Learning Priorities for Retirement

1382307_10152209311955828_1755994634_n (1)As part of my retirement planning I’ve been wondering about how much time to devote to learning and what I want to learn.  In the past I’ve never been a big learner, always doing the minimum that I needed to do to move on to the next topic, or to get on with doing.  In nearly 30 years at work I’ve only attended about 3 weeks of training, I much prefer to learn what I need to as I go along, Some people call that lazy, I call it efficient, but it does meant that there are big gaps in my knowledge.

So it will either be a real treat to spend some significant time learning, or it will be boring as hell.  Since I don’t do boring I’d better start with topics that fascinate me, I also need to recognise my limitations:

  1. I have a short attention span
  2. I have a terrible memory
  3. I will have little money to invest
  4. I won’t have much time

Which means my learning options are going to be books, audio books, free online video courses, adult education classes and learning by doing.

So with that preamble what are the broad categories of things that I want to learn and why:

  1. I want to learn how to write, just the simple writing skills needed to write engaging blog posts and maybe useful, simple, practical books.
  2. I’m keen to learn how to travel light and eat healthily while traveling, both are likely to be quite a challenge, but are key to my travel plans.  I like my comforts, am easily tired, have a lot of shoulder and foot pain and I’m a faddy eater.  However I don’t mind eating the same foods for days on end, I don’t need hot drinks or cooked food, I don’t mind spending a few hundred pounds on good gear that will last and I don’t really care if I wear the same clothes for a few days in a row.  I’ve also proved to myself – once – that I can stay at youth hostels, although getting to sleep was a challenge that I need to prove I can conquer
  3. I’m keen to learn how to make small talk.  Being on the autistic spectrum and shy this is a particularly difficult challenge for me, but I think it’s key to enjoying travel
  4. I want to travel more when I retire, and travel would be much more enjoyable and less stressful if I knew the top 1000 words of a few foreign languages.  I’m assuming that the rest I can acquire as I go along, or use what will be amazing translation tech by then.  1000 words seems realistic given the state of my memory and my hate of learning languages.  Even a 1000 words seems a lot though so I will be shaving that down. Top of my list are French and Dutch mainly because of the prospect of cycling there
  5. I want to learn some new physical skills, mostly to enable fun activities.  I have limitations here as well though which include terrible hand and eye coordination, which comes from my slow brain, which also leads to poor balance.  This rules out activities I’d love to learn like surfing, tennis and mountain biking, but there are a few that are possible like canoeing, long boarding and maybe a simple musical instrument like the ukulele. I’ve never played an instrument, but Debbie and the girls all have and I’ve always enjoyed listening to Debbie play guitar.
  6. I want to understand the physical world better.  Although I did physics A-Level and Mechanical Engineering as a degree, the focus of both was experiments and calculations.  I’m not keen on either I want to understand more about light, electricity, materials and that will lead me to atomic and crystal structures.  So some significant popular science reading is likely in order.  probably 20-30 books and some great online lectures should be enough, but as they say “the more you know, the more you want to know”.
  7. I want to understand more about the way the world works.  In particular I want to understand a bit of politics, geography and economics.  However these topics seem a bit dry, so I might go back to popular science again and supplement that with learning about the world through travel writers, biographies and autobiographies
  8. I want to understand more of history, but not in an academic sense, so I think I will watch quite a bit of TV history and maybe a few books that provide a rough understanding of the arc of world history.  I’ve already got 3 world history books, so that should be enough, after that I think I will content myself with learning history through historical fiction.  I will choose places based on my travels and listen to audiobooks.
  9. I want to learn to garden, but I have a small garden, so my studies need to be directed to greenhouse and high intensity gardening and with lots of experimentation.  I want to revisit some of the classic TV shows, which I have on DVD and book, including the wonderful Victorian Kitchen Garden and the Ornamental Kitchen Garden.  Depending on how successful I am and how much time and money I end up having I might invest in an allotment.
  10. I want to learn the trades. Although I can bodge my way through lots of DIY jobs, I’m still lacking in many of the skills that I need to reduce the cost of maintaining my house, but I also want to do odd jobs for disadvantaged or elderly people.  I will probably learn these skills at night school so I get practical experience.  In rough order I want to learn joinery, brick laying, plumbing, electrics, and plastering.
  11. I want to re-learn how to programme.  I did a lot of programming in my youth and I absolutely loved it.  As I started to be encouraged to go into management roles I remember saying to my boss that I would never leave programming behind, he just smiled, he knew better.  Eventually I moved into a job that had no programming involved at all and I never got back to it.  Programming is one of life’s greatest joys, it’s pure unconstrained creativity and I want it back in my life. 
  12. I want to re-learn how to draw.  When I was a kid I used to sketch all the time and when I was first married I started to paint.  I enjoyed both of them a lot,  I still have my sketch books and although I have no talent at all when I look at them it’s clear that I was good enough to have fun.  I’ve lost those skills now, but I’m sure with practice I could get them back.  So I’m determined to have a go.

