Are You As Happy As The Retiree Next Door?

Each morning before getting out of bed I take some time to center myself and my thoughts in preparation for the day ahead. It helps to highlight the right path before taking that first step. I am thankful for all that I have been blessed with from my wonderful parents who raised me in a sane, safe and supportive family to my now-independent children who I always enjoy seeing to my beautiful wife resting at my side. A quick glance out the window adds to a swelling feeling of appreciation as I watch the sunlight spread throughout the branches of the nearby oak trees and listen to the always vocal birds busily engaged in the morning. Aside from the “normal” aches and pains I am healthy and feel good. I look forward to what the day has to offer.

I very much enjoy being retired. The career I left behind was a good one. I was involved with a number of very cool companies with awesome people and though we may not have always knocked it out of the park we were generally successful in our efforts. But I do not miss the stress or the deadlines or pressure that came with the job. Of course it would be nice to have that regular check coming in but you can’t have everything.

Retirement has been my chance to spend time doing what I want. My focus has changed. Rather than defining myself by my work I am learning to define myself by what I do with my time. I am no longer a Sales Manager at such-and-such a start-up but rather a traveling-piano-playing-hiking-blogging-French-learning-garden-growing-new-recipe-trying-stepping-outside-of-the-box member of this human race. It took some effort to let go of the me I had been for more than three decades but I feel I have made the transition.

Bernina flowers

I am learning to focus more on experiences rather than things. When younger it was important to work toward physical things such as cars, homes, clothes, furnishings, etc. But at this stage in life, with the kids on their own and our material needs thoroughly met, it is time to move beyond just possessions. I will always enjoy a slick sports car passing me on the road but now I see it with different eyes, appreciating it rather than longing for it. Architectural Digest is filled with incredible homes and equally amazing contents – all well and good. I enjoy looking at the pictures without trying to figure out a way to have them for myself.

What lights my fire now is travelling and wandering. Whether I step out my front door to head down the road or board a plane to some preciously unvisited destination, getting out in the world is what I want to do in my retirement. There is so much to experience, so many things I have not done and now, finally, I have the time. And it is no longer about staying in the ritziest fanciest places. Now I prefer to spend my money on what lies outside rather than inside my accommodations.

Not everyone finds retirement fulfilling and exciting. Some might become bored without a clear precise routine laid out to follow each day. Without regular interaction with co-workers it is possible to begin feeling lonely. If you are no longer making money you could feel you are worth less than when you brought in a regular paycheck. As we age it becomes more difficult to do those little things we took for granted. Although liberating the freedom to make choices and live each day on your own terms is also intimidating. There is no one but me to blame if I don’t get it right.

Despite the challenges, I believe that in general retirees are happier living their second act. Despite bumps along the road having control over how you choose to spend your time is empowering.

I recently tuned into a seminar conducted by Merrill Lynch called “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List”. The gist of the session was that the majority of retirees are enjoying the leisure time that is now theirs to manage. And that is a good thing because the average 65 and older person interviewed has 7.5 hours of leisure time each day compared with those poor folks in the 35-44 age group who are limited to only 4.1 hours per day.

The freedom and flexibility to live the life they choose makes leisure time that much more rewarding. For example in retirement 60 percent found leisure experiences with their grandkids more fulfilling than with their children. Since they are free to do what they want more power to them!

I think when it comes to living a fulfilling retirement making the most of leisure time is an excellent place to start. Getting here has been a hard fought battle – time to celebrate. No one is telling us what we must do – we are free to choose. Whatever your passion, whatever your pleasure the wait is over. Enjoy!

5 Keys to Choosing the Best Place to Retire

Making the commitment to relocate once you retire is a big decision. With a roll of the dice you risk leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable from that hole-in-the-wall local bakery to the car repair shop you trust to those neighbors who have in some cases become part of the family. Yet for many the call to move after they retire is strong. Some consider relocation in an effort to downsize now that the kids are out the door. For others the old neighborhood is changing so much that it feels like it is time to move on. Still others are looking for a new adventure to launch their second act. Whatever your motivation, finding that perfect place to call home can be one of the most important decisions you will make.

After almost three decades in the Bay Area, my wife and I recently pulled up roots and moved to a new area to retire. Before ultimately hitting the road we did our due diligence. We considered numerous states before settling on California where we currently reside. Then we studied likely regions across the state until we drilled down to a handful of candidates. Next we carefully researched the areas and visited multiple times to get a feel for neighborhoods and local amenities. Along the way we agreed there were certain things we required in a new home and neighborhood – our must haves.

Close to amenities that matter

Now that you are retired you have time to do what you really want to do. Part of the successful relocation equation is to put yourself near those things you love. For us walking distance to the local downtown was a biggie. Get your daily exercise while discovering the best restaurants and shops and meeting the locals. It is wonderful to stroll to your favorite coffee shop where you are greeted by the quirky owner who entertains you with endless stories while creating the perfect cappuccino to start your day. As you get older nearness to local medical facilities becomes increasingly important. Having qualified people you know and trust nearby makes life easier and safer. Access to public transportation can be a big plus greatly expanding your range of activities should driving become challenging. And for me it was important to be close to the beach where I imagine the retired me patiently wandering the coastline with waves booming as salt air mists in my face. With a bit of careful planning retirement can be a time to surround yourself with what you love.

Couple in Canoe

Supportive environment

Different neighborhoods cater to different people. Finding an area sensitive to the needs of seniors is a worthy consideration if not necessarily for this moment but rather down the road. Shuttles to get around, organizations to engage with, volunteer opportunities to donate time, pet friendly restaurants, all little things that can make retirement living more enjoyable and fun. Living near others of similar age and interests and background helps make for a smoother transition and quicker assimilation.

Variety of local attractions

Years ago a boss of mine shared his view that living near a college town was high on his list of must haves. “There is always something going on and the energy of the students keeps you young.” Having multiple options when it comes to local attractions is important. If you are hikers finding a retirement location near parks and mountains and oceans can be just the ticket. Should nightlife and the theater be your thing access to a big city is important. You need not necessarily live in the city just within a reasonable distance. If you like to travel consider where the nearest airport is located. We found ourselves in a newly developing relatively unknown wine region with a handful of tasting rooms within walking distance, handy when visitors show up at our door. The more activities available in your backyard the better equipped you are to avoid boredom.

Good weather

My wife thrives in sunshine and I have to admit as I get older I like the cold less and less. We love hiking on a sunny day through the woods and neighborhood so sunshine was a big part of our final relocation decision. We have friends who love to ski and so nearness to snow is an essential part of their retirement destination. There are even those who love the rain. When it comes to weather we all have our preferences. The key is to choose a retirement spot with weather that maximizes what you love and minimizes what you can gladly do without.

Age friendly design of the house

The house you retire to can be your friend or occasionally your enemy. While stairs are a non-issue when you’re twenty aging knees may rebel if required to ascend to the bedroom each night. The convenience of a single story home will be appreciated down the road. Little things also make a difference: cabinets with drawers allow access to things stored in the back; shelves not too high up; good lighting throughout; efficient heating and cooling to maintain a comfortable temperature; easy to use appliances that don’t require an advanced degree to operate; even handles on doors instead of knobs help. Little details can have big impact.

Being comfortable and safe in retirement is how we all hope to live. Having enough interests and variety in our day to keep us engaged and active gives us a reason to get out of bed each morning. Finding a retirement location that best fits your expectations while inching ever closer to your dreams is a step in the right direction.