How to Inspire Others in Retirement

Older age often brings less than flattering descriptors that few baby boomers would like associated with them. Would you want to be called decrepit, feeble, unstable, grumpy, crotchety, absent minded, stuck in the past, or a burden on society? But that is how some people view the elderly, no matter how far from the truth it may be.

But those of us who are part of the aging population have an opportunity to change this misperception. Retirement provides an opportunity to become a source of inspiration to others, even as our hair grays and our memories weaken. When someone interacts with me at age 70, I don’t want them to see just an old man. To enlighten others to see beyond my wrinkles, I plan to whenever possible do the following:

Stop complaining. No one wants to listen to someone complain or be known as a complainer. Therefore, I will not lead conversations with what ails me. I will endeavor to focus on positives rather than dwell on negatives.

Listen and hear. When I engage with others I will pay close attention to what they are saying and wait my turn to speak. What others have to say has as much value as anything I may wish to say. While listening I will try to pay attention to the content and feelings behind the words, rather than planning what I will say next. I may not have all the answers, but I can surely give someone my undivided attention and allow them to have their say, instead of automatically jumping in with advice. I will try to remember that just because I am older does not necessarily mean I am wiser.

Do not be judgmental. Yes, I have years of experience and have been through a lot, but that does not give me the right to judge others. I am not living in their shoes and can never know the real story of the life they are living. I will try to remain objective, see things as they really are, and not judge.

Smile. There are many things about getting older that I do not like, but I will not live my retirement life wearing a frown. All I need to do is pick up a newspaper to read about others who have it much worse than me. There is always something in my life that I can smile about, and I will do my best to smile about it.

Be charitableCharity is not just about giving money but also sharing time and genuinely caring. I will do my best to try to be available to others in need, even if I can give no more than my time and attention.

Be realistic. I am no longer twenty and my behaving as if I were can be an embarrassment to me and those around me. I will try to accept my limitations, but not dwell on them. I may not be able to hit a home run, but I can still stand up at the plate and take my swings.

Live by example. I will try to practice what I preach when it comes to living a good life. Nothing rings more falsely than someone telling others how to live while doing the opposite. I will do my best to follow my own advice.

From my blog on US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.

Are you wasting time?

Does it ever feel to you that even in retirement life there is just not enough time in the day? How often have you paused for a moment to contemplate your accomplishments for the day and found yourself at a lack for anything of merit? It’s not so much that we have a lot to do but more about looking back as another sun sets to find our to-do lists have not budged. Obviously something must be “getting done” since at least 12 hours have ticked off the clock. Tell me if this sounds at all like your world:

– Do you get caught up in a frenzy of busy activity, overlooking the beauty and wonder that is right in front of your nose as you rush through your duties?

– When you look back at your day, is it just a blur with no meaningful accomplishments?

– Do you listen without hearing when your spouse talks to you caught up in other far away thoughts?

– When a friend calls on the phone and has something important to discuss, do you find yourself hurrying the conversation so you can get back to what you were doing?

– Do you scratch off one item on your to-do list only to add three more?

All of these can add to a day that is out of control as you react rather than act. Unfortunately it is often the case that we have no one to blame but ourselves.  Wasting time is too easy and as the saying goes, life is like a coin – you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. And how are senior citizens typically spending their valuable time?


According to the Labor Department, senior citizens age 65+ spend 400 hours on average on “Other Leisure” time, which includes anything that’s not TV, socializing, relaxing and reading. Where is the rest of the time going? TV sucks up about 4.4 hours each day from the average senior citizen, more than the 3.3 hour Americans of all ages watch when the weekend rolls around.

Not only does TV dull your mind but as a sedentary event you get zero exercise (unless you are a fan of the Wii). And you can bet you are not honing your social skills as you sit zombie-like staring into the few minutes of content that are tantalizingly interspersed between hours of endless advertisements.

Just say NO!

