“John, I’m bored…”

One of my neighbors, Rey, is part of our little group of guys that stands outside drinking beer while watching our kids. I was outside last week, watching Juanito ride his scooter with the other kids, and I see Rey walk up.

“Hey, Rey!”, I say. “How’s everything going? You look tired.”

“John, not so good.”

“What’s the matter?”

“John, I’m BORED. I think I shouldn’t have taken early retirement. I don’t know what to do.”

I offer him a cold pilsen, saying “Have a beer… It’s good for what ails you.”

A bored retiree
A bored retiree

Rey was a banker here in Manila for thirty years. In that time, he was in a position of respect. Banking, especially a white-collar manager, is held in high regard in Filipino culture. Rey’s kids had graduated university, started their careers, and moved away, mostly overseas. He was offered early retirement from the bank, and he took it, thinking he would buy a small farm in the province and live a quiet life.

That’s not what happened, though. Yes, he bought the farm, but relatives ended up running it on a daily basis. So, there he is, kids moved away, wife is busy with the same domestic chores she always did, and he really has nothing to do that is meaningful.

Meaningful is the key. You work your whole life in a position of importance and with some authority, and then that position is suddenly gone. Many people may think, “Hey! Relax! You’ve earned a rest!” And, to a certain extent, they may be right. However, I remember something from my undergraduate psychology and business classes that still sticks in my mind. Work, and one’s profession, is one of the things that defines our personality, and who we are. With some people, without those defined traits, they become “lost”.

I see many people looking to retire to the Philippines. Indeed, on this site, there are dozens of articles related precisely to that topic. I also think many people look forward to retirement, but are truly unprepared for the real possibility that they may lose the purpose in their life. There is a very real possibility that the vision of palm trees, beaches, and nothing to do but drink beer all day long can seduce you into complacency. However, after the going away parties, the packing and moving, the excitement of being in a new place with a new life wears off, you could end up finding yourself sitting in a room, in front of a TV, with no reason to get up and live another day. It can be depressing.

People need to have some purpose in their existence. Many people are perfectly happy living that retirement dream. No cares. No worries. They saved their money. They are comfortable. They can travel when they want. Do what they want.

Philippine Retirement
Philippine Retirement

How many achieve this dream? I honestly don’t know. I’ve met many people here who are retired and enjoying themselves immensely. I’ve also met many like Rey, who end up sort of lost, not knowing what to do with themselves.

Perhaps it is largely due to one’s mindset? I had an uncle who was a commercial airline pilot for thirty years. He knew his time was coming for mandatory retirement, but about two years before, he had a stroke and they clipped his wings (justifiably so). However, he was never quite the same after that. He was, quite simply, sad.  His reason to exist, in his mind, was gone. Every time a plane passed overhead, he always looked up and you could tell that he wanted to be in the air, more than anything else. He died very soon after that. To this day, I think the early forced retirement hastened his demise. I honestly think that if he went the extra two years, it would not have made much difference in the outcome.

More to life than the beach
More to life than the beach

My grandfather was another case. He retired, and, for the first two years, did virtually nothing. By nothing, I mean precisely that. Playing computer games and watching TV. It was a chore to get him to leave the house, even for something like getting a hiarcut or going out to eat. Well, I believe, to this day, that his health suffered from extreme inactivity. His mind was no longer sharp (He guided rockets for NASA for a living). His health deteriorated even more rapidly. He became extremely frail. Did it shorten his life? No, I don’t think so. However, I do believe that the quality of life in his last years was deteriorated to a far greater degree than it otherwise would have been.

I also saw similar situations growing up in Florida, surrounded by retirees. I saw people who complained about everything, simply because they had nothing else to do. The little subvdivision where my grandfather lived was a perfect example. The homeowners association there was almost psychotic in nature. Why? 95% of the homes were owned by retirees who had absolutely nothing to do, kids and family living far away, except mind other people’s business. Working in the restaurants while in high school, I saw the exact same thing from the retirement crowd when they came to eat. Complaints, non-complaints… Even people who would complain just in order to have someone else to talk with. The last case really used to bother me. I could always tell when that was the case, and I always tried to listen, at least for a couple of minutes. It was sad. Missing companionship so badly that you will complain in order to just hear a human voice. It’s not living. It is existence, but not living.

