Important Non-Financial Retirement Considerations

If you look forward to living a fulfilling retirement, saving money should not be your sole concern. We all know building a sufficient nest egg to provide for your second act typically requires a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice. But having enough cash in the bank is no guarantee of an idyllic retirement. With so much focus on saving the correct amount and withdrawing an appropriate sum each month, other important considerations can be overlooked.

Many people have focused long and hard on saving and investing to pay for their retirement days. One common shortfall when making retirement preparations is deciding what to do with your time. While a huge amount of attention and effort goes into preparing for your financial future, many people have done little to identify meaningful activities to fill the next 20 or 30 years they hope to live. Many retirees suddenly find themselves in a new world without the requirements of a job. The freedom of an empty calendar is sweet and offers the possibility of filling it with the things you have always wanted to do. What will occupy the days ahead? How will you stay engaged and excited about the future? The bank account may be taken care of, but retirees soon realize there is more to an enjoyable retirementthan just money.

It is not an uncommon situation for people to be only a few months from retirement without a plan for how to spend their days. If you hope to make the most of your second act, you need to look ahead to the life you hope to live. Even if you have pieced together the financial and medical portion of your retirement plan, there is still more to do. It takes most people decades to save enough for retirement. Is a couple of months sufficient to plan a timeline for the next 20 to 30 years? There is a whole lot to cover in such a short period of time. Don’t give your two week vacation more preparation time than your two decade (or more) retirement.

If you do not invest sufficient time to plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement, you risk putting an unnecessary burden on yourself in the future. Imagine the challenges you might face if one day you are working full time and then the next you find yourself job-free and you have done little to prepare your way. Sure you may keep busy in the beginning doing various projects, catching up on hobbies and taking it easy away from the stress of the working world. But after that initial honeymoon period runs its course, what do you plan to do?

Don’t let your retirement just happen and hope for the best. Take control while you have time to make adjustments and fine tune your second act. Spend the time now, before you retire, to consider the possibilities, opportunities and challenges. Be honest with yourself and get ready.

Imagine yourself two years into retirement. What will your day look like? How about five or ten years down the line? No one wants to become bored during a time that offers so much potential and freedom. But if you just happen into retirement without thinking it through, you may find yourself exactly in that situation.

Here are a few questions to consider as you look ahead to your retirement years:

  •  What meaningful activities and new interests might you add to your routine?
  •  What were you passionate about when you were younger?
  •  What interests were you forced to put aside while working due to a lack of time?
  •  What things around you pique your curiosity?
  •  What will your lifestyle be at age 70? At age 80?
  •  What interests are shared between you and your partner?
  •  Are you a closet writer, composer, singer, dancer or artist?
  •  What would you choose to do if you had no other commitments on your time?

It is up to each of us to do our part to prepare for retirement beyond the financial if we hope to make the most of our second act.

From my blog on US News & World

Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

Time sure does fly. The other day I took a look at the first blog I posted for “Retirement – Only the Beginning” way back on July 4, 2010. I had been contently working away at various start ups across Silicon Valley for over 30 years raising a family and setting aside a little something for the future. At age 52 I figured I had another ten to twelve years to build that nest egg and get ready to depart the working world. Then suddenly I found myself out of a job.

After a reasonable amount of panic and some fruitless searching for an immediate replacement job, I stepped back to catch my breath and put some thought into the future. It was a bit scary but I had faith I would re-enter the business world within a reasonable period of time. In the meantime I thought about what I would like to be doing and what I definitely wanted to avoid. Of course it was a real possibility I might not have the luxury of making a choice if I needed to return short order to the competitive job market

With my job search under way I began to think beyond my career and look to what might lie ahead. I had never given any real thought to retirement but with time on my hands and the years ticking by, what better time than now?

I had come to the realization that although only 52, each passing year brought me closer to retirement age. I had no idea what retired life would look like but I knew I wanted to retire at some to-be-determined age. I just did not have much insight into what exactly I would do with those months and years in my control.

So I asked myself, “What can I do now to prepare for my future retirement?”

And so I began a journey that continues today and remains a work in progress. Here is how I described my motivation for starting “Retirement – Only the Beginning” in my first blog:

I started LoveBeingRetired.com for two reasons: (1) to attempt to navigate the huge amount of retirement information currently available and distill into accurate, succinct information. In effect, create a checklist to identify now those things that we can do so our retirement is the best possible. (2) Equally important to discuss and share what we can do to help assure a quality retirement, filled with fun and adventure and excitement that makes each day worth getting out of bed.

Today I consider myself “unofficially retired.” I still keep my eyes open for that perfect situation where I would want to hop back into the working world. But over the past two years, my criterion has become progressively stricter. I am not finding much in that fast-paced high stress technology world where I grew up that interests me enough to commit 60-70 hours a week.

And so the journey continues.  I want to share a few tidbits I have learned while blogging these past years. Having them in my back pocket helps me feel a bit more prepared for what the future may hold.

Have a plan

I often hear from readers that are nervous about retirement when it comes to knowing what they will do to occupy their days. Most planning prior to retirement tends to be financial in nature. Not too many spend commensurate time preparing for what to do to stay actively engaged and excited about living once they retire. Some first begin thinking about their retired days when they are on the doorstep of making the move. I have learned that waiting too long increases the risk you may not be able to make changes and adjustments that could improve the quality of your retirement. You might run out of runway before you get off the ground. However, if you take the time to look down the road and visualize the life you want to live before you retire, you might add to your overall enjoyment and avoid at least some nasty surprises. Since you will likely be retired for 20 years or more, having a plan for your future should be a priority.

