Savor Your Freedom in Retirement

When you retire you will be free to do whatever you want with your time. You won’t find any such flexibility in the working world. And raising a family rarely allows for more than a momentary respite from the struggles of paying the bills and securing a safe future for family members. Only rare opportunities exist to spend time in pursuit of what you really enjoy or genuinely care about. It is not until you retire that you are finally able to leave the rest behind and cut loose in pursuit of your personal passions.

Imagine the freedom you will enjoy. You get to choose how to spend the day without anyone else having claims on your time. You could enjoy 20 more years to fill with hobbies, passions, opportunities to volunteer, trips to take, food to enjoy and moments to share with those you hold dear. Retirement should be your time to savor this freedom.

I recently found myself searching for something productive to do with my time. Years spent in a demanding career pounded into my head the importance of putting every minute to good use. Then it dawned on me that I am now retired. There is nothing I have to be doing with my time. I am free to choose whatever sounds good at any particular moment. Best of all, I do not necessarily need to do anything productive. My old bosses would fume at their desks at even a hint of wasting time, but I don’t have to answer to them anymore.

You don’t necessarily have to have something to show for every day in retirement. Enjoying what you are doing is what retirement is all about. Lingering over activities you enjoy may actually be making the best use of your time and freedom. Sometimes the most productive use of your time is taking a nap, reading a book or watching your plants grow. You get to decide how productive you want to be.

The challenge is figuring out how to avoid feeling guilty while enjoying downtime, especially when many relatives and neighbors are continuing to work so hard. On numerous occasions my hard-working wife comes home from a day at the office and asks me how my day was. I find myself planning ahead to manufacture a list of at least a few productive items to prove I have not “wasted” my day. If I can share accomplishments like mowing the lawn, making dinner or bathing the cats at least I have something solid to show for the past eight hours. The reality is I still feel guilty that she is working while I am retired. I cannot wait for her to join me in the next few years so we can waste our time together.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with choosing to be productive in retirement. Retirement can be a time to unleash new creativity and pursue second careers or other passions. The key is to be doing what you want and enjoy. The ideal mix of productivity and leisure is different for each person. We need to make choices and try the things that will bring us the most enjoyment and satisfaction in retirement. Our freedom to do as we please has been hard earned over many years. Now that retirement has arrived, it is time to savor the moments and appreciate the freedom. What an incredibly empowering feeling.

From my blog for US News & World

Why Financial Security Is Not Enough

Many are convinced the secret to a successful retirement is saving enough money to build a sufficient nest egg that can subsidize life as a happy retiree. Financial pundits, self-assured magazine writers and industry wise bloggers tout the importance of getting to that right number to make your retirement dreams come true. If you save enough it will come. Although we can agree that money is an important ingredient, I fear this tunnel vision obsession is a mistake. Rather than guarantee that perfect retirement, it fails to address an equally important piece of the puzzle.

It’s not always easy to get a handle on living the retired life that is a best fit for you. Since the lifestyle you choose and situation you live is unique to you there is no formula or one size fits all solution to assure effective planning. It is up to each of us to do our due diligence and work through the specifics in hopes of coming to the best possible scenario that corresponds to our unique interests, passions and requirements. Enough money addresses part of the equation – agreed. But how do you prepare for the rest? What can you do to better assure you live a fulfilling and interesting and meaningful second act?

A reader of my blogs shares the challenge he faces doing his best to get ready for his nearing retirement: The interesting thing I’ve uncovered in my research is over 90% of the material out these is related to the financial aspects of retirement. Almost none of it deals with the soft issues, your emotions, expectations, and happiness in retirement. I take every opportunity to chat with retired folks to see how they are doing and get their advice and opinions.

Money is not the final answer. It can be a mistake to assume that once you have enough in the old bank account your retirement preparation is complete. There is so much more toHundertwasser Houses consider. What will you do to bring meaning to your daily life? How will you cope with the challenges that come with aging? What will you do to take care of yourself physically? How can you keep mentally sharp and engaged with life? What are your plans to integrate your new 24/7 life with your partner? Do you have enough hobbies and interests and passions for the coming decades?

I believe it is possible that having what you believe is a sufficient amount of money to live your second life might even lull you into a false sense of security. Let’s say you have enough to pay the bills and do what you want – excellent! That is a good start. You have the money and you have the time and for the first year or so you will probably stay blissfully engaged. Attack that to-do list, visit those faraway places you have patiently collected information in your bulging travel folder, spend time with your neglected hobbies, and just chill in the backyard. But what comes next? After the honeymoon period comes to an end and you stare down the road at 20 or 30 more years to entertain yourself, what is the plan?

The sooner we start planning the non-financial side of retirement, the better our chance to realize the life we have hoped for. One reader of my blogs comments: I am starting my retirement adventure on January 1st. It is clear that although I have financially planned for my retirement, I have not accounted for what I want to do. That is the challenge I am facing now. I just started researching the subject today and started a list of all the things that I can think of. I am up to 32!

It is wonderful to realize the importance of finding those “what to do” activities. But it is a bit scary the search has not started much earlier. If you are going to spend 20 years in retired living, shouldn’t you put in a proportionate amount of preparation? It is a mistake to put more time and effort into preparing for a two week vacation than into a two decade retirement. Don’t just hope for the best take action to make it so. I have been retired for one year and need some guidance on how to put passion into my retirement life’s goals and dreams. I’m floundering and didn’t realize I needed to plan for my new acquired uncommitted time.

Having enough money does not guarantee the retirement we want and hope for. Too much focus on finances can be a big part of people’s unhappiness. Living a happy retirement requires a balance between money and those equally important non-financial aspects of daily life. Take care of the essentials, but realize there is so much more to living happy. Remember time is like a coin – you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. Enjoy…