A Recipe for Success in Retirement

My folks married in 1956 at a little church in San Mateo California. As they said their vows and committed themselves to each other on that cool November afternoon, I am sure they were excited to launch their future together. Looking back over what is currently year 58, they are still going strong living comfortably in the same place for the past 50 years. From their perspective I am sure the last half century has been a truly interesting, unpredictable, never boring, not always easy but well worth it journey. And for those of us lucky enough to witness their relationship they have showed us how to do it right.

My family and friends all say I look like and have many of the same mannerisms as my dad which makes sense – like father like son (my son is a chip off the old block as well). I hope I also take after my dad when it comes to the little things he does to make their relationship not only work, but rock:

No detail is too minor – dad is very in tune with mom’s likes and dislikes. Before she says a word he instinctively knows what she is thinking or in need of. And when he steps up, he always goes the extra mile. Every morning when he brings mom a cup of coffee in bed it comes on a nice tray with a freshly cut flower from the garden and the newspaper neatly folded beside. Each time the calendar rolls around to the birthdays of us kids, dad takes mom out for a dinner celebration. After all, she did the real hard work and deserves to be spoiled a bit. Dad never forgets an anniversary or special date knowing if it is important to mom it is important to him. Even when there is no special occasion, he knows each day is a one-time only occurrence and does what he can to make the most of it.

Once a romantic always a romantic – a few years back my dad gave me a book of poetry. When I browsed through it I noticed various markings and highlights. He explained to me these were some of the favorites he and mom read to each other while dating and in the years after. I can envision them picnicking in a park taking turns sharing verses from their collection of favorite poems. Dad also passed to me a love of music. It is not uncommon to see a tear in his eye while a particularly memorable song plays in the background eliciting memories held special. When out for their evening walks, the two still hold hands as they make their way around the neighborhood. I have learned from their many examples it is always the right time for a little expression of love and romance never grows old

Make time to do what you love – although tied to a demanding schedule working at the hospital, dad was sure to make time to pursue his passions. Weekends were filled with things like fishing first thing Saturday morning, a dose of determined gardening to keep those world class roses blooming, tennis with the family in the afternoon, the weekend family drive, and a hearty BBQ to end it all. Dad has lots of passions and he learned early on the importance of setting aside time to pursue them.

Mom has also shown me what is important to keep a relationship going strong well beyond the first half century:

Family first – no matter how inconvenient or difficult a situation, family comes first. Although we all have our quirks – some more generously gifted than others – when it comes down to it the bond of blood is what matters. I know having the support of my parents while going through various challenges in my personal life got me through what could otherwise have been overwhelming moments. Having been raised like this, I hope I also instill in my own family this most important priority.

Let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy day - mom has always been an optimist perpetually ready with a smile whatever the situation. She sees the glass as half full even when there is no water in it! Mom has always showed the rest of us that things are as good as we make them. This positive attitude has saved the day more than once when dad or one of us kids found ourselves momentarily down in the dumps. There is no doubt that her optimistic outlook is deeply seated in my own personality and for that I am forever grateful.

Play to win but play fair – mom is a competitive person – she likes to win. But she always plays by the rules. She never cheats at bridge, would not dream of calling a ball out on the tennis court unless it clearly was, and basically calls it like it is regardless of the consequences. Winning may be important, but how you win is equally so.

Mom and dad have one other noteworthy tidbit that helps sustain their happy life. They have fun together no matter what they do. In the car they used to sing duets as the family tooled down back roads on another road trip, alternating between songs in German and popular American tunes. They never missed a chance to hit the dance floor where they would twirl and spin enthusiastically to the music. They traveled far and wide on planes, trains and automobiles exploring new destinations for the first time or revisiting old favorites. Their calendar remains packed with dinner parties and bridge games and concerts and tennis and golf. And they have learned to enjoy doing things together as well as apart. Mom and dad live their lives adhering to some right-on advice from Michael Jordan, “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

Tomorrow morning when dad brings mom her coffee and newspaper with a red rose from the garden putting an exclamation point on how to do it right, they will continue living that recipe for success that has made the last 58 years something special for them and all of us fortunate enough to share in their journey together.

How to Realize Your Retirement Potential

When we retire, we hope the next 20 or more years will be a rewarding and exciting time that perhaps even surpasses the years leading up to this point. The hard work is behind us, and we have earned the freedom to explore and experience what is most important to each of us. But with so much to choose from it is not unusual to find yourself a bit overwhelmed. Here’s how to make the most of your retirement years:

Plan now. Retired life will be different than what you are used to. Your schedule will no longer be dominated by a job or the responsibilities of raising a family. An unfamiliar but intriguing freedom to do what you want will become the natural state of affairs. The days ahead are a blank canvas that you can choose to artfully paint or leave simply uncluttered.

