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Five Things I’ve Learned in Three Years of Retirement

Tom Blake. On Life and Love After 50.

When I was pondering retirement from Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli, the main thing I looked forward to was having “free time.” With it, I could do nothing—if I wanted—which sounded great, after 25 years of serving sandwiches.
Three years ago in January, I sold the deli to Jim Mouzakis, a really good man, who I knew would treat the employees well. I had worked until age 75; I’m glad I did. Working until then helped build a small financial nest egg and kept my body moving and my mind active. And then, finally, there was freedom from slicing salami.

However, I realized quickly that I did not want a lot of free time. It wasn’t good for me. I’m not built to sit around. I realized I must have projects to work on. Every morning I make a to-do list for the day. If I haven’t crossed each item off by day’s end, so be it. But, the list keeps me focused.

Soon, that free time became busy time. And from three years of busy time came five lessons learned in retirement.

  1. The most important retirement lesson learned is the need to have social interaction with people. To be too isolated is not good for one’s health.

A good way to interact with people is by joining groups. lists thousands of groups and activities and should provide plenty of ideas for people who are not sure of what to do to meet others. Also, monthly Chamber of Commerce mixers and service clubs are great places to interact with people.

  1. The second retirement lesson I’ve learned is the importance of keeping my body moving. It’s a daily priority for me. In South Orange County, we’re fortunate to have parks and the ocean nearby. The ocean can be a great aid and inspiration to keep moving. There’s surfing, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and walking in the harbor or on the beaches. Salt Creek Beach is one of the most beautiful in the world. I can walk there in 30 minutes from our front door, and do often.

In retirement, keeping the body moving daily is a “must-do” in filling my “free time.”

  1. The third retirement lesson I’ve learned is the need to have a purpose in life. Something with meaning, it doesn’t have to be a huge project. Volunteering and helping others is a great way to fulfill this human need. Some people use the words “giving back.” There are lots of people around who are way less fortunate than I. They can use a little help. How I help them doesn’t matter-giving of my time, or what little money I can afford, makes me feel good.
  2. The fourth retirement lesson I’ve learned is the importance of keeping one’s mind and brain stimulated. For some, it’s the love of reading that fulfills this need. For me, it’s my writing. I’ve been a newspaper columnist for 23 years. I love it. Every week I must generate a column and/or a newsletter article. I am grateful for the opportunity.
  3. The fifth retirement lesson I’ve learned is to be willing to step out of one’s comfort zone. When Greta and I were in Lima, Peru, in October, it would have been easy to take a tour of the city arranged by the ship. But, instead, we decided to do it on our own.

If you’re single, and you’ve made a list of the qualities you seek in a mate, don’t be shackled by the list. Let’s say one of the qualities is to meet a widower of the same faith. But you meet a divorced man instead. And holy horrors, he’s not of the same faith, or even more horrifying, not of the same nationality. But you like him because he’s a gentleman.

Step out of your comfort zone and take a chance on him. Let yourself be enlightened. You’d be surprised at the number of seniors unwilling to do that. Don’t be an old fuddy-duddy.

Those are the five biggest takeaways I’ve learned in three years of retirement. In 2018, I’ll probably learn a few more retirement lessons. But, if I can master these five, I will be ahead of the game.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at; and To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at Email:


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