Don’t Let Living in the Past Threaten Your Future

It’s not unusual when looking at pictures of our younger days to feel a bit nostalgic. Seeing ourselves when we were smooth skinned and shiny eyed, when the world held so much promise and every day brought the possibility of new exciting experiences strikes a sweet chord in our heart. Remember when you had energy to burn and napping happened once a day at the end of the day? Sore muscles and tired joints were momentary inconveniences that quickly passed. Good eyes, strong teeth, stamina without end and the ability to eat whatever you want without fear of repercussion were nothing out of the ordinary – just the way it was.

Then one day instead of living the life depicted in those pictures we find ourselves outsiders looking in wishing what had been could be again.

Many believe the past holds the best moments of their life lived. Glory days back in school were as good as things ever got. The early days were the best days. After that the merciless grind of the job and burden of making a living sometimes became all-encompassing. Who has time for fun living in a world where every hour in the day must be productively spent?

I read a book about a 50 year old who felt his life was slipping by. Mistakes and miscalculation that mere decades ago could easily have been overcome now felt insurmountable. The clock was ticking and he feared he was running out of time to be all he could be. His focus was on how great his earlier life had been and how lost he felt having arrived at the ripe old age of 50.

I don’t buy it.

Sure it was grand to be young and strong and energetic back in the day. When it comes to physical prowess youth holds the edge. But what about when you need your brain, when intellect and experience give you the advantage? The adage wisdom comes with age is well said. Diverse experiences over our lifetime teach us how to react and respond optimally to unpredictable situations. It’s hard to realize the benefit of learning from our mistakes when we have not been on this Earth long enough to stumble and get back up few times. We learn over the years to avoid mistakes that caused suffering or hardship. The accumulation of knowledge and experiences along with patience and understanding ideally evolve into something those few in years do not possess – namely wisdom. None of us is born wise – it is the product of time and living.

danger thin ice

Before you overdo it with sweet thoughts of those perfect days of yore take a moment to think back on some of the less-than-romantic realities of your younger days. I for one would not want to relive those anxious dating days when I psyched myself up to make that call to invite a classmate on a date. Pacing anxiously up and down the hallway, rehearsing my “lines” as I struggled to get it just right, finally approaching the phone with my heart in my throat only to turn away at the last second to regroup and try again.

What about your first driving test – wasn’t that fun? Or your first visit to the dentist – oh joy! And those nightmares paled in significance when down the road you found yourself impossibly tasked with coming up with some magical solution to ease the pain your daughter felt being dumped by her boyfriend. It is one thing to deal with your own broken heart but quite another to feel the helplessness of a well-intentioned father who only wants his child to be happy and safe but is ultimately at a loss.

Would you really voluntarily relive those moments all over again?

Being young is wonderful but it is only one stage of life. Obsessing over what you could have been or should have done will not change where and who you are today. Don’t waste the possibilities of today to dwell on a yesterday over which you have no control.

I prefer the glass half full perspective when it comes to expectations of what lies ahead. Rather than fret about the things I may not have accomplished to this point I try to focus on what I can do or become or experience. For retirees our second act can be a second chance. Why not pursue dreams of your youth now that you are blessed with unlimited time and relative independence? Accepting that you are getting older does not mean you must surrender meekly. Retirement can be your time to add excitement and new adventures to your life resume.

We cannot change the past and we may not know what the future holds but we can live in this moment and make the best of it. Rather than obsess over what could have been its better to obsess over what still might be. And enjoy!

LoveBeingRetired.com

 

 

What to Expect in Retirement

The only way to really understand what it is like to live the retirement life is to do it. You might read books and blogs to get a high level overview of what to expect. Friends and family may have helpful input based upon personal experiences. And there are more courses and classes than you can shake a stick at. All of this information can provide some guidance as you begin to navigate your retirement journey. But no one who has gone before you will have lived retirement in exactly the same way you will.

Our freedom to pursue what we love while building the custom retirement closest to our individual definition of perfection is a gift. Imagine creating a “job” description for yourself that includes only those things you love. As a retiree you can set your own hours, spend your time doing what you want, avoid unnecessary stress, answer to no one and look forward to tomorrow. How does that sound?

Although your journey will not exactly mirror my own I want to share a few noteworthy discoveries made over the last four years spent in the trenches (aka retirement).

Taking responsibility for your own inspiration

It is a sad fact that some retirees all too soon find themselves disappointed. When high expectations are not met boredom and frustration can follow. And yet there are others who revel in their days. They are busy and engaged and often cannot find enough time in the day to get everything done they want. One difference is they do not wait for the world to inspire them. Instead they seek out excitement and new experiences forever on the lookout for new avenues to explore. It is not always easy to find inspiration to live life to the fullest. But waiting for something to come along is not a good course of action. I do my best to use my imagination, explore my dreams, try to stretch beyond any self-imposed limitations and go for it. So far so good.