A regular routine is a good thing

I am a very organized person who does not do well sitting still for extended periods of time. Having something to do keeps me engaged and active. During my pre-retirement warm up, I have established a nice daily routine to keep me busy mentally and physically and I enjoy it. I make it a point to get out of bed by 7:00 each morning. Since I am a morning person, this regular starting point helps me kick into gear rather than find myself reluctant to exit a warm bed. With my routine of blogging, exercise, reading, gardening, walking, and watching the flowers grow, I never find myself remotely bored until maybe 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, just in time to think about dinner and a nice glass of vino.

Frugal is fine

My wife and I love to travel but we have learned we do not need to stay in five star hotels to have a good time. We enjoy good meals out without feeling the need to go to the hottest new spot in town charging exorbitant prices and burdened with long lines. We are happiest being together in a lovely location enjoying each other and the moment. It is amazing how affordable life can be if you do not require all those bells and whistles to have a good time. Outside of entertainment, we do not really need anything for the house, the cars should run for a long time, we have all the clothes we need (still fun to shop for those special additions of course), and we really enjoy cooking our meals together and eating at home. It turns out it’s really not that difficult to live well without spending extravagantly.

It’s okay to do nothing

As I have shared more than once over the years my biggest fear of retirement has been running out of things to do and potentially finding myself bored. But it is important to balance meaningful activities with time off. I have come to realize that a happy retirement for me will be a combination of doing things and doing nothing. I am learning to be okay with cutting myself some slack and enjoying downtime, no longer feeling guilty if I am not accomplishing something every moment. It has been a process to free myself from this self inflicted guilt. After so many years hurrying through incredibly busy work days where there was never a moment to spare, I have come to accept that I have earned the right to do nothing. And I like it!

Good health should not be taken for granted

As we get older we are constantly reminded of what challenges the future may hold from slower reflexes to reduced strength to precarious balance negotiating the roads we walk. We witness it every day in friends and family or read about it in AARP and see it on the news. It won’t be easy but we have committed ourselves to do our best to stay healthy along the way. Working out regularly, walking together, watching what we eat, and generally being aware of our physical and mental state is our conscious contribution to staying healthy. Every healthy day is a blessing and we appreciate it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

An uncle of mine living in a retirement community tells the story of a retired bigwig CEO who feels he is better than the rest of us mere mortals despite having departed the working world many years earlier. My uncle gently informed him that he used to be a CEO. Now he is just another retiree like everyone else in residence. I think as we age it is important to maintain a sense of humor. Those readers who despite challenges they encounter as they age are able to maintain an optimistic outlook have the best chance of living a happy retirement. A smile, a little laughter, and a relaxed optimistic view of the world can go a long way.

I want to thank you readers who over the years have shared candidly details of your personal journeys into retirement. I have learned a lot from your honest feedback, real world experiences and sense of humor in the face of challenges. And I look forward to sharing more as together we continue navigating the retirement jungle that makes up the landscape for our second act.

Good luck to us all and let’s enjoy.

Would You Retire If You Could?

For some people, the reward at the end of a long career is the fulfilling retirement life they will finally be able to enjoy. After years of tiring work, ever-increasing responsibility and the endless struggle to save a little after all the bills are paid, savoring the freedom that comes with doing what you want sounds wonderful. And with 10,000 baby boomers reaching age 65 each day, many people will soon confront the reality of their second act.

But not everyone who has the financial ability to retire actually wants to. If the financial side of things were in order, would you retire as soon as possible?

We hear countless stories of happy people calling it quits long before 65 to begin a life focused on what matters to them. Everyone wants to work less and relax more – no surprise there. Some people brag of quitting the working world at almost unbelievably young ages. But I cannot fault anyone for trying to get to retirement sooner rather than later.

When you become a new member of the retirement club, you will experience what for many people is a welcome first: Time to do the things you want rather than have to do. If the morning arrives and your bed feels just too warm and comfortable to get out of, you can lay there until you are good and ready to get up. There’s no reason to rush through your cup of coffee to get to where you have to be. When a new novel by your favorite author is released you can dig right into it. This freedom is what many people find most rewarding about living in retirement. One reader of my blog said it perfectly: “I am hooked on leisure. I revel in the vast expanses of time that stretch out ahead of me,  and I can choose to do, or not do, at my leisure.”

Should you feel the urge to do something a bit more productive or inspired, you are free to do that. The hobbies and passions you have only been able to enjoy on a limited basis can now become the focus of your attention. Feel free to volunteer where you feel most inclined. Write the book, song, or movie you have always wanted to. And best of all, you get to choose just how much time you spend where.

For some people, work is not such a bad thing. Interacting with co-workers, sharing challenges and achievements and having some place where what you do is valued can enrich your retirement years. Why retire from something you enjoy to brave some new unknown? The definition of what constitutes a fulfilling retirement is different for each of us. If doing what you enjoy and want to do happens to be work in some fashion, who is to say you should do anything other than what makes you happy?

Some retirees-to-be feel pressured to keep working so they can continue adding to their nest egg to cover every possible contingency for their retired life. Fearful of an uncertain future, the thought of retirement seems risky. As long as they have a job, they plan to keep at it. Why pay for health care when your employer will pick up the tab? The risk is they may find themselves at an advanced age and no longer able to do everything they could have 10 years earlier. Sure they have lots of money to spend, but not as much energy to enjoy it. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to really explore what you are most interested in and passionate about. In the end it is up to each of us to decide if a job and those incremental dollars earned are truly worth the sacrifice.

Do you have enough to do to keep yourself occupied for the next 20 years? There is only one way to find out. If the time is right, make the move, take the chance and give retirement a try. It just may end up being everything you ever hoped for. And if it isn’t, you can always go back to work.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.