How to Realize Your Retirement Potential

When we retire, we hope the next 20 or more years will be a rewarding and exciting time that perhaps even surpasses the years leading up to this point. The hard work is behind us, and we have earned the freedom to explore and experience what is most important to each of us. But with so much to choose from it is not unusual to find yourself a bit overwhelmed. Here’s how to make the most of your retirement years:

Plan now. Retired life will be different than what you are used to. Your schedule will no longer be dominated by a job or the responsibilities of raising a family. An unfamiliar but intriguing freedom to do what you want will become the natural state of affairs. The days ahead are a blank canvas that you can choose to artfully paint or leave simply uncluttered.

It is important to prepare and plan for this significant transition before you get there. A thorough understanding of how your lifestyle will change will allow you to make the most of your time and avoid unpleasant surprises. You can line up interests and hobbies that you didn’t have time for because of other commitments. Look honestly and carefully at your expenses to identify limitations, and set a realistic but livable budget. Try to look far down the road into older age to get an idea of what your needs may be. Since your retirement will hopefully extend for decades, you should put an appropriate amount of time into planning for it.

Be your own boss. Once you retire, the day starts when you say so. You can do what you want for as long as you want. You progress at a pace that suits you best. And at the end of the day your accomplishments are judged only by you. In retirement, you become your own boss. It is entirely up to you how you manage your free time. For those under the thumb of a boss it may be hard to imagine the liberating feeling experienced when daily micromanagement disappears. And not surprisingly, it can be kind of fun. Take advantage of the situation to really do what you have always wanted to do free from any boundaries set by those higher up the corporate ladder. Since you are no longer climbing that ladder you can focus more energy on the things that really matter.

Try something new. It is not uncommon to become a bit set in our ways as we age. We find comfort in doing familiar things. Security can often trump excitement as we journey into our retirement years. Although there is something to be said about predictability, we have never had a better chance to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new. We finally have time, and how we choose to spend it is actually in our control. Thinking back to when I was enmeshed in providing for the seemingly endless needs of raising a family, I remember putting aside hobbies and interests because I just could not get to them. In retirement my time is my own, and those hobbies are just waiting to be revisited along with a list of new experiences I have never tried. Of course I am a lot older now, and so I must accept the reality that my to-do list will not include bungee jumping or iron man competitions on tropical islands. But there are a host of interesting things I have not yet done that I will have time for in retirement.

Don’t heed detractors. I am always inspired by stories of senior citizens doing something beyond what the rest of us think is possible. They overcome perceived limitations to compete and create at the highest levels when most people their age are assumed to prefer sitting safely on the couch. And I would wager the most interesting retirees did not seek approval from friends or family prior to their undertakings. No one has lived the life you have or feels emotions exactly the way you do. What you may consider an interesting adventure might trigger a negative reaction from family members who expect you to act your age. But retirement should be a time of grand adventures, because you may never get another chance.

Enjoy the moments. Maintaining an optimistic retirement outlook is a worthy goal. Keeping a perpetual smile and positive attitude as you advance in years is not an easy thing to do, but it’s worth the effort. It is easier to enjoy retirement if you approach it in a positive manner. If you are too focused on the negative, you risk missing meaningful moments with family and friends. And you don’t want to miss those moments.

From my blog on US News & World

Why retirement will be the best time of your life

Arriving at the doorstep of retirement with all of your marbles intact is an achievement worthy of praise. You have survived a career that even if stimulating has likely taken its toll over the years. Your children are hopefully approaching independent status, your mortgage if not entirely gone is ideally in good shape, and you have built a sufficient nest egg to subsidize the retired lifestyle you hope to enjoy.

As you evolve into your second act, you have the opportunity to experience the best of what life has to offer. Assuming you can cope with the challenges that come with aging and as long as you manage to live within the constraints of a budget by being a bit frugal your future can be bright for many years to come.

Why should retirement be the best time of your life?

You don’t have to act your age

The other day my wife and I were walking past a little restaurant when we heard a Mariachi band playing an energetic number for those dining in the patio. Without thinking twice, I put my arm around my favorite partner and we did a little dance right there on the curb. I noticed some smiles on the face of passerby’s and most importantly on the face of my wife.

We do not have to act according to any set of rules for what is “right for our age”. What is right for our age is what we choose to do! There is nothing wrong with acting on the spur of the moment. Why pass up a chance to enjoy the freedom we have painstakingly earned? Why attempt to bridle the energy we feel inside? Our new motto should be “if it feels good, do it” (so long as we do not hurt ourselves or others in the process). I plan to act the age I feel rather than my chronological age. And sometimes I feel like a little kid.

You don’t have to wait for the weekend to have fun

Get ready to experience the wonder of weekdays, when the crowds are non-existent, hotels are affordable, and traffic is generally at a tolerable level. Say goodbye to long weeks spent dreaming of those sacred, oh-so-short two days off when you hope to catch your breath and recharge. Your weekend is now seven days long so no need to wait to enjoy.

