Do you ever picture what your life will be like once you retire? It’s fun to imagine what is to come once you are 100 percent in control of how you choose to spend your time. Freedom to do what you want, minimal stress, the chance to do those things you could never find time for, and no one leaning over your shoulder telling you what to do. It sounds wonderful and it can be. The secret is to plan ahead and prepare for the next chapter. Spend time figuring out how you will spend this extended vacation that will last decades. And not just your finances – it is also important to figure out what you will do, what you want to do with the free time that will be yours to manage.
What do you want your retirement to be?
I look at my parents who have been retired for seventeen years. Both are relatively healthy beyond the normal age related issues we will all have to face. Although not as active as they once were they keep plenty busy with bridge games, dinner parties, travels (more local these days but since they have already travelled everywhere they really want, that works), a bit of golf, family visits, lots of reading, and a sprinkling of FOX News and old movies from Netflix. Mom still cooks most meals and dad pitches in with dishes (only fair). Dad always loved maintaining his garden – roses are his specialty. He can no longer do it all himself but still makes time to get outdoors and work the land a bit.
I am not sure how they imagined their retirement but believe mom and dad are happy with how things turned out. Keeping busy – mentally as well as physically – has allowed them to remain sharp and engaged with life. They have a wonderful network of friends clearly demonstrated come Christmas time when the cards roll in big time. Not a bad retirement by most standards.
Before retiring four years ago (that went fast!), I spent time looking ahead to the day I would exit the working world. I read books, blogs, and reports. I listened to seminars and podcasts. I talked with retired folks in my immediate circle of friends or more accurately my parents circle. It seemed everyone had a different thought on what was best about being retired. Since retirement is a very personal journey, I believe every choice can be right as long as you pursue your passions.
For me there are two simple reasons why retirement is such a wonderful place to be.
The kids are out of the house and living independently. The mortgage is paid so we just have to save for property taxes and maintenance. I have stepped off the corporate ladder and no longer battle to reach the next rung. I said goodbye to problems getting to sleep as nothing stressful waits in the wings. Demands on my time are few so I am free to pursue what interests me. Talking with others who are still working I almost feel guilty – almost.
The absence of stress in my life is a welcome state. I feel more at ease, able to appreciate and enjoy more fully little things previously overlooked. I don’t worry about what is beyond my control. Where in the past the good life often passed me by in a blur I now live each day at a pace that suits me. No stress – no problem.
Hello new interests/experiences
When I was in high school we were required to learn a foreign language. I chose Spanish. Once graduated, I never looked back and what I may have learned gradually became rather rusty. Until now that was fine – I had no real interest in languages. Then we went to Paris and I found myself intrigued by the French spoken all around me. With a new found interest and time on my hands I downloaded an app called Duolingo and dedicate a little time each day to learning French. I have no plans to become fluent – I just want to be able to pick up a bit of conversation, ask for directions, read a menu, you know – the basics. I am having fun and my wife is impressed with my progress (since she speaks French I value her opinion). Similarly my interest in history during earlier life was pretty much nonexistent. I am not sure why I now love learning about all things past from the European monarchs to the Indian Wars to those numerous events that changed the course of history. Who knows where my interests will take me next? One of the best things about retirement is having all the time you want to dedicate to newly discovered interests. The clock no longer dictates my day – I am in control.
The other day a neighbor came by to visit. We talked a bit and when I described how I was exploring the wonders of history via an online course his response was “Boy, don’t ever let me retire!” His idea of retirement is running that next marathon or ballooning over the countryside or pushing himself to some new extreme. My idea of the perfect retirement is a bit different. The good news is we are both right. How we choose to live the best retirement is up to our individual wants, wishes and passions. Enjoy!