9 Important Ingredients for a Happy Retirement

Most of us would like to at least have the option to retire at some point. There are those who may choose to keep working in some capacity, but working by choice (rather than necessity) can be considered part of the desired retirement mix. Other people plan to get as far from the working world as possible. What our retirement will look like depends on our personal preferences and priorities. Here are some of the most important ingredients for retirement happiness:

Having something on the calendar. Once finished with the working world, whatever is on the calendar becomes our personal responsibility. Having something to look forward to – a trip, a dinner party or a concert – can help sustain an expectation of good things to be. An empty calendar does not bode well for the excitement and variety we look for in our second act.

Being healthy. The more challenged we are with our physical health, the less we are generally able to enjoy day to day living. We cannot stop the aging process, but we can try to do the right things along the way to encourage a healthier mind and body. Aim to appreciate the days when you enjoy good health.

Having enough money. If you do not have enough saved, the retirement you are hoping for is not going to happen. Have you done the math to figure out how much you actually need to be comfortable? If you calculate that you will be able to cover your bills and have enough left over to live a good life, you are on a reasonable path. But don’t make the mistake of working yourself to death in order to save for retirement. In our second act, time can become an even rarer commodity than money.

Someone to share it all with. A partner, spouse or close friend can help us to live a moment more fully by sharing an experience with someone we care for. A sunset is beautiful, but when shared with a loved one, isn’t it just a bit more special?

Finding a little fun. Think back on a time when you were happy, smiling and just plain glad to be alive. What was it that you were doing? What caused you to feel that way? Now with time to spend as you desire, aim to do that again. Even if you are not able or interested in doing the same thing, finding a little fun in your retirement days can bring on a welcome smile.

Expanding our horizons. Now that we have the time to do what we want, there are many possibilities. The time is right to try all the things we did not have time for while living the life of worker bees. Step outside of the comfort box and get a little crazy. Variety can help keep the day fresh and interesting.

Enough interests that engage us. No one wants to be bored in retirement. This is the chance to spend our time as we want, doing what we most enjoy. It is important to plan ahead for pending retirement and the free time we will have. Get a jump on identifying the interests and passions you hope to enjoy once retired.

Being patient. Getting older can try your patience and make it harder to get along day to day. Since we may not be as quick or energetic as we once were, a little patience when it comes to the realities of aging can improve the quality of your retirement experience.

Realistic challenges. Who does not enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with successfully meeting a challenge? Whether climbing the nearest mountain, getting those persnickety roses to bloom or writing your first short story, achieving goals can make you feel better about yourself.

It takes more than a large nest egg to create a worthwhile retired life. There are a lot of ingredients that, when mixed together, just might be the recipe for your retirement happiness.

From my blog on 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.

Retirement is Your Time to Get Off the Clock

After a busy career, one of the best perks of retiring can be the realization you are no longer tied to a strict schedule. Whereas our work days were likely driven by meetings and appointments with inflexible time requirements, once retired, we begin to have control over our time. We have more freedom to decide what we want to do and when we want to do it. We are able to make changes on the fly as we see fit. We need not tie our days to a routine that is other than how we want to spend our moments.

Technology has made our working world increasingly more efficient with a variety of tools that allow us to stay connected anytime. With the advent of smart phones, it is perhaps too easy to access e-mail anywhere. The challenge arises when the lines between work and home begin to blur, and we check work e-mails before going to sleep, getting out of bed in the morning or at the dinner table.

While on the job, we have no choice but to sacrifice the hours and weeks that our career demands. Too often we must choose between what is best for our company and what is best for our family. Unfortunately, the two are often at odds.

In retirement, we are finally off the clock. Here’s how to get out of the habit of being constantly busy:

Do the things you were not able to while working. Do you remember a time during your career when you felt buried in work with no hope of getting back on top of things? Free time was nonexistent as you put in hour after stressful hour to get the job done. Retirees don’t have to do that anymore. If you were unable to travel like you hoped to, you now can. If you had no time for the kids (or perhaps now grandkids), you have plenty of time now. Hobbies, adventures, new experiences and new people all are available now that you are in control of the clock. Don’t miss the chance to take advantage of your situation.

Do nothing and do not feel guilty about it. For new retirees, free time can be a bit scary. If you are not accustomed to enjoying a down moment, you might feel guilty, like you should be doing something productive. It can take some getting used to, but try to cut yourself some slack. Retired life can be your chance to experience a life free of stress and without deadlines. After years of paying your dues, you should be entitled to enjoy your freedom. With your newly opened schedule, there is no reason to feel guilty filling in the days by doing exactly what you want.

Revisit what you may have been passionate about while younger. When I was eight years old, I wrote a short story about a hook-armed escapee who frightened innocent teenagers at a drive-in movie. I have always loved writing, and plan to focus more on that particular passion when I retire. Perhaps you were a would-be musician, adventurer, photographer or artist. Now that you are off the clock, you are able to fill your time with what you truly enjoy, whatever that may be.

In retirement, the clock can become like a friend that you check in with occasionally. You are the master of your moments, and free from the constraints of the clock. One day you may even choose to leave your trusty watch in the drawer rather than secured to your wrist.

From my US News & World blog. 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.

Will You Retire at 65?

The oldest baby boomers have reached retirement age, and many have begun to enter retirement. Those born in 1946 started to reach age 65 in January 2011. Many baby boomers have already followed the path laid out by earlier generations and have exited the working world to begin their second act. The promise of living a retired life away from the stress of a job in which you are able to pursue interests at your own pace is apparently too enticing for even the baby boomers to resist.

According to a recent MetLife Mature Market Institute survey, 52 percent of the oldest boomers have already retired. They have left work behind and begun the next chapter of their lives. But that number also means that almost half of people who are turning 67 this year are still working. And among those who retired, 54 percent did so earlier than they originally planned to, mainly due to health issues and job loss.

Among the baby boomers who are still working, only 39 percent believe they will be able to retire as originally planned. Working boomers have increased their planned retirement age to an average of 71 in 2012, up from 66 in 2008. So, while 65 was a generally accepted target retirement age for earlier generations, you might say that 71 is the new 65 for the eldest baby boomers. Here are a few reasons retirement at age 65 is no longer a goal most baby boomers are aspiring to:

1. Just over half of the oldest baby boomers have reached or are on track to reach their retirement savings goals. Without that nest egg in place, it will be difficult to support a comfortable retirement lifestyle, causing some people to reluctantly delay their transition into retired life. For those who have no choice but to retire due to health issues or job loss, retirement living may unfortunately be filled with more challenges than rewards.

2. Although only 20 percent of retired baby boomers report a decreased standard of living in retirement, 58 percent say their retirement income is less than the income they enjoyed while working. It can be difficult to retire if you know you will have less money coming in and don’t want to reduce the lifestyle you have become used to.

3. Long-term health care costs continue to rise and are at the top of the list of retirement concerns. Some 31 percent of boomers report anxiety about providing for themselves and their spouse’s long-term health needs. Abandoning a job that includes medical coverage is risky.

4. There are also retirees-to-be who prefer to continue in their working role to stay engaged and challenged while the income keeps coming.

5. We have recently been through some difficult times, so a reluctance to cross over to a retirement of leisure and fun is not necessarily a big surprise. Many people may not feel secure enough with what the future holds to abandon a career that continues to pay the bills and perhaps allows them to save a bit for later. For many people, retirement may not be the best way to go just because they reach age 65.

From my blog on 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.