4 Retirement Resolutions Worth Keeping

As another year comes to an end it is once again time to take stock of the past 365 days. By now, resolutions we may have signed up for at the beginning of the year have either been realized, modified or forgotten, and it’s time to make a new round of resolutions for next year. Here are a few ideas for worthwhile resolutions to get you started.

Review and consolidate services. Take a close look at your monthly expenses and consider how much value you are getting from them. At our house we noticed a steady increase in what we pay for cable TV service. Upon review, my wife and I agreed we did not need 300 channels to choose from, all of the premium channels or the land line that was part of the bundle. We trimmed down the bundle and are saving a few dollars. I have also paid between $30 and $50 per month for a gym membership since I graduated from college. I decided I could do what I need with a stationary bike and a few weights in the garage. I cancelled the membership and we are saving a few dollars more there. We also dropped our wine club membership after we found ourselves paying a hefty price for some wines that we did not really like. Now we just buy what we like. If you look closely you may uncover little adjustments to reduce what you pay for services without negatively impacting your lifestyle. Maybe you don’t need three disks at a time from Netflix and can get by with two or one. Saving money is always a good way to start the year.

Make yourself smarter. People stay sharp on the job because they are challenged and forced to quickly react to situations. But once removed from the mix, where do we find the stimulation to keep us on top of our game? Those of us reaching retirement age know that if you do not use your brain you can begin to lose your edge. But you can counteract that by continuing to learn new things. You could decide to enroll in a local community college course that interests you. The grades don’t matter when you are taking a class for fun. If you prefer the comfort of your home you can look at online courses. You can even work your mind via apps you download to your phone and use them to sneak in a little learning while waiting in line. For some people an old fashioned book club is the perfect venue to meet and share thoughts about popular literary works. My wife helps stay sharp conquering increasingly intricate jigsaw puzzles. There are lots of ways you can crank your brain up a notch.

Explore something entirely new. Recently I have watched a handful of movies about cooking and the life of a chef. I have always enjoyed eating good food and am now contemplating the cooking side as well. This year I plan to don a chef hat and try my hand at some creative cooking. And after viewing a wonderful course on French impressionist painters, I am starting to have an interest in giving painting a try, something I never would have imagined myself doing even one year ago. Some of us have passions that we were unable to pursue due to the requirements of a job and raising our family. Now in retirement we have the opportunity to revisit and explore overlooked interests.

Try to make an impact on someone’s life. Many of us remember someone who had a positive impact on our lives. Perhaps there was a special teacher who inspired our extra effort, a coach who taught us the importance of working together or a particular author who changed the way we look at the world. Each of us has the ability to influence the lives of those around us. It does not necessarily require superhuman effort. Sometimes a little thing said or done at the right time is all it takes to make a difference. You might prefer to volunteer your time for a worthwhile charity or nonprofit organization. Or you could commit to making an extra effort at home to help family members. Then you will get to look back at the end of 2015 at the wonderful difference you made in someone’s life.

Written for my weekly blog on US News & World

5 Ways to Finalize Your Retirement Plan

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