What do I really NEED in retirement?

Everywhere we look these days we find bountiful advice about how to best prepare for retirement.  Advisers who know absolutely nothing about us as individuals with lives as unique and different as snowflakes on a winter day are nevertheless confident about making recommendations that will dictate whether or not we will be happy once retired.

Save enough so that you can spend 4% each year; you will need at least 80% of your current earnings to live comfortably in retirement; downsizing is the way to go when you reach senior citizen status.

And these guidelines will facilitate a “happy retirement” according to whose definition of happy? Most of us cannot even agree on a movie to watch let alone what will ultimately provide us with a satisfying life in retirement. I am not sure that I trust someone who does not know me to make such a critical recommendation for me.

What is it that I really NEED in retirement to be content? If it was entirely up to me – actually it is – is there a magic formula?

Here is what I really NEED in retirement to be happy (WARNING: your mileage may vary…):

(1) My wife – my best friend, my confidant, my ever-tough backgammon opponent, my sanity in an insane world, my shelter from the storm, and my biggest fan who laughs at my jokes when others only gaze in wonder. Each day when we awake, we face each other, snuggle closer together, and embrace like it was the first time. We hold this position for minutes on days that we work, longer on weekends. But it is the starting point for every day and we are reminded of the special bond between us and never take each other for granted. Talk about the way to start your day!

(2) The ocean – each of us has some place that brings us a feeling of inner peace, where heart rates decrease, stress departs, and we just plain enjoy being. For me it is the beach. Constant rolling waves along distant shorelines with an ever-changing landscape of sand, shells, gnarly driftwood and whip-like seaweed are just the ticket. And it is not about necessarily living on the beach but just being able to walk there. Gas for the trip – $15; lunch for two $15; feeling I get when I am there – priceless.

(3) A house to live in – our mortgage is almost paid off. So the house is a little bigger than we may need just the four of us (two peoples, two cats). That is okay despite what the pundits recommend. So the neighborhood is changing – the good news is young families are moving in with their kids. Nothing makes me feel younger than watching youngsters playing around the neighborhood. And nothing serves better to remind me how lucky we are that OUR kids are raised! Traffic may be getting worse – where do I really have to be that cannot wait until rush hour is done and gone? Our house is a home – our home.

(4) Good health – the wild card that is a bit out of our immediate control. We do all we can with regular exercise, healthy diet (I actually drank a concoction this morning made of celery, carrots, lettuce, and kale with a little ginger thrown in for good measure. The nutrition is awesome and the taste is not really bad at all – trust me!) , moderate alcohol consumption (I do love my red wine), and just an overall focus on doing what is good for us. But we do not know what the cards have in store so we live each day and appreciate it and each other.

A happy retirement cannot be calculated or formulated with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

We are individuals with unique tastes and desires and definitions of what is happiness.

The trick is not to stress out about the right formula.

The trick is to figure out the real definition that fits – your definition of happiness.

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4 thoughts on “What do I really NEED in retirement?

  1. Your list is pretty much in sync with mine. Of course, I live in the desert so the ocean is a little more than $15 in gas away. My idea of paradise is a beach on Maui. Someday I’d like to spend a few months a year on my beach mat thinking about nothing.

    I would add one more item to my list: being where my family is. I am lucky in that everyone is less than 30 minutes away and we truly enjoy each others’ company. That is what keeps my wife and me the happiest.

    Oh, and we have “snuggle time” every morning, too.

  2. You make some excellent points. “One size fits all” works as poorly in retirement as it does everyplace else.” And your idea of making a list of those things you actually NEED is excellent. I’m going to think about that. Thanks, Bill

  3. Bob- Maui works for me too! Nearness to family is a big one – we are currently a few hours from everyone on my side. My wife’s family is in Switzerland so what a great excuse to head to the alps!

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