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

Follow These 5 R’s for a Rewarding Retirement

When you retire, you want to do it right. After so much careful preparation and struggle, you have earned the right to join the ranks of the retired, and you want to make sure it’s worth the effort. Here’s how to make sure your retirement will be fulfilling:

Reward yourself. You have earned the right to spend your free time as you choose. Don’t put pressure on yourself to fill your days with meaningful accomplishments. You are no longer a worker bee, so you can choose to do what is right for you. There is no performance review, no measures of success and no pressure to rise in the ranks. Retirement is your time to pursue what matters to you. What better reward than the option to spend your moments however you choose. You have the option to do nothing at all or try something new.

Rejuvenate your life. It is likely that after 30 or more years working you may feel a bit tired. Your job may have required a steep price for success. Retirement can be your opportunity to relax and start over at a slower pace. It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. From this day forward you can look to the future. Who you were on the job does not have to be who you are in retirement. Behaviors that were essential to your business success may be out of place in retirement. So, get rid of them. Retirement can be the perfect time to make a fresh start.

Refocus your energies. With your job behind you, get ready to add at least 40 hours of free time to your week. Now that you have the ability to choose you can focus attention on the other areas in your life that may have been ignored. Your family is likely due some make up time. Relationships with friends that have fallen to the wayside can be rekindled if you desire. If you have not been attentive to your health, this is a good time to revisit your exercise routine, establish a healthy diet and start practicing good habits across the board. All the energy that went into keeping up with the industry and corporate politics can now be refocused on real passions and interests that you want to pursue.

Respect your limitations. What you were able to do 30 years ago will not necessarily be what you can do today. But aging does not necessarily preclude living a good life. By learning to accept your limitations you can be better prepared to make the most of each day. Try not to regret what you can no longer do, but instead rejoice at what you are still capable of. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember how many times others have turned to you for assistance over the years.

Renew your interests. Think about what you want to do with your time. The hobbies and interests that excited you in the past can be revisited and explored in depth. You could write a novel, learn a new instrument, become fluent in the language of your choice, try your hand at ballroom dancing or do whatever else interests you most. Retirement is your reward for all your efforts that went into getting you safely and hopefully sanely to retirement.

From my blog for 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.

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…