10 Components of a Happy Retirement

Financial preparations are an important component of any retirement plan. But money alone is not enough to live a satisfying retirement. Equally important is a plan to spend your time, develop relationships with others and maintain your health. Here are the important ingredients for you to realize the best possible retirement:

Enough money. Obviously, if you do not have enough saved and invested, you cannot realistically retire, at least not with the lifestyle you desire. But simply reaching a number in your retirement account is not the only aspect of retirement you need to plan for.

Having control over how you spend your time. One of the best things about being retired is the ability to decide what you want to do when you want to do it. This type of freedom is rarely experienced by those not yet retired. If you were to find yourself forced to live according to someone else’s expectations, retirement would be nothing more than an extension of your work years. But you get to leave behind other people’s rules as you begin to live your second act.

Spending quality time with family and friends. No longer finding yourself captive to boring meetings and meaningless interactions, you are now free to spend time with people you are actually interested in being with. And you are no longer limited to brief visits swinging monkeyssqueezed into a busy schedule. You have as long as you want to spend with whomever you choose.

Pursuing your passions, hobbies and interests. With the freedom to do as you choose, you can finally revisit the dreams and interests you were forced to put aside due to the demands of earlier life. And with enough interests and variety, you can prevent boredom and enjoy active stimulating days.

Giving back. Retirement can be your chance to express your charitable side and give back to society. Many retirees find volunteering to be a very rewarding experience. You are free to choose the causes most significant to you and make a difference in the lives of others.

Improving your relationship with your partner. Now that you have time to dedicate to the important matters in your life, the happiness of your spouse is an excellent place to start. You have time to spend with one another and rediscover the special person you fell in love with long ago. Although in some areas you may have changed over the years, some things never change.

Enjoying new experiences to broaden your horizons. You are no longer forced to live within the boundaries that defined the working you. The freedom to experiment and explore can open doors to interests you never knew you had.

Living a comfortable and safe life. Retirement is not always about searching for the next adventure. It also allows for the chance to relax, slow down and enjoy living at a pace more appropriate and comfortable for you. A balance between staying active and relaxing can keep you invigorated and ready for whatever comes your way.

Taking time for yourself. Downtime, the rarest of commodities for busy working folks, can now be yours in retirement. Taking time to think, relax, contemplate and dream can inspire you to live a more fulfilling retirement. Just remember that it is up to you to set aside the time and take advantage of your situation.

Maintaining good health. The freedom to do as you please affords the opportunity to refocus on healthy habits and practices. If you feel good it is easy to look forward to what the day has to offer. When it comes to healthy living, a regular routine that you can stick to can get you started in the right direction.

Assuming you are relatively satisfied with your nest egg and believe you can pay your way through retirement, it’s time to start thinking about the other aspects of retired life. In retirement you finally get the chance to do things your way. Make sure you include a plan for your health, relationships and passions.

From my blog on US News & World.

How To Keep Retirement Fresh

Once you are fortunate enough to retire, you don’t want to squander your hard-earned free time. With 20 or 30 years to look forward to, you are free to fill your days with activities and experiences you genuinely want to pursue. But not everyone enjoys this newfound freedom. You could find yourself somewhat lost, unsure of how to spend your time and bored with the limited options you are able to come up with.

Now that you manage your own time, it is up to you to keep your retirement life interesting. Here are a few ideas to help keep retirement fresh:

Do something special for you. After decades of work and caring for a family, it is not surprising that we may have fallen into a less-than-exciting routine. Doing the same things every day is a rather lackluster way to go. As a retiree with time on your hands, why not shake things up a bit? Do something special or out of the ordinary. It could be as simple as celebrating your birthday in a new way by introducing a bit of adventure. Take the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try something you have always wanted to do.

While I am not a thrill-seeker, I’m still planning some first-time adventures for retirement. I look forward to perhaps steelhead fishing the Rogue River in Oregon, hot air ballooning over Sonoma Valley or camping at Big Sur under the pine trees. I’m hoping to have at least one annual adventure in the coming years.

Go ahead and spoil yourself. If you have never been pampered by a full-day spa treatment or sat by an outdoor fire on the beach while watching the sun set, this can be your chance. Splurge on a five-course meal with wine pairings or open up the pricy bottle you’ve been saving. Create a special event to look forward to.

Keep learning new things. I recently signed up for a series of online classes on understanding investments. I want to better understand the terminology and concepts of the investment world. With the flexibility of online sessions, I am able to watch as much as I want at one time, pause when needed and replay if I do not quite grasp the concept Musical Glassesthe first time around. There are also many other topics available, including everything from growing a killer garden in containers to medieval European history to understanding the brain. Best of all, there is no exam at the end of the process.