Feeling more at peace with life

Many retirees find retirement to be a safe port after the storm. There is a lot to be said about finally arriving at the doorstep of our second act. Most of those stresses that consumed us in earlier years are behind us. We need no longer struggle with the pressures of the work scene. The family is for the most part (hopefully) raised and independent. We no longer feel the need to prove our self to anyone other than our self. And we have blessed free time to spend as we choose. Where in earlier days it was easy to let all the little things get to you, retirement seems to thicken the skin a bit – we learn not to sweat the small stuff especially when beyond our control.

For many, retirement can be the happiest time of their lives. Leaving stress behind and enjoying the moment can be just what the doctor ordered. I am learning to go with the flow and try to focus on the positive.

Watching expenses more closely

A reality of retirement is you must live within your means. According to  a recent study by BMO Wealth Management 35 percent of Americans over 55 consider debt reduction their biggest financial concern. If you were budget conscious before you retired the transition should be relatively painless. Just keep doing what worked for you on your way here. If balancing the books was challenging in the past there is some good news. You will no longer have to deal with certain expenses like education, mortgage payments (roughly one third of Americans 55 and older have paid off their homes), commuting costs, business clothes and 401k deductions. The bad news is healthcare costs have the potential to more than make up for many of those discontinued fees. I am learning in retirement the importance of balancing and prioritizing, of spending on what is most important to health and happiness while cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary things. So far it is not that difficult – just takes a little extra effort.

Humoring those friends not yet retired

Although I am retired not all of my friends are so fortunate. It should not be surprising that an occasional pang of jealousy might come into play. The good news is my friends are a great bunch of people. They look forward to their own exit from the working world, most the sooner the better. Still it does not hurt to be sensitive. Some jobs are just fine while others are nightmares. I try to encourage those struggling to hang in there and keep their eye on the prize. I tell them how I enjoy the retired life but don’t rub it in. Keep on track, stay focused and don’t give up. I can personally vouch for the fact it will be worth the wait.

No one knows how their retirement will play out until they begin living it. Expect the unexpected. Prepare as best you can for the financial as well as non-financial aspects of your journey. Do your best. Then hang on for the ride – it should be a doosie!

LoveBeingRetired.com

Get To Know The Retired You

It is not always easy to get retirement right from day one. The business that has occupied our days for the past 30 plus years as we navigate our careers and family life is not the best training ground. Where our working years tend to be dominated by perpetual responsibilities resulting in the daunting challenge to find enough time in the day to get everything done we must, retirement for many can be the polar opposite. Instead of others directing us to do what they want – be that boss or child or spouse – living our second act finds us much more in control of our time and choice of activities. Retirement can be the best of times if you understand yourself, are aware of your motivations and passions, and have a clear view of the path ahead.

Before I “officially” retired, I often imagined what it would be like. Free to manage my time howsoever I envisioned days of leisure slowly unfurling as I enjoyed the new found freedom from stress in pursuit of what mattered to me. Without deadlines and quotas shadowing my every step I planned to find the perfect pace at which to live each day – goodbye rush and hustle. No more taking one for the team, no more heroically grinning and bearing it – I would finally be able to do what I want. I was ready to get the party started.

I optimistically (perhaps a bit naïvely) considered all the good that lay ahead, the positives rather than any potential negatives. After all what could possibly be negative when it comes to living in retirement?

It was not too long before I came to discover this retirement game was not always a bed of roses. I occasionally found it challenging to think of some inspirational activity to dedicate my efforts to. Once my initial list of to-dos was done, I found myself with an awful lot of free time on a calendar ominously populated by empty squares. Since most of my friends were still working they were not able to join me in my spur of the moment pursuits. There were a lot of factors I had not considered but for better or worse I was retired.

Knowing a bit about yourself and how you will react to retired life can help smooth your transition and ideally facilitate a first rate retirement. I just finished reading Hello Someday, a collection of thoughts and exercises aimed at helping you better understand the nuances of preparing for retirement. Rather than merely a read Hello Someday is an interactive workbook with prompts to help you dig into a myriad of topics all relevant to a living a fulfilling retirement.

One section focuses on identifying some of the most important things that have influenced and shaped who we are. The questions are relevant to ask at any point in your life but particularly so when it comes to planning for retirement. If you can get yourself thinking about those important things before you retire you might better prepare for the decades ahead. Here are a few of my favorite questions:

What is your proudest moment so far?

What always brings a smile to your face?

What would you like to have happen in your life this year?

What things would you like to stop doing?

Identifying and understanding what makes us happy, inspires us, and gets us fired to live each new day can help target our efforts toward achieving those things most essential to our individual happiness. If you know what to look for, if you know what you love retirement can be your chance to go for it. Many new experiences await some to be enjoyed for the first time. As Pliny the Elder said, “What is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?” The retirement each of us live can be marvelous. We just have to know where to look.

LoveBeingRetired.com