Once you hit age 50 or thereabouts it’s normal to find yourself thinking of retirement. Hopefully you have been preparing along the way and find yourself financially able to make the move when you are ultimately ready. You don’t want to begin planning to retire in your 50’s – by that time there is not much runway remaining to launch your transition. But assuming along the way you have been diligent, consistent in your savings efforts, realistic about the future and more than a little lucky, when your second act rolls in you should find yourself able to relax and look forward to good times.
You might find living the retired life a bit challenging at first. After decades spent with others telling you what to do – also known as the job – as a retiree you suddenly find you are in control of how you spend your time. You decide what to do and when to do it. The freedom can be intoxicating – what an awesome opportunity to spend your hours in pursuit of what you love! But what if you don’t have any particular passions or have not yet identified any? Suddenly that independence can feel a burden as you try to fill your day with “things” to keep you busy, keep you engaged, and bring meaning to your existence.
And how do you define meaning in your new role as full time retiree? Back in the working world deadlines and goals helped determine success. A completed project provided a clear measure of accomplishment. Perhaps a promotion justified long hours spent proving yourself as it moved you ever higher in the food chain. In the working world things are more quantifiable. In retirement meaning is often a bit fuzzier, more elusive.
Not every moment need be spent in meaningful pursuit of noble causes. As a bone fide retiree you have earned the right to do nothing, to chill, and just relax. I think you better serve your cause by seeking a balance between relaxation and meaningful activities. On a little, off a little.
In retirement you don’t worry about fancy titles. In fact it is often those who held lofty titles in the working world who find it hardest to adjust to a life where fellow retirees are peers instead of subordinates. Power trippers beware – when you retire you leave your fame and glory behind. It is important to be happy with who you are outside of work. The good news is you can now spend time figuring out exactly who that person will be. Just because you are no longer contributing to the bottom line does not mean you cannot contribute to living a fulfilling second act.
Having focused long and hard on building your nest egg as you saved all you possibly could, don’t be surprised if in retirement you find yourself reluctant to part with those hard earned dollars. A reader of LoveBeingRetired explains his dilemma: “Spending money is a huge deal for me. Guided by a certified planner for the past 31+ years, we’ve saved and invested just for this very retirement period I recently started. With saving and living beneath means for so many years, I can’t seem to just flip the switch to start spending. NOTHING seems to be of enough value to me to spend the money. Everything seems SO expensive these days that I persuade myself that I can live without it.”
Who among us is free from the fear of running out of money? With realistic hopes of living 10 or 20 years as retirees an extended future is in store for many. We all want our finances to last to the end. But it is important to remember what all the years of frugal living was intended for – to subsidize the retirement lifestyle we want. If we refuse to spend anything we risk missing out. A little prioritization of what really matters along with a bit of loosening of the purse strings can be just the ticket. Frugality is essential but so is balancing a heavy wallet with a happy heart.
Responsibility in retirement is different. To this point the focus has been on taking care of others whether a demanding boss or a dependent child. In the retirement world you are elevated to first billing. Your happiness is no longer automatically superseded by those around you. Now is the time to spoil you. The trick is learning to become comfortable with this new state of affairs. It is not always easy to let go or to trust in the abilities of others to get things done. But if you can, if you are able to direct your efforts toward you and your retirement happiness, you will have discovered one of the secrets of what it means to be retired.
When you retire you are afforded a glimpse into a new future, a future that is more in your control than any other time in your life. You obligations are fewer. Experience has taught you how to cope with not-so-easy situations. Your happiness matters. And if you hope to stay on track there is no place for regret. Worrying about the past is a waste. What you might have done differently is irrelevant since you cannot change or fix it. The important thing is what you do from this moment onward.
Retirement is only the beginning of a new chapter. Daily life will be interesting, sometimes exciting, at times challenging. Remember you are at the wheel. You chart your own course. Drive safely and enjoy the journey!