If you prefer the face-to-face interaction of a standard classroom setting, local colleges offer a diverse collection of topics for those with the time and interest. You can even learn with the great outdoors as your classroom. Consider taking a senior group hike through a national park, where trained guides describe the culture and history as you walk through some of the most beautiful spots on earth. Since you choose what and how you study, learning can be fun.

Expand your social circle. The more people you engage with, the more variety you expose yourself to. I am not talking about more Facebook friends, but more people you actually see and interact with in a non-virtual way. When my parents first moved to their current home, they did not know anyone. But they made the extra effort to meet the neighbors and spend time with co-workers. Before long they found themselves busily engaged in regular bridge clubs, tennis outings and dinner parties. They have come to know many wonderful people with diverse backgrounds while maintaining a perpetually busy calendar. Whether you prefer a club setting or more intimate gatherings, getting out and meeting others can open up new avenues to explore, keeping your retirement interesting.

Have some fun. With no stress from a job and more free time to pursue your interests, you might think retirees would be happier than most working people. But whether due to the effects of aging, money concerns or other factors that come into play, retirement living can be challenging. To make the most of your time, you need to add some fun to your day.

Pause to think about what brings a smile to your face. You and your partner could create separate lists of things you most enjoy doing. Put each on a slip of paper and throw them into a hat. When you need a little inspiration for something to do, draw one and go for it.

A few years ago my wife tried her hand at Sudoku. She has always been puzzle-inclined, and before long she found herself starting each morning with the daily Sudoku from the newspaper. I was reluctant to give it a try since I did not understand the attraction. However, I recently gave in, and now my wife makes a copy of the daily puzzle so both of us can enjoy the challenge. You never know where you might find yourself having fun until you try.

From my blog for US News & World 

7 Signs You Have Successfully Retired

Back on August 5, 2011, I wrote my first weekly blog for US News & World On Retirement. It is hard to believe it has been three years already but I am starting to get used to the lightning fast progression of the months and years.

My personal journey into retirement has been a steady progression as I have learned valuable information from industry pundits and first hand insight from readers of my blogs. Fearful predictions of dire trends have opened my eyes to some harsh realities that may play out over coming years. On the other hand optimistic energized comments from those already retired and loving it give me hope.

I feel that I am better prepared for retirement today than I was three years ago. But I am continuing to discover there is a lot to it and nothing is guaranteed.

Here is that first post from August 5, 2011. The journey continues – may we enjoy each step of the way.

Dave

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There is no shortage of worries as we move into retirement. We all want to get there, but are unsure exactly how retirement life will ultimately look. Despite our best planning, scrimping, and hoping, we remain concerned about outliving our savings, maintaining good health, and even being bored in retirement.

[See The 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Spots.]

However, there are plenty of people who have taken the plunge who are thoroughly enjoying retired life. They are finally able to do what they want to when they want to do it. Here are seven ways to tell if you are successfully retired:

1. Toss your alarm clock. You don’t worry about the snooze button because you no longer have to live in the oppressive shadow of your alarm clock. Each day starts when Thumbs Upyou decide it is time to get underway. Sleeping in is not a luxury, but a daily occurrence if that is your preference.

2. Financial freedom. You do not stress over monthly bank and investment statements. Whether you subscribe to the 4 percent withdrawal per year strategy or another spending program, you have done your part to financially prepare for retirement.

[See 9 Secrets of Retirement Happiness.]

3. Personal calendar. Your calendar is filled with things you actually want to do. You no longer have to attend company events, work trips across the continent, or mixers where you do not feel like mixing. You decide how busy you want to be and who you want to be busy with.

4. Travel timing. When you travel, you do so during the week rather than on busy weekends. This allows you to take advantage of special deals on hotels and flights that only exist on non-weekends. Another perk of off-peak travel is that the traffic is tolerable and personal attention is the norm rather than the exception.

5. Fewer lists. Your to-do list that grew for years prior to retiring is now pretty much to-done.

6. A slower pace. You learn to accept limitations that creep into daily life ranging from sore knees to failing eyesight to diminishing stamina. Things could sometimes be better, but they could definitely be worse.

7. A new chapter. You face each day as a new adventure and a never-to-be-had-again opportunity to live. And you do not take it for granted. Whether you want to pursue hobbies, projects, trips, books, or quiet time, it is worth doing.

[See 7 Signs You’re Not Ready for Retirement.]

Crossing over the threshold into retirement is a time of great uncertainty. If you are able to arrive in the right state of mind and accept the good with the bad, you will have a better chance to experience some of these golden retirement moments first hand. Look around for successful retirees and find your place amongst the crowd. There is always room for one more.