Important Non-Financial Retirement Considerations

If you look forward to living a fulfilling retirement, saving money should not be your sole concern. We all know building a sufficient nest egg to provide for your second act typically requires a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice. But having enough cash in the bank is no guarantee of an idyllic retirement. With so much focus on saving the correct amount and withdrawing an appropriate sum each month, other important considerations can be overlooked.

Many people have focused long and hard on saving and investing to pay for their retirement days. One common shortfall when making retirement preparations is deciding what to do with your time. While a huge amount of attention and effort goes into preparing for your financial future, many people have done little to identify meaningful activities to fill the next 20 or 30 years they hope to live. Many retirees suddenly find themselves in a new world without the requirements of a job. The freedom of an empty calendar is sweet and offers the possibility of filling it with the things you have always wanted to do. What will occupy the days ahead? How will you stay engaged and excited about the future? The bank account may be taken care of, but retirees soon realize there is more to an enjoyable retirementthan just money.

It is not an uncommon situation for people to be only a few months from retirement without a plan for how to spend their days. If you hope to make the most of your second act, you need to look ahead to the life you hope to live. Even if you have pieced together the financial and medical portion of your retirement plan, there is still more to do. It takes most people decades to save enough for retirement. Is a couple of months sufficient to plan a timeline for the next 20 to 30 years? There is a whole lot to cover in such a short period of time. Don’t give your two week vacation more preparation time than your two decade (or more) retirement.

If you do not invest sufficient time to plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement, you risk putting an unnecessary burden on yourself in the future. Imagine the challenges you might face if one day you are working full time and then the next you find yourself job-free and you have done little to prepare your way. Sure you may keep busy in the beginning doing various projects, catching up on hobbies and taking it easy away from the stress of the working world. But after that initial honeymoon period runs its course, what do you plan to do?

Don’t let your retirement just happen and hope for the best. Take control while you have time to make adjustments and fine tune your second act. Spend the time now, before you retire, to consider the possibilities, opportunities and challenges. Be honest with yourself and get ready.

Imagine yourself two years into retirement. What will your day look like? How about five or ten years down the line? No one wants to become bored during a time that offers so much potential and freedom. But if you just happen into retirement without thinking it through, you may find yourself exactly in that situation.

Here are a few questions to consider as you look ahead to your retirement years:

  •  What meaningful activities and new interests might you add to your routine?
  •  What were you passionate about when you were younger?
  •  What interests were you forced to put aside while working due to a lack of time?
  •  What things around you pique your curiosity?
  •  What will your lifestyle be at age 70? At age 80?
  •  What interests are shared between you and your partner?
  •  Are you a closet writer, composer, singer, dancer or artist?
  •  What would you choose to do if you had no other commitments on your time?

It is up to each of us to do our part to prepare for retirement beyond the financial if we hope to make the most of our second act.

From my blog on US News & World

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.