Now, move that situation to the Philippines. Yes, people respect age and wisdom to a far greater extent here. Yes, it is a cultural divide that is in striking contrast to the West. When you move, however, you are leaving all that is familiar behind. In most cases, your family is not going to be here (Though most people end up with new family here).

Be active in retirement
Be active in retirement

Personally, I cannot imagine myself retired, doing nothing. I am not one of those people who can sit still. I need to always be doing something. I’ve still got about 20 years before that scenario is reality.

A hobby. Volunteering. An online business. Some may be perfectly capable of following their dreams. Some may not have realistic expectations. It is all up to the individual to do what makes them happy. However, you need to think of the possibility of what life without work truly means. You all of a sudden no longer have something that defined you for 1/3 of your life, after all.

I really felt sorry for Rey. I told him that our local church, St. Peter’s Parish, offers microlending and small business consultation to the poor in the area. They were looking for volunteers to help teach the poorest of the poor how to use the lending seed-money to start small, grass-roots businesses. I told Rey, “That would be perfect for you… You were a banker. You know finance. You speak the language. You have the time. You can make a difference in someone’s life.”

He thought for a few moments, and, as we are finishing our beers, said, “You know, you are right. I think I’ll go down there next week and see if I can help them out.” I hope he does so.

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

Investigation in the Philippines


  1. Paul Thompson says

    Since I’ve retired twice, once in Puerto Rico and now here in the Philippines I can tell you I understand how Rey feels. I took my first year off and didn’t work, but I stayed busy traveling and enjoying life in the Caribbean. But I found I wanted more, and opened 2 nightclubs. Then after Hurricane Hugo sent me from hero to zero in 24 hours I went back to sea as a merchant seaman. When I retired again here, in 2000, I’ll tell the truth; “I missed my ship’s and the adventure that went with them!” Now that I’ve fully adjusted to retirement I no longer think about that anymore. I have plenty to keep me busy, and friends to pass the time with. But for a fact I do miss that money, I made at sea. Tell Rey to take back the farm and he’ll feel useful again.

    • John Miele says

      Paul: in my business, I meet many seamen….it is a very difficult life for one to give up, over and above the money. The job gets in your blood

  2. Neal in RI says

    WOW!! This article hit home with me hard like a hammer in the face.
    I wont put too many details out here in the public eye, but being on FB you prolly know the details.

  3. brian says

    …I like it….I do something close to nothing all day long and find myself wondering how I did all that when I was working !!

  4. Dan B says

    Rey is starting to feel the affects of depression (obviously). You are a good man John. Rey is simply looking for a friend who would just give him a little push get things going again. Remember that someone may need to be pushed again at times. I know by reading your articles that you will recognize that. Good luck to Rey & I hope he finds a purpose again.

    • John Miele says

      Dan: I agree…. He seems to be in a better mood since I wrote this, doing some home improvements and such.

  5. Mike P. says

    Very insightful article. I am 68 yrs. old and have worked my entire life hoping to someday retire and now that the time is near I am quite apprehensive. We have ample retirement income and good health, but I worry that the loss of purpose and motivation will affect me as I have been a workaholic for over 50 yrs.

    I have been married to my beautiful Filipina wife for 11 years now and we are blessed with a wonderful 3 yr. old son. We decided after much research and deliberation to retire in Butuan City, the birthplace of my wife and the home of her family. We have spent a great deal of time there over these past 11 years and decided that we would become farmers not only as a way to keep ourselves busy, but as a source of income. Our goal is to produce enough income to support ourselves without touching our retirement. In an effort to achieve that goal we have purchased a small farm with a home and have run it with the help of family there for four years. It has proven to be successful and we hope to build on that success once we are there.

    I have been a reader of LIP for some time now and must say that I have received quite an education. I look forward everyday to reading the articles and comments.

    Thanks again for this article in particular and for all the information on this site. I look forward with great anticipation to the time when I will start my new life there and I’m sure my adjustment to life there will be much easier as a result of LIP.

