Mom and dad were married in 1956 in San Mateo, CA. Dad was a physician in the army and mom a nurse at Mills Hospital so not surprisingly they met at a hospital dance and quickly learned that they were meant for each other. As they say, the rest is history. Having raised three children, they still live in the same house we moved to when I was seven years old – approximately 100 years ago. My dad retired from the hospital at 66 and together they set out on their retirement journey. With all of the challenges and problems couples face these days, how have they been able to not only make it but excel at the retirement game? What are some of their secrets to happiness and recipes for sanity? Let’s share some wisdom from the folks because they really have this retirement life figured out.
Attention to the little things
Being together for 50+ years, mom and dad know intimately what makes each other tick. And the beauty of their relationship is their constant attention to the little things that make for a happy relationship. They never take for granted that each day is special, a one-time-only event, and they work together to make the best of it.
Each morning, rain or shine, dad gets up and puts together a breakfast tray with fresh coffee and the newspaper. Typically a flower from the garden graces the tray just so. With this in hand, he returns to bed where they read a bit, comment on what is new in the world, and prepare for the upcoming day. Take-away for the rest of us: slow and steady – start each day together, share a quiet and reflective moment, instead of immediately jumping into the fray.
The folks still hold hands as they go on evening walks. Strolling down the avenue, side by side, they share private thoughts or comments on the neighborhood they navigate. They hold hands on their way to the symphony or a local play. It seems they hold hands pretty much all the time and I thank them for their wonderful example because I am also an inveterate hand holder, much to my wife’s delight. Take-away: don’t be afraid to hold hands – not only your spouse but the rest of the world will know of your true feelings.
On the birthday of each of their children, dad takes mom out to dinner. The kids have their celebration and each receives a birthday card and a call and best wishes. But the real work on each birthday was done by MOM. Dad appreciates this and celebrates with her three times a year. Take-away: just plain a great idea!
While dating, mom and dad shared a book or two of favorite poetry which they alternatively read to one another, often while picnicking in a local park. To this day, they still take time to share loving words of poetry as they did more than 50 years ago. Socrates had it right – “One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life, that word is Love”. Take-away: poetry is still cool.
Before you can begin to fully appreciate the little things you need to do what it takes to assure you have enough money to retire in the lifestyle you want. Sydney Lagier shares with us “7 Secrets to Happy Retirement” in which enough money is as you would expect important. Happily, she notes that the absolute amount of money is not as important as having enough to continue your pre-retirement lifestyle.
Mom and dad always looked to the future with a focus on being able to retire comfortably when the time comes. As kids, we never felt that we were missing out on anything but behind the scene, mom and dad often did without. In the early days, the kids had our own beds but they slept on a sofa and a bumpy one at that. Though their salaries were sparse, they still saved each month. They had goals for building a family and eventually a comfortable retirement and did not compromise. But they had their priorities and never scrimped on our educations, putting all three kids through private Catholic High School as well as college. This ground work enabled mom and dad to set the stage for a good retirement life so they can now enjoy each day together – one little thing at a time.
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