Our preparation for retirement too often focuses exclusively on getting our financial house in order. We are led to believe that if we just build a big enough nest egg, happiness will be ours once we retire. Websites offering investment guidance are plentiful ranging from individual planners to major insurance and investment companies. And it makes sense for seniors to heed the advice of professionals with the confusing myriad of options and rules and laws that regulate investments like 401k, IRAs, annuities, bonds, mutual funds, derivatives, etc. Each has its pluses and minuses, its risks and rewards, and without professional guidance, we can easily become overwhelmed.
So we agree that we need to address financial independence as PART of retirement planning. But if that is the exclusive focus of your efforts on, if amassing that huge retirement nest egg becomes the be all and end all of your days, you will be ill prepared to fully live and enjoy your retirement days. And there is a real cost to build your retirement nest egg as it impacts your family. Having focused every moment on making more money, how do you plan to spend your time once retired? Will you really be good or satisfied with anything other than making more money? Can you be happy doing something else? You don’t want to find out after you leave the working world that you really have no idea what to do with the spare time you worked so hard to achieve.
While recently in Lake Tahoe to enjoy to the serenity and peace only found at that pristine, alpine lake, I read a book that has been recommended across many retirement blogs “How to retire happy, wild, and free”, by Ernie Zelinski. An excellent read and Ernie hits it on the button with his observations on what is important to assure a happy, fulfilling retirement beyond just financial security. Rather than set your sights on $1M or $5M or some other number based on financial planners recommending a minimum of 80% of your working life income to retire, factor in that your costs will be less. Ernie lists eight reasons why retirees can expect to live on significantly less than this 80%, including paid off mortgages, no commuting expenses, lower tax bracket, no more education and children expenses (well at least not as much as before), and the fact that you no longer need material things to validate yourself in the eyes of others. Without living an extravagant life style on a daily basis – every now and then is kinda fun – most middle class couples can live on 50% or less of their previous income.
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Beware – time can be your enemy. Just as building your nest egg requires planning NOW for a satisfying retirement later, so should you begin defining and understanding what your retired life will look like from a other than financial perspective. Now is the time to learn to navigate the retirement jungle. If you wait too long, you will find yourself unable to take corrective action to assure you are ready to cross the finish line into retirement life. With no interests or passions other than work, it will be very challenging to automatically create these after you retire.
Find your passions prior to retirement – and start to develop them now. You want to enjoy retired life! Try different things and then zero in on those you like best. You can be picky – you can do what you want to do! What about those careers you dreamed of as a child? Once retired, you will finally have your chance to take a wander down that path. Don’t limit yourself or doubt if you can do it – now you can. But if you enter retirement with no hobbies or interests, with no passions to get your juices flowing, the days can quickly start blending into each other, boredom will creep in, and soon that enjoyable retirement you worked so hard to attain becomes a burden. Your retirement is your chance to try something new, something you have always wanted to do but because of responsibilities and expectations, you could not or did not. You alone are responsible for taking the first steps toward doing what you WANT to do and living up to the only expectations that really matter – your own.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.