Many are convinced the secret to a successful retirement is saving enough money to build a sufficient nest egg that can subsidize life as a happy retiree. Financial pundits, self-assured magazine writers and industry wise bloggers tout the importance of getting to that right number to make your retirement dreams come true. If you save enough it will come. Although we can agree that money is an important ingredient, I fear this tunnel vision obsession is a mistake. Rather than guarantee that perfect retirement, it fails to address an equally important piece of the puzzle.
It’s not always easy to get a handle on living the retired life that is a best fit for you. Since the lifestyle you choose and situation you live is unique to you there is no formula or one size fits all solution to assure effective planning. It is up to each of us to do our due diligence and work through the specifics in hopes of coming to the best possible scenario that corresponds to our unique interests, passions and requirements. Enough money addresses part of the equation – agreed. But how do you prepare for the rest? What can you do to better assure you live a fulfilling and interesting and meaningful second act?
A reader of my blogs shares the challenge he faces doing his best to get ready for his nearing retirement: The interesting thing I’ve uncovered in my research is over 90% of the material out these is related to the financial aspects of retirement. Almost none of it deals with the soft issues, your emotions, expectations, and happiness in retirement. I take every opportunity to chat with retired folks to see how they are doing and get their advice and opinions.
Money is not the final answer. It can be a mistake to assume that once you have enough in the old bank account your retirement preparation is complete. There is so much more to consider. What will you do to bring meaning to your daily life? How will you cope with the challenges that come with aging? What will you do to take care of yourself physically? How can you keep mentally sharp and engaged with life? What are your plans to integrate your new 24/7 life with your partner? Do you have enough hobbies and interests and passions for the coming decades?
I believe it is possible that having what you believe is a sufficient amount of money to live your second life might even lull you into a false sense of security. Let’s say you have enough to pay the bills and do what you want – excellent! That is a good start. You have the money and you have the time and for the first year or so you will probably stay blissfully engaged. Attack that to-do list, visit those faraway places you have patiently collected information in your bulging travel folder, spend time with your neglected hobbies, and just chill in the backyard. But what comes next? After the honeymoon period comes to an end and you stare down the road at 20 or 30 more years to entertain yourself, what is the plan?
The sooner we start planning the non-financial side of retirement, the better our chance to realize the life we have hoped for. One reader of my blogs comments: I am starting my retirement adventure on January 1st. It is clear that although I have financially planned for my retirement, I have not accounted for what I want to do. That is the challenge I am facing now. I just started researching the subject today and started a list of all the things that I can think of. I am up to 32!
It is wonderful to realize the importance of finding those “what to do” activities. But it is a bit scary the search has not started much earlier. If you are going to spend 20 years in retired living, shouldn’t you put in a proportionate amount of preparation? It is a mistake to put more time and effort into preparing for a two week vacation than into a two decade retirement. Don’t just hope for the best take action to make it so. I have been retired for one year and need some guidance on how to put passion into my retirement life’s goals and dreams. I’m floundering and didn’t realize I needed to plan for my new acquired uncommitted time.
Having enough money does not guarantee the retirement we want and hope for. Too much focus on finances can be a big part of people’s unhappiness. Living a happy retirement requires a balance between money and those equally important non-financial aspects of daily life. Take care of the essentials, but realize there is so much more to living happy. Remember time is like a coin – you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. Enjoy…