    • John Miele says

      Mike: sounds like a plan…just remember that farming is hardly retirement. It can truly ne serious work! Best of luck to you both in your venture!

  6. renay says

    few years before you stop to work everyone should find something they like to do and you have to try some different things before you find the one you really like.

    It is so many helpful things that someone can do specially in the Philippines, do you beleive it, since 2009 i want to move there but i still didn’t find what i would overthere, i want to help children or the eldest but still din’t find it, i try to start a foundtion before but i was too much alone on it, didn’t work, the day i will find what is for me overthere yes i will make the move, may be you should take you friend for a walk and also i am sure he didn’t see the 7000 island so he should try to see some beautiful place and from each island maybe he can post pictures and comments on his on blog, i am sure a lots of people will read him. Come on Mr. Ray learn how to used a camera and take pictures and tell us all. We are hungry of learning about this country…I thought is was more fun in the Philippines…

    make a bog about your life tell us about the life before etc…

    I wish you with all my heart you find something to fillfull your life, still so much to do.

    be bless

    • John Miele says

      Renay: part of why I wrote this was because most people plan financially, but often neglect the other planning. Easy to do when you are occupied with your profession. As you state, a transition plan can greatly help, if you have the time luxury before the big day comes.

  7. Charlie Hannert (Charlie Tuna) says

    Hi John,
    Nice article. I’d like to check back with you in 20 years when you are nearer to retirement and see how you feel about retiring. Let’s see, I’ll only be 88 then if I haven’t croaked yet. lol So, let’s set our reminder calendars. If I am dead just talk to me anyhow and I’ll send you a sign. :o)
    Personally I think some people are too wrapped up in their own self-importance, like “how can this company ever survive with-out me” attitude. Well they can and they will. Some people cannot stand to just be an ” ordinary” person. They got too used to being the boss maybe. Now reality sets in and no one has to do what you tell them to do. Oh oh. Now what ?
    Life is a disease and it has killed a lot of people, no one survives it as far as I can tell. So enjoy what you can. And if someone is unhappy being retired they can always change places with a poor person who just spends the day looking for food.
    That’ll keep them busy.
    Just go out and smile at people, that really keeps them guessing. :o)
    Anyhow anyone that is bored just needs to take a look in the mirror and they’ll find the culprit. We all get bored on occassion I think. And it has nothing to do with how much money one has or doesn’t.
    So here’s one more post to help keep someone from getting board.
    Have a fantastic day
    Our time is allotted, waste it wisely.

    • John Miele says

      Charlie: I think you are partially correct… Whent you build your career over the years it can dominate your life completely. However, I think that age is not well reapeccted in the west, and the perceptions of what it means to be retired are very different.

  8. Charlie Hannert (Charlie Tuna) says

    Bored. Opps.
    Anyhow one time many many years ago we were bored so we got ourselves thrown in jail one night because we were “bored” and not one of the 6 of us had even been in jail. So of course being the logical people we are we thought we needed the experience to see what it was like. Of course we didn’t do anything serious or anything to hurt anyone at all. Just enough to get us in the slammer for a while. Now, I don’t suggest anyone try that in the Philippines. lol, but my point is that there is always something to do. People just have to be creative and think out-side the box. We were rarley ever bored as kids, and that was before T.V. even. How did we survive ? hahahahaha
    So all you bored folks, tag you’re it. nananananananah

  9. David S. says

    Great article John! I think you’ve captured the single most important dilemma facing most of us approaching retirement. The transition from the work place to a life of leisure can definitely shorten one’s life it we don’t find meaningful pursuits to occupy our time. I guess that’s why women tend to fare better than men in retirement. They develop circles of friends and activities outside of the workplace. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Allan Kelly says

    Dead on the money, John! I know a few retirees and they generally fall into two catergories. Those who are so active they don’t know where they ever found time to go to work and those sitting around doing nothing, waiting to die. Your body and your mind are a machine, and machines to not like to sit idle. If they do, they soon can’t run at all. It always seems to be the people who did nothing but work who have a problem. People who have hobbies or interests outside of work fair the best. I cannot wait to retire. But, by retire, I mean quit going to a job I don’t want to do anymore for the money I need. I have lots I want to do, but don’t have the time. Five more years and I plan to be happily unemployed! And busy as hell!