It is important to prepare and plan for this significant transition before you get there. A thorough understanding of how your lifestyle will change will allow you to make the most of your time and avoid unpleasant surprises. You can line up interests and hobbies that you didn’t have time for because of other commitments. Look honestly and carefully at your expenses to identify limitations, and set a realistic but livable budget. Try to look far down the road into older age to get an idea of what your needs may be. Since your retirement will hopefully extend for decades, you should put an appropriate amount of time into planning for it.

Be your own boss. Once you retire, the day starts when you say so. You can do what you want for as long as you want. You progress at a pace that suits you best. And at the end of the day your accomplishments are judged only by you. In retirement, you become your own boss. It is entirely up to you how you manage your free time. For those under the thumb of a boss it may be hard to imagine the liberating feeling experienced when daily micromanagement disappears. And not surprisingly, it can be kind of fun. Take advantage of the situation to really do what you have always wanted to do free from any boundaries set by those higher up the corporate ladder. Since you are no longer climbing that ladder you can focus more energy on the things that really matter.

Try something new. It is not uncommon to become a bit set in our ways as we age. We find comfort in doing familiar things. Security can often trump excitement as we journey into our retirement years. Although there is something to be said about predictability, we have never had a better chance to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new. We finally have time, and how we choose to spend it is actually in our control. Thinking back to when I was enmeshed in providing for the seemingly endless needs of raising a family, I remember putting aside hobbies and interests because I just could not get to them. In retirement my time is my own, and those hobbies are just waiting to be revisited along with a list of new experiences I have never tried. Of course I am a lot older now, and so I must accept the reality that my to-do list will not include bungee jumping or iron man competitions on tropical islands. But there are a host of interesting things I have not yet done that I will have time for in retirement.

Don’t heed detractors. I am always inspired by stories of senior citizens doing something beyond what the rest of us think is possible. They overcome perceived limitations to compete and create at the highest levels when most people their age are assumed to prefer sitting safely on the couch. And I would wager the most interesting retirees did not seek approval from friends or family prior to their undertakings. No one has lived the life you have or feels emotions exactly the way you do. What you may consider an interesting adventure might trigger a negative reaction from family members who expect you to act your age. But retirement should be a time of grand adventures, because you may never get another chance.

Enjoy the moments. Maintaining an optimistic retirement outlook is a worthy goal. Keeping a perpetual smile and positive attitude as you advance in years is not an easy thing to do, but it’s worth the effort. It is easier to enjoy retirement if you approach it in a positive manner. If you are too focused on the negative, you risk missing meaningful moments with family and friends. And you don’t want to miss those moments.

From my blog on US News & World

Follow These 5 R’s for a Rewarding Retirement

When you retire, you want to do it right. After so much careful preparation and struggle, you have earned the right to join the ranks of the retired, and you want to make sure it’s worth the effort. Here’s how to make sure your retirement will be fulfilling:

Reward yourself. You have earned the right to spend your free time as you choose. Don’t put pressure on yourself to fill your days with meaningful accomplishments. You are no longer a worker bee, so you can choose to do what is right for you. There is no performance review, no measures of success and no pressure to rise in the ranks. Retirement is your time to pursue what matters to you. What better reward than the option to spend your moments however you choose. You have the option to do nothing at all or try something new.

Rejuvenate your life. It is likely that after 30 or more years working you may feel a bit tired. Your job may have required a steep price for success. Retirement can be your opportunity to relax and start over at a slower pace. It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. From this day forward you can look to the future. Who you were on the job does not have to be who you are in retirement. Behaviors that were essential to your business success may be out of place in retirement. So, get rid of them. Retirement can be the perfect time to make a fresh start.

Refocus your energies. With your job behind you, get ready to add at least 40 hours of free time to your week. Now that you have the ability to choose you can focus attention on the other areas in your life that may have been ignored. Your family is likely due some make up time. Relationships with friends that have fallen to the wayside can be rekindled if you desire. If you have not been attentive to your health, this is a good time to revisit your exercise routine, establish a healthy diet and start practicing good habits across the board. All the energy that went into keeping up with the industry and corporate politics can now be refocused on real passions and interests that you want to pursue.

Respect your limitations. What you were able to do 30 years ago will not necessarily be what you can do today. But aging does not necessarily preclude living a good life. By learning to accept your limitations you can be better prepared to make the most of each day. Try not to regret what you can no longer do, but instead rejoice at what you are still capable of. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember how many times others have turned to you for assistance over the years.

Renew your interests. Think about what you want to do with your time. The hobbies and interests that excited you in the past can be revisited and explored in depth. You could write a novel, learn a new instrument, become fluent in the language of your choice, try your hand at ballroom dancing or do whatever else interests you most. Retirement is your reward for all your efforts that went into getting you safely and hopefully sanely to retirement.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.