Where can we spend “quality” time? The ‘ol clock is ticking away…

  • Give a call to your mom, dad, son, daughter, friend or acquaintance just to say hello. Out of the blue with no special occasion your thoughtfulness may just make their day. It is impossible to stay in touch with everything that goes on in the lives of those around us. But just showing an interest can go a long way.
  • Get away for the weekend or weekday since retired folks have that luxury. You can find great deals on sites like Travelzoo or in Via Magazine from AAA. A little planning ahead and you can spend for two nights what you normally pay for just one. And if there is no TV, so much the better! I find that having something on the calendar every other month or at least once a quarter keeps the excitement up as you anticipate the next adventure.
  • Donate your time – my step daughter has spent the past nine months in Haiti working with Grass Roots United to help local residents recover from the massive earthquake. You don’t have to go quite so extreme but there are local shelters and organizations that could use your help in an instant. Bob at Satisfying Retirement works with ex-convicts to help them adjust to life after prison. Bill at Adventure Retirement traveled to Peru for a year in search of volunteering opportunities. Retirees have the time, there are MANY worthwhile causes, if volunteering works for you everyone wins.
  • Share your expertise with the next generation – we all had careers in the “early years” and provided that the industry has not changed drastically our knowledge can still help others to avoid pitfalls we learned by experience.
  • Don’t waste any more time – do what you really like to do.  What is it that you do or have done in your life that REALLY gives you pleasure? Is there something that when you think about it brings an involuntary smile to your face? With my recent return to the working world (I found the perfect start up company with great people and am really enjoying doing it again) I find myself with less time to blog. But every now and then an idea comes to mind and with a smile on my face I endeavor to put it to words. I really enjoy it when I find precisely the right way to express a feeling I have and share it with my readers. Are you a writer? A painter? A hiker? A biker? Is photography your gig? Restoring old cars? Gardening? It is up to you and there are no rules!

24 hours in a day – 60 minutes in an hour – 60 seconds in a minute.

Don’t waste another…

A lifetime in review

Years ago I was sitting next to my dad in the pew at church as we did each Sunday morning. I noticed that he was writing on a small piece of paper and although I could not see what he wrote I was curious. After mass I asked and he said he was doing a little review of his life so far – how had he done to this point against the goals he set for himself as a younger man.

In his early fifties at the time, he had in my estimation been a great father. Dad worked hard to put himself through medical school while later he and mom often did without luxuries for themselves to save for the future.  He had always provided for the family, we kids were going to private schools for the best education, on weekends we did family trips to the local foothills and beyond, and we always sat down to dinner together to share the events of the day. He was a success by any measure in my book.

So what about the book on me? At a similar age now, where did I sit compared to my goals as a young man? What are the real measures of success in each of our lives?

Family – mom always said there is nothing more important than family and we lived that rule. Weekends were spent with relatives as we celebrated life over a table of BBQ chicken or hamburgers or whatever was on the menu. Important events such as baptisms, first communions, graduations, school plays, tennis matches were always accorded their just due and everything was considered important. Each of us was recognized for being a success at what we did which helped to build self-confidence that followed us through our lives.

Raising my kids we did not spend as much time with the rest of the family as I would have liked to. But we did foster in our household the value of each individual, the importance of pursuing your dreams, and the all important do to others as you would have them do to you. Today both kids are rock stars (not literally) with successful college careers and now onto the working world.

How do you rate yourself in the category of family?

It is not about the things – we lived in a nice house in s nice neighborhood. We never wanted for anything but were taught early on the importance of spending wisely. Designer labels were not a part of my growing up. Credit cards were paid off at the end of each month and used more to build a credit history than anything else. If you could not afford to pay cash for it, you could not afford it! How that way of thinking could help us all these days from the government to the home front.

Raising my family, I was a bit loose with the credit cards as we competed with others caught up in the Silicon Valley madness. Spending more than we should have, we found ourselves in more debt than was comfortable. But we cleared the slate and adjusted our behaviors and made it through. The kids learned from the experience as well as their own. Now when it comes to designer labels, they shop at Marshalls or outlet stores if they cannot do without. And equally as valuable both realize the importance of pursuing a career that fills your heart rather than only your wallet.

Do you and your family value what is important or are you caught up in the never-ending attempt to one-up the Joneses?

Major decisions – in my parent’s house, career choices were discussed and then supported. Although on a pre-med path from day one, when I changed direction to focus on business after my first year in college, my physician father and nurse mother both supported the decision. They knew I was pursuing what was best for me and it was not medicine. More than anything, I appreciated their trust in me that I would ultimately find my way. I have jumped from job to job over my career but always with their support.

Who will your kids choose to hang out with – not always exactly the people you would have chosen? Who will they date – I guarantee not always who you have in mind? How will they dress? How will the cut their hair? What part of their anatomy will they choose to pierce?

In the overall scheme of things, these are minor details that you cannot control. It is often easy to get sidetracked and fight a battle that you will not win. I believe that if you support the inner person and provide guidance rather than enforce rules you have a better chance of helping someone find their way. It is all about the person they finally become rather than what it took to get there.

Are we as supportive as we can be to help each other find our individual destiny?

Upon review, not necessarily a perfect report card but on a pass/fail scale, I think I pass. At least I hope this rating is what I would receive from my kids and family. After all, they are the ultimate graders and the lives they lead are in large part the result of just how well we did our job.

How do you rate your lifetime in review?