne are the perfect retirement role models (although FIVE Camino's leaves me a little bit flabbergasted!)

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  6. It sounds like the perfect balance, but I love how Suzanne compared the first couple of years to freshman years - right down to the weight gain. Thanks, Leanne, for allowing us to learn more about Suzanne, whose photos I already love.

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    1. Hi Jo, thank you for your compliment regarding my photographs. Having a camera in my hand is a highlight of any day, but having people who appreciate my art is priceless! I love sharing our story and hope it encourages others to follow their own path, where ever it may lead.

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    2. Hi Jo - yes Suzanne's photos are yet another box she ticks so well. I think she's summed up a retirement that's being done really well - balanced and interesting, and shared with someone we love - what more could we ask for?

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  7. Hi Suzanne. Even though we live on opposite sides of the country, our retirement lives are very similar. I loved your description of your retirement as living slightly "free-form." I would describe our much the same way. We didn't retire quite as young as you and Malcolm did (we were in our late fifties), we designed our working lives with a relative early retirement in mind. We wanted to be young and healthy enough to enjoy ourselves post-work... and we do! Thank you, Leanne for featuring Suzanne on your blog! I've enjoyed following her for a while.

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    1. Hi Janis - I love how we can retire early for different reasons (mine certainly wasn't planned as well as yours!) and then just get on with enjoying life on our own terms and with such a sense of joy. I feel sorry for those who are struggling to find their sweet spot with this time of life, because I just love it!

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    2. Hi Janis, we both live in sunshine, that's for sure! Design is a good word for what we did to make sure we could retire relatively young and still in good health. Malcolm's most compelling reason for early retirement was to be able to devote uninterrupted time with our daughter while she was still in High School. He will always be grateful that he made that time for her.

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  8. Hi Suzanne and Leanne,
    What a wonderful concept for stories and what an inspirational story. How wonderful to retire at 50. Funny, as we got more and more nomadic, at one point to not having an actual "home" for two years while we travelled Asia, I was not working, but my husband Ben was keeping the wheels on. Now that we are home based in Hoi An in Viet Nam I decided that I would like to contribute to the community and use my skill set. I have been working at the International School here as their school psychologist and just loving it.

    I do think you make a really good point Suzanne with regards to balance. This to me, is the most important thing to strive for. A balance between resting and having down time to chill and times to exercise and get inspired by projects. I had such a good life at your description of the first few years of retired life being comprable to the early college years.

    Yes, we both love crafting our lives. I like the way you put it "writing the score of our lives". It's all about living life to the fullest and for us to choosing experiences over stuff. That means, we would always rather spend our money and time having experiences via travel or living in different countries as opposed to accumulating lots of possessions. It has been a time of growth and learning to let go and not be attached to places and things. Ben of course would love to be retired, but we are not quite there yet even though he is 60 and I am 62. No matter , we will get there hopefully in due time and in the meantime we don't stress over it and are enjoying our lives immensely. Thank you for a thought provoking topic, theme and post.

    Bravo.

    Peta

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    1. Hi Peta, you and Ben are so fortunate to be able to work and travel while having the most unique experiences. I think if our work enabled travel we would still be out there. Experiences over things has always been a goal and yes, the first few years were pretty rough. It feels great to find a rhythm that we can both dance to.

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    2. Hi Peta - lovely to meet you and thanks for stopping by to read Suzanne's lovely guest post. Your life sounds so interesting and I'm always inspired by people who choose to live their lives nomadically or to settle in a completely different culture. I'm a bit too staid for that, but that's what makes the world interesting - all our differences and inspiring each other along the way. And you and Suzanne are right - it all comes down to balance in the end.

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  9. Hello Suzanne. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on retirement. And thanks Leanne for putting this series together and including Suzanne. I love the idea of life as a symphony, with retirement as one movement in that symphony. Or maybe it's not even the final movement. Who knows? I was also struck by Suzanne's description of purpose relates as "maintaining a degree of structure and discipline." For me, purpose is not so much this grand objective, but more about living each day with intention. I am approaching retirement (probably within two years) and these kinds of retrospectives are really helpful. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Christie - I think "intention" and "balance" are both great words for this stage of life. You don't want to sit in a chair looking at a TV screen for the next 30 years, but you also don't want to run yourself ragged trying to be busy every moment. It's all about finding that sweet spot where life just hums along pleasantly - a Symphony of little sounds all coming together into that ultimate crescendo :)

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  10. Christie,I agree that LIFE, at any stage, is about intention. The notion that there is a specific PURPOSE to our lives has always baffled me and I prefer to give shape and 'meaning' to my life through structure and discipline; absent a singular focus. From reading your posts, I think that is very much how you pursue life as well. You seem thoughtful and 'intentional' about your choices and the direction of your path. I am looking forward to following along as the next chapter unfolds. Thanks for visiting me here on Leanne's blog.

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  11. Hi Suzanne,
    Lovely, thoughtful post. I had to laugh about the "freshman 15 (or is it 20?) pounds you and Malcom gained that first year or two. I can absolutely understand that! You two did put yourself in a position to "retire" early. It's really about being free to decide what each day looks like. I can see our life evolving into the flexible structure you describe. Retirement is a different experience - it is not a perpetual vacation. It's a new life structure. But it needs purpose. I like that you consider that healthy balance as your purpose...thinking about that...my definition is still evolving.

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    1. And for some reason blogger made me anonymous...it's me, Nancy, from Defining Third Age commenting above.

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    2. Hi Nancy (thanks for letting us know who "anonymous" was!) I loved how you said that retirement isn't a vacation, but a new life structure. I think that's why it takes a little while for us all to adjust - and why some people find it easier than others. I feel a bit sorry for those who struggle with finding some purpose or balance without work being part of their lives, it must be daunting looking at the days ahead and trying to find a purpose to fulfill. I'm actually becoming quite good at rolling with the flow and letting life take me on the retirement journey - that may change in the future, but for now it's really lovely.

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    3. Hi Nancy, retirement and how to live it has become a 'purpose' of sorts. Letting go of our former selves and re-inventing the person we want to be, absent paid work, is not easy. Even when we think we have it all figured out, things change and it's back to the drawing board. Like Leanne, I feel sorry for folks who still define themselves as 'an accountant', an HR Professional, or whatever. Being retired is respectable and the sooner we accept that the quicker we will evolve. Thanks for letting us know who you are. Darn Blogger.

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  12. Hi Suzanne,
    I did not realize that you have been retired for 14 years! You and your hubby must have all the kinks of retirement worked out by now. My hubby has just been retired for a little over a year (me a little bit longer), so we are still trying to figure out what works for us.

    I think we should be a little bit more disciplined, but we are having fun and doing a bunch of traveling! :)

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  13. That sounds like the perfect "recipe" for retirement - Suzanne is living my dream, I would love for us to be retired at 50!

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  14. How interesting to read Suzanne's post on what we have been through. Mind you, ours was very gradual and it still is one where we tend to take each day as it comes thanks to our health. Thank you Leanne for sharing this post.

    Thank you for joining in Life This Week. Next week's optional prompt is Share Your Snaps. Hope to see you linking up too. Denyse.

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  15. Interesting to read about your journey with early retirement. Whilst I am reducing my work hours with a view to retire, my hubby has been retired for 5 years, so we have been on different paths up til now. We must be in the party phase now, having just moved to a very social new estate. It may diminish as time moves forward, perhaps. However, I see that evolution you mentioned starting to unfold and I can see you have some great suggestions for making retirement work for you. Great reading. Thanks for sharing your story.

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Thanks so much for your comment - it's where the connection begins.