When your last day on the job arrives and you begin your journey into retired life, it would be nice to have some idea how the next 20 years will play out. Knowing potential pitfalls to avoid as well as what you will do to stay entertained promises a certain security and peace of mind most of us would appreciate. But too few people take the time or make the effort to prepare for their second act. It is easier to just get there and then try to figure it out as you go.
If we don’t take an active role in shaping our path, we cannot know for sure where we will end up. Here are some suggestions to help make your retirement work for you:
Know what is important. Having a clear picture of accomplishments you wish to achieve can help keep you on track. In retirement you will have more time to focus on family and build relationships with friends. Maintaining good health helps you to best enjoy your second act. Personal passions can be explored as long as you know what they are. If you are able to identify what is most important to your retirement happiness you can better focus your efforts on these priorities.
Accept there will be on days and off days. As with all other aspects of life, not every day in retirement will be perfect. The world around you may throw an unexpected curve, you may not feel physically on the top of your game or you may just have a temporary down-in-the-dumps moment. If you can learn to accept the ups along with the downs you will be better equipped to ride out momentary rough waters. They used to tell me in sales that every “no” gets you that much closer to your next “yes”. Maybe we can view retirement days in a similar way. Every down day gets you that much closer to your next up.
Identify your retirement lifestyle. Retirement is an opportunity to passionately explore the world free from the time constraints imposed by your career. With your newfound freedom you can be as busy and engaged as you choose. Or retirement can be a chance to slow down and enjoy a more predictable lifestyle savoring peaceful mornings and easy meandering days. Whether you are the type of person who must be busy all the time or if you find yourself happily enjoying downtime, it is in your best interest to prepare for a retirement that reflects your particular lifestyle.
Be selective with your time. When you first retire it is easy to find yourself looking for ways to fill in the empty calendar you have inherited. Keeping busy and finding worthwhile ways to use your time is important. But don’t make the mistake of over-committing your time before you have a chance to feel out the new situation. It can be easy to find worthwhile places to volunteer, courses to sign up for and projects to undertake. Suddenly you may find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out just trying to keep up. A better course of action is to gradually undertake activities to fill your day while allowing for downtime along the way.
Do what makes you happy. When it comes to making retirement work for you, I think the bottom line is to spend your time doing what you enjoy. Since there is no one to tell you what to do, there is nothing to keep you from doing what makes you happy. I have developed a simple routine to start my day. Once I have had a bowl of cereal and read through a few emails, I make a cup of freshly ground coffee. I pick up three of the books I am currently reading – one spiritual, one historical and one along the lines of Stephen King – and head to the backyard. Taking my place on a comfortable lounge chair I prop up my feet, appreciating the current flowers in bloom while keeping an eye out for the pair of hawks that hang out on a nearby radio tower. My two cats find their way out to join me and stealthily intertwine around my feet. Then I choose whichever book sounds most interesting for the moment. When I have read enough, I take out my iPhone and run through an interactive French lesson knowing I will revisit and practice the new session throughout the rest of my day. A little sunshine, some quiet reflective moments, happy cats at my feet, a boost to my French capabilities and a good 30-minute read is just the right way for me to start my day.
From my blog for US News & World