  11. Mark G. says

    Hi John.
    A thought provoking post. What will I do when I retire? There are many ideas floating around this old head of mine but none of them concrete and many would require more work and energy than I expend now in my daily life. It’s a dilemma. So many possibilities; most of them revolve around helping the folks in the province improve their lot in life. It’s really quite troublesome. I fear I’ll spend so much time thinking about the various possibilities that I’ll fail to plan accordingly and achieve nothing in the end. Posts like this act as a wake up call.
    Mark G.

  12. says

    ya!! You have to get up and get Planning..Have a hobby,have a Life,i think I’am going to also help some of the poor in our area..First thing I will do is start a big Soup pot going at my house every day for people who want a free cup of Soup and some conversation with a Ole retired Canadian COOK..

  13. Larry Saum says

    At 69 years of age, I am still somewhat busy, taking care of my grandkids, driving them to school, etc. My wife (age 63) gets frustrated with our schelules we get pushed into by our daughter and her kids, but they keep us busy.

    I have a house outside Indianapolis, ( with a freshly refinanced 30-yr. VA mortgage) and get outside sometimes when the weather permits. Those of you in the Philippines probably do not know that the US has had a very mild, warm sort of winter this year, and spring has sprung early. My daffodils and forsythia bushes are at peak bloom, and tulips are blooming now also. These ususally don’t happen until the second week of April. We had peak temperatures in the 80’s (f) all week this week. I spread fertilizer and weed killer on my lawn during a sunny yesterday afternoon, wearing a t-shirt. I saw a butterfly, some bees, and a wasp. The birds were singing also. Sometimes you just have to look at what is going on around you that God provides. Maybe this is indicative that global warming is real, but sometimes I think that would be a good thing as we would have a longer growing season here. When I was working, and raising my family, I spent a lot of my time in an electronics engineering facility humped over some circuit board or other trying to make it work. That was often in a windowless, military classified setting. Weather came and went and I only knew it when I went to and from work. Now I have time to see and appreciate it.

    • John Miele says

      Larry: Some people, like yourself, adjust much easier than others… Only ther individual can answer the question as to what will make them happy.

  14. Bruce Michels says

    Once again you produce another thought provocing subject. And I decided to ask the Asawa that question over coffee. So I did Hon what do you want to do when we retire. Low a behold her answer was this “I don’t know but I’m tired of working everyday.” That set the subject for a very good conversation. Myself I want my garden. I love to garden and raise small animals. Not to mention travel an Shoot the Bull with friends. So I’ll have plenty to do. But it really got the Asawa thinking and thats good. Thanks.

  15. mia says

    sorry for the out of topic comment but i couldn’t help but notice the photo bob used for this article of the bored retiree. the photo used was of jesuit bishop francisco claver, well loved in mindanao and who passed away in 2010. he was busy ’til the end and i doubt he was ever a bored retiree! :)

    great article by john as usual!

  16. PapaDuck says

    Hopefully Rey will have found a purpose in life that will take care of his boredom. I plan on staying busy when i retire helping my G/F with her restaurant business and other things. It’s true that with retired Law Enforcement/Military they don’t live long if they don’t stay active doing something. Staying busy keeps your body and mind young and sharp. Thanks for another great article and have a nice day.

  17. says

    both my parents died shortly after they retired, as soon as they both retire there health started failing them father died at 60 (retired at 58 ) and my mom retired at 67 and died at 69. they worked all there lives and as soon as they where not active anymore ploop that was it. The trick is to stay busy and active have family around inter act with people. have interests besides tv and the sofa.

  18. Mars Z. says

    Hi John, maybe Rey could take Photography. With digital cameras, it’s an easy hobby to learn and enjoyable. I like small gardening myself with a lot of herbs growing around my yard–just starting the season right now here. This two will at least occupy some of his time for now.

    Take care,


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