If you were to give the retirement life you have been living to this point a grade – like back in school – would you be looking at an “A” for excellent or a “C” for average or (hopefully not) an “F” for failure? There are a lot of variables – maybe it’s better to go with pass/fail. It’s not always easy to live the retirement of our dreams. I think the bottom line is are you happy with your second act or is there room for improvement? And if there is room for improvement what can you do to raise your grade?
I have been retired full time about five years now. Most readers of LoveBeingRetired are familiar with the story of my fall from grace in the tech start-up world that left me prematurely job free well before anticipated. Sometimes you have to accept harsh reality which for me was I was too old (at 53!!) to do a worthy job within my chosen career at least according to the hiring powers. I am not bitter (well not overly bitter) but it was an unexpected turn of events to say the least.
Looking back at these years in retirement I find myself reliving a myriad of emotions:
- The fear I was totally unprepared for the decades of “independence” ahead.
- The self-doubt following months spent unsuccessfully trying to get back into the working world.
- The nagging concern over finances.
- Then the glimmer of possibilities as I began getting used to my new lifestyle and actually enjoying it.
- And now the hopeful expectation for all that is still to be.
Before assigning a grade to my retirement or yours there are a few questions worthy of consideration.
Do you find meaning in your life? Many find their justification for being in the job they do. Once separated from that daily endeavor they struggle to find that same feeling of worth. If you can’t find worthwhile endeavors beyond the job retirement can feel empty. It becomes difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning – what is the purpose? But if you have reasons, motivations, passions that excite you each day can offer new opportunity. You don’t have to stick to the same road that led you here. Try new things, branch out, cut loose and do what feels good. Finding meaning is very personal and no two paths are exactly the same. How would you rate your current situation?
Do you have plans for the future? I have found having goals keep me moving forward. Retirement need not be the end of aspirations. Glen Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Retirement offers precious time to do what you want to do. Whether your passion is travel or learning, reading or writing, painting or singing, the time you need to explore new directions is now yours. What do you see yourself doing tomorrow? Next month? Next year?
What would you change about your situation? Back in the day we worked hard to earn those all-important “A” grades. It makes sense that it takes similar effort to boost our retirement rating to an honor roll worthy level. And while a report card full of “A”s as a student may have been awesome a stellar retirement rating means you are on track to live the best second act possible. Are there areas requiring attention to realize the best retirement possible? Can you fine tune your lifestyle to increase the likelihood of living a fulfilling retired life?
What are the best things about being retired? Sometimes life feels a bit heavy as we strive to address various challenges such as aging or unwelcome money issues or living without clear direction or struggling with boredom. Occasionally we may find that old Ben Franklin comparison of pluses versus minuses tipping in the wrong direction. As an inveterate optimist I typically see the glass half full. I have found worrying has no impact on the outcome of events. No matter how I fret good things and bad things happen. Why not face the future like Frank Sinatra who sang “The best is yet to come.” And those best of moments are sometimes found in the least likely of circumstances.
What are your plans for your continuing education? Just because we haven’t been to class for years does not mean we are no longer capable of learning. With the free time retirees enjoy the opportunity presents itself to pursue areas that interest us rather than are required of us. Your second act can be the right time to learn more about what you love without the stress of final exams. Put that mind to work. Keep yourself engaged and challenged. You are never done learning.
Are you happy? At the end of the day when you glance into the mirror do you see a smiling face looking back? If you do, give yourself an “A” for making your retirement work. That is what is all about right, finding happiness and fulfillment and enjoyment each day. Whatever path you discover, whatever steps and missteps you take, wherever your journey leads you if when it is all said and done you feel positively about how your time is being spent you are doing just fine. As a matter of a fact, feel free to do more of the same!
Each of us has the power to influence the quality of our retired life. With some work hopefully we can improve a less-than-stellar grade to something closer to an “A”. Why settle for average when you can be excellent. When you think about it, now that you are retired is there a more worthy focus for your attention?