This list represents a rough draft of phase one of my learning priorities, I have hundreds of other things that I want to learn.  Right now I work an average of 16 hours a week and when I retire it’s my plan to spend about 10 hours a week on learning, so even this modest list will take a while. 

I’m not waiting for retirement to get started on the list, although I need to be sensible, my priorities in life right now are family, work and health and I don’t want to compromise them by being overly distracted from family or work, or not keeping my body in motion enough, which is key to health.

The photo is of Cleveleys beach and shell sculpture, it’s going to be important with all this time spent learning not to forget to enjoy the sunsets!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

8 Responses

  1. Vince Smith says:

    Interesting, I am having similar thoughts, though I confess nowhere as near to your organised list. So I will comment on some common ones: #2 I’d also like to get back to proper camping more often. I used to do it a lot – and from the sea kayak touring around Scotland; #3 Agreed – I’d read somewhere that just asking questions is a good approach; #4 Agreed- I always have tried to learn at least hello, goodbye, please and thank you. I would suggest adding Danish as that is a place I also want to go cycling. #5 I picked up the guitar about 6 years ago then swapped to bass guitar and not looked back. Getting into a club is great. #6,7 I am returning to my degree (Theoretical Physics) with some great free on-line sources. Though I have not studied enough maths to redo everything. I have deepened my understanding and appreciation. #11 Hmm…I’m not a programmer by much experience really – a lot of dabbling – but the Pi, Arduino and now Core seem to offer a nice practical mix of a bit of physical construction with a modicum of programming. Maybe that is my route in.

    So I have already started to learn things and so thank you for causing me to review. Time is my rarest element at present.

  2. Hi Vince,
    Great feedback. The list only becomes organised by writing about it 🙂 #2 I too would love to get back into camping, but it’s unlikely I will ever carry a tent again, unless it’s on my bike and I don’t like the damp. I’m giving it a try over the summer though. #3 Asking questions is a good idea, but also not so easy for the autistic as my brain rebels at being so intrusive, even though its stupid to feel that way, I suppose practice is needed. #5 I’ve seen lots of your band videos it does look great fun #6/7 I so love physics, but my engineers maths is very weak, of course Feynman is my hero and I have all his videos and books and the biographies. #11 if you’ve never really programmed you are in for a treat, one of life’s true joys.

    Time – well in theory I am time rich, but I never seem to have a spare hour!

  3. Hello Steve

    Planning ahead for retirement is essential. I retired from full time employment in March last year but in 2009 we set up our online home exchange travel business to keep us busy in retirement. Since retiring, I have spent part of most days ‘working’ on our website, developing and marketing it to increase our member numbers.

    I would recommend becoming self employed in retirement but it takes much research and is important to do something you enjoy.

    Being able to retire for us baby boomers is getting more and more difficult and worrying. Can I also recommend that you consider home exchange for your travelling as well as camping. Swapping homes saves money but also provides great travel experiences. Why pay for a hotel room or rent somewhere when you can stay for free?


    Brian Luckhurst

  4. Home exchange sounds like a great idea, will take a look!

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