The 80 Percent Rule in Retirement

If you do yoga, you might sometimes feel the urge to push yourself beyond what you find comfortable. You probably remember being able to easily complete a pose and hold it indefinitely not that long ago. Now when you attempt it, you may be surprised to feel an unfamiliar tightness or pain.

This is the time to listen to your body rather than a well-intentioned instructor who may try to push you too far. For those of us getting along in years, we may want to change our fitness mantra from “no pain, no gain” to “don’t overdo it.” Instead of pushing at 100 percent effort, we may now want to take it down a notch to 80 percent.

As we age it becomes important to accept we may not always be able to do everything we could when we were younger. What was easy at 20 can be challenging and sometimes even risky to attempt at 70. There will always be daredevils of all ages who push the limits of safety and sometimes common sense. But as a whole, along with aging comes an increased awareness and hopefully respect for the limitations that begin to creep into our lives.

The 80 percent rule can apply to more than just yoga. Here are some situations when it makes sense to slow down in retirement:

Exercise. During our second act, we are no longer the same 20-something who pushed himself to the brink of exhaustion during workouts. But we can still live full, exciting and eventful lives in retirement. By realizing we cannot do all we used to, we can still grab for life’s possibilities and avoid hurting ourselves.

Sports. Accepting limitations can be particularly difficult for ex-athletes. You can probably still picture yourself in your prime. Back then, you probably could have held your own in today’s world of insanity workouts. But today, unless you exhibit a bit more caution and restraint, it is not uncommon to go too far and hurt yourself. Equally bad, the recovery period for older physiques can stretch on far beyond what it took when younger.

Travel. Imagine finding yourself in a wonderful new international city with tourist attractions galore, but you only have two days before your itinerary takes you to your next destination. Rather than run yourself ragged, you may want to temper your pace. Pick a few of the sites you most want to visit and build your day around that. Throw in some time in a local cafe, maybe enjoy some time on a park bench admiring the flowers in bloom and walk the neighborhoods to experience their personality and local flavor, appreciating all they have to offer at a slower pace. You do not need to race around at 100 percent all the time to make the most of your travel experience.

Time commitment. Now that you have free time in retirement, you may find your presence in demand from family and friends. But if you commit every free moment to some activity or social event, you may find your days beginning to blur together. Making time to pursue your individual passions and interests can be an important ingredient to a successful retirement. Whether you decide the appropriate mix for you is 80 percent helping others and 20 percent relaxing or some other proportion, some formula that helps balance your time in retirement can add to the satisfaction you realize.

Work. Some retirees continue to find meaning and genuine satisfaction in the work they do. These lucky folks may choose to include work as part of their retirement life. However, for most retirees the ideal work arrangement is not a full-time endeavor. Consider cutting back your work hours or only taking on the projects you truly want to be part of.

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.

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