Once we retire it is up to us to make the most of the life we live in our second act. The good news is no one is telling us what to do. The bad news is if we don’t figure it out for ourselves there is no one to blame or bail us out. Although ideas of what constitutes the perfect retirement may differ at a minimum we hope to enjoy each day for all it is worth. After all we have been through to get here who is more deserving of a fun fulfilling retirement?
I often hear from readers who enter retirement with grand visions of happy carefree days to be spent golfing, sleeping in, lazing away the hours in pursuit of whatever lights their respective fire or just kicking back. This is their time to turn down the volume and slow the pace. And that is fine to a point – I am a big believer in downtime. But before too long we are likely to discover doing nothing but nothing can become a bit boring. After decades immersed in busy working lives running at full speed it is nice to chill a bit. But with 20 or more years ahead it is a rare retiree who can remain satisfied and happy in a perpetual state of inactivity.
We deserve to live a good retirement life and I like to think doing so is within our grasp. Baring insurmountable financial struggles or overwhelming physical challenges each of us can hope to discover those right ingredients that make the best retirement possible.
Still a novice at the fulltime retirement game with a mere three years under my belt I am fortunate to have discovered what are at least for me some keys to living a good retirement.
Find and live the pace that is right for you
As I said I believe taking time to relax in retirement is a well-deserved reward. But too much down time makes Dave a dull boy. I realize if I want to keep my mind engaged at any reasonable level I need to work it just like any other muscle. Whether puzzling or writing, reading or learning a new language, memorizing the world map or figuring out the ideal layout for a vegetable garden, keeping the old noggin involved is a commitment to my future. On the other hand too much activity can be as bad as too little. Finding the right balance between the two makes the most sense. Work a little, play a little, rest a little, and smile a lot. Today I may be full of energy and ready to take on the world – so I go for it. Tomorrow may find me happiest patiently savoring my morning coffee while reading the latest Mitch Rapp novel. The right mix of activity lived at the right pace can make for a retirement that like Goldilocks’ porridge is just right.
Don’t sweat the little things
If I let every ache and pain rule my days I would likely spend more time in bed than upright. Getting older is no easy chore. Between struggling to remember where the car keys are and bending all the way over to pick up a dropped book daily challenges pop up everywhere. What am I going to do? I cannot stop the advance of time or halt the loss of physical prowess. Things in general are not as easy to accomplish as they were twenty years ago. So what. If I cannot change it what good is worrying about it? I try to let life’s little annoyances float on by like a butterfly on a warm summer breeze. I focus on what I can do rather than what I cannot. It is not always easy but I am learning little in life is. That does not mean I cannot let the little things take care of themselves while I do my best to enjoy today for all it is worth.
Don’t take life for granted
At the start of each day as I look out the window at the world around me I am thankful. Thankful for the gnarly oak trees that possessively hug the yard in an ancient embrace and the sapphire blue sky, the crisp clean air and the quiet of morning before the rest of the world engages, the rich cup of coffee and the wonderful lady I wake up next to each day. I know I am blessed and I do my best to never take it for granted. I know things can change in an instant but I try not to worry about what may be. I smile more than I frown and I try to be sensitive to those around me and what they may be going through. Today is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I will do my best not to waste a moment.
Realize you can still make a difference
Since we are retired my wife and no longer have “official jobs” in the work force. After 30 plus years of contributing to society we are now free from the responsibilities of working for a living. At first that can be a bit disconcerting. How should we spend our days? Can we still make a contribution? The answer is of course we can. Retirement can be the perfect time to make a difference doing something you want to rather than have to do. In our community volunteering is something most everyone engages in. Seniors and volunteering go hand in hand. But there is so much more out there. Just being a good listener can make the difference in someone’s day. Sharing wisdom with younger generations (as long as they are willing to listen) may help someone avoid mistakes you survived along the way. Good deeds and random acts of kindness can become your new work schedule. You can make a difference and now you have the opportunity to figure out where.
Three years into it I feel I am having a good retirement. The trick will be to say that when I am 20 years into it! Nothing worthwhile is easy and navigating the retirement jungle is no different. Good luck to all of us and good retirement to us all.