Once you get the hang of retirement, you may find yourself trading the old two-day weekend for a five-day weekend, actively pursuing life Monday through Friday when things are calm and less busy. Then retiring closer to home during the frantic Saturday and Sunday when the working masses try to cram all they can into 48 short hours of freedom. Does a five-day weekend sound better than a two-day weekend? Welcome to retirement!

You don’t have to waste time doing what you do not want to

More than any one thing, I believe the freedom to do what you want is a highlight of life in retirement. You decide what and when and how long you will do whatever you wish. If you don’t want to do it then don’t. Retired from the burdens and restrictions that come with making a living, you can now spend your time pursuing what really interests you. Don’t waste one precious moment.

You don’t have to heed what others tell you

“You need to drop everything and get that project done right now!” words perhaps familiar to you from your working days. When the boss spoke, you jumped. However as a retiree, there is only one boss you must heed and that is you. This is your chance to put to use all the wisdom and experience you have accumulated over a lifetime. Decisions made can actually reflect what you know is right for you. Of course there will always be those forever free with advice and recommendations on how you “should” live your life. And there is nothing wrong with listening. As long as you remember the ultimate decision is in your hands and act according to your personal values and wishes, you are good to go.

You can learn/study/read what really interests you

How much fun would it be to take a class in a subject you love without worrying about a grade at the end? Imagine learning simply for the pleasure of learning. No pressure, no sweat, and at a pace that suits your new lifestyle. Best of all, should your course of study become boring, you can walk away guilt free and move on to the next topic. Whether you enjoy the classroom setting interacting with fellow students or prefer the privacy of your own home attending a virtual session, you are free to explore to your heart’s content.

Get ready for an inspiring exciting second act doing what you want with your time and energy.

Retirement is only the beginning…

Dad And His Trumpet – Proof Music Can Keep You Young

Alas for those who never sing but die with all their music in them ~ Oliver Wendall Holmes

It is easy to be passionate about music. If you close your eyes right now I bet you can quickly think of a favorite song and before you know it find yourself happily singing along. Music is an integral part of our lives from our earliest moments bringing us happiness, calming us, inspiring us and getting us ready to boogie. Particular songs can rekindle memories of life experiences both happy and sad. It is uncanny how a few notes or a brief stanza can trigger a crystal clear vision of a significant moment or a special face as if it was yesterday. Certain songs spontaneously trigger a knowing smile while others invariably bring us to tears.

Music has been a part of my dad’s life since he was just a kid. I cannot remember a time growing up when I did not hear the piano keys jingling or the ukulele strumming while he sang a spirited song. Dad has a knack for all things musical with a passion that requires constant feeding. But his greatest passion has to be the trumpet.

On occasion dad shares stories of playing at local pubs and events to help pay his tuition while in college. Later after marrying mom he still made his way to neighborhood dive joints where he joined with mariachi bands playing into the night as smoke swirled and dancers twirled. Although mom may not have been overly keen about these moments she realized how important it was to dad and remained ever the good sport. And today at eighty, dad still practices weekly with a local band that spins their music on special days such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. Once a lover of music always a lover of music!

Dad’s passion for music has kept him active and engaged for over sixty years now. The constant challenge to learn new songs and get each part perfect is a labor of love. Practice makes perfect and dad knows exactly how the music should sound so there is always room for improvement. He is pursuing his passion each time he picks up his trumpet and for him there is nothing better or more satisfying than playing that next song.

What is it about music that makes it for some the passion of a lifetime? Robert Ingersoll said, “Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.”

In my book “Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?” I dedicate a chapter to music and how it can drive passion and inspiration in many. Here is a section from the book:

The music we listen to impacts us in different ways. That song we sing along with can trigger emotions at many different levels causing us to more fully experience the moment:

- A thoughtful remembrance of an opportunity missed;

- A momentary escape from a situation otherwise beyond resolution;

- Inspiration in a confusing world;

- A fleeting moment of ecstasy as subtle harmonies mix to create a magical interlude;

- Sheer exhaustion as every ounce of our being becomes caught up in the energy that is the ballad;

- Enlightenment as lyrics expertly convey just what we were feeling but unable to verbalize;

- A sudden realization that things are not as bad as we thought or perhaps that they are;

- Respite from a world spinning out of control;

- An uplifting emotional experience;

- A sudden blast of energy propelling us onward with a rush that puts caffeine to shame;

- An awakening, a rebirth after hiding;

- A gift to share with someone we love;

- A release for pent up emotions when no other outlet exists freeing withheld tears, fears, and laughter;

- A crutch when little else can fill the void;

- A friend when we need one most.

I believe that love of music has truly kept my dad happy and younger than his years. He passed on to me my own passion for music that I am beginning to appreciate more and more each time I sit at the piano. And my brother’s love of music may even surpass dad as witnessed in the wonderful songs he has written and performed over the years.

If the rest of us are to learn anything from his example, my advice is to keep on singing, keep on playing, don’t stop dancing and keep on living a long and happy life with music a part of every day. If you seek additional encouragement, take a look at this YouTube clip forwarded to me by dad and now from me to you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGnD13pcTwc