Why Retirement is Well Earned

Getting yourself to retirement is no easy task. Many individuals who reach retirement age are finding themselves unprepared for their second act. For some people it is a matter of not having enough money to support themselves in the future. Other people discover they have not put any real thought into life after the job and find themselves ill-equipped to fill their day with enough activities to occupy the hours. Across the board seniors are realizing there is no guarantee of a fulfilling retired life.

For those who are fortunate enough to finally join the ranks of the retired, the journey to get there is often a story worth telling. But the story of those who are unable to retire is equally worth listening to and paying close attention. We don’t just happen into retirement; we have to earn our place.

What exactly is required of would-be retirees to increase the odds of realizing a happy retirement?

Most people who arrive safely in retirement can relate to long hours spent on the job and plenty of uninspiring duties. While there are some people who are blessed with a career they truly enjoy that inspires them each day to get out of bed and get to it, there are certainly others who work primarily for the paycheck. Most people learn to put up with the annoyances and stress that comes with the job because they are compensated for their troubles. Some people may not agree the compensation is commensurate with the trouble, but no paying job can be taken for granted these days. We stick with it and move forward.

Along the way, successful retirees likely learned to do without today in order to prepare for the future. There are many stories of delayed gratification and past sacrifices. Without putting off our immediate wants we would not have been able to meet the demands of raising a family and steering them down a safe course. Many successful retirees sacrificed short-term rewards in hopes of better long-term security.

Personal wants and needs become secondary to those of our children. Years of providing for schooling, doctor visits, braces, clothing, food, cars and weddings can sap the energy of the strongest, to say nothing of the impact on savings. But we soldiered on with a stiff upper lip and love for those we hold closest in our hearts. Faith in what the future might hold allowed retirees-to-be to keep their noses to the grindstone.

Many of us had a spouse who accompanied us on this life journey. Together we shared successes and failures and hopefully were able to support one another when things got too tough to handle alone. When you finally enter retired life, the two of you have earned the right to focus on each other and your future together.

Most of the baby boomer generation understands the importance of maintaining good health if you hope to enjoy a quality lifestyle as you age. Time spent in the gym, the pursuit of healthy eating habits and avoiding the many practices that are bad for you are all essential to maintain good health into your later years. Having paid dues for so long, retirees hope to enjoy a healthy second act well aware that those good habits will need to continue.

It is not easy to understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice, work and focus it takes to arrive safely at retirement until you personally make the journey. Only then can you justifiably look back on the incredible accomplishment you have achieved, knowing you survived a journey shared exclusively by fellow determined retirees. Consider yourself part of an elite group that charges a steep price for admission. You earn every moment of your retirement. Once you are there, enjoy.

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.

How I Know Am Ready To Retire

How do you know when you are ready for retirement? For some people reaching age 65 is a trigger for retirement, while others fall into retirement due to changes at work or a health problem. It can be difficult to know if the time is right to make the move into your second act. I have recently come to the realization that, for me, the right time to retire is now. Here’s why:

The job. After more than 30 years of working in Silicon Valley, I think I am about done. Those 60- to 80-hour weeks that were and continue to be expected are doable when you are young, and the potential for big rewards keeps you motivated. But with the job you also have to deal with rush-hour traffic, the incredible stress and the demands that force you to sacrifice time with family. These days I am a different person. Although I can still do the job, I realize I do not want to. The demands are too high and my time with family and friends too valuable to give up for the sake of a job. The high tech world still excites me, but my drive and commitment is now focused in a different direction.

One aspect many retirees miss when they leave work is interaction with co-workers. The daily sharing of experiences along with the fellowship that grows while pursuing a common purpose is highly rewarding. But the thought of leaving this behind does not scare me. I enjoy sharing time with others, and find more than enough outside the work environment. Between get-togethers with the neighbors and dinners with friends and family, I am more than happy. Should I need more socializing down the road I can always volunteer at one of the worthwhile nonprofits or charitable organizations in our area.

Savings. I have done the calculations and analyzed the spreadsheets to understand what our expenses and income will be once we retire. I have tried to account for rising health costs, the possibility that Social Security rules could change and even expenses associated with nursing home care if we ever need it. And I have built into the budget a reasonable estimate for travel and having fun.

Although I cannot predict where the economy may go, recent events along with our age have taught us to be more conservative. It’s difficult to feel certain that you have saved enough, but I believe we have. Should we need a bit more to fund a special trip or help make ends meet, my wife and I are keeping our eyes open for a part-time gig doing something we enjoy or for a good cause.

Priorities. I have learned what is most important to me at this stage in life is different from what was at the top of my list in earlier years. Back then I accepted that I would have to work long hours and spend less time with the family in order to pay the bills and get ahead. Between college, orthodontists, cars and weddings, the list was both impressive and oppressive. But now with those events behind me, I find myself refocusing on new priorities in my second act. I want to spend quality time with my wife as we travel to places we have talked about for so long, both down the street and across the world. I do not need more things, as I have all I want. I know that good health is a blessing not to be taken lightly. And although I may have missed some time with my children growing up, I foresee in the not too distant future getting another chance as I take on the role of grandfather. I think I have learned what is important, and now is the time to take advantage of that hard-earned knowledge.

Overcoming my biggest fear. I have always felt one of the biggest risks of entering retirement is not having enough to do to keep busy, engaged and actively involved over the time ahead. In talks with many retirees over the years, too many find themselves bored with the tedious life they live once they retire. No one wants their retirement days to stretch painfully on. Fortunately, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to staying active I have my bases pretty well covered. Here’s how I plan to spend my days in retirement:

Blogging and writing. This passion of mine provides me with a means to express myself creatively as well as share my discoveries along the way to retirement.

Exercising and working out. I have been exercising regularly since I was a teenager and happily set aside an hour or more each day to stay in good shape. Fortunately for me, I enjoy doing it.

Discovering the neighborhood and local points of interest
. My wife and I have picked the area where we want to retire. Our house is a short walk to a small downtown with numerous restaurants and a growing wine industry. We are near enough to the beach to visit for a cup of coffee at the local hangout. If it is too foggy, we can make a u-turn and head back to the sunny side of town. I look forward to exploring the sights and sounds of our new neighborhood as well as meeting some of the interesting locals I am sure inhabit the area.

Spend more time on the piano. I love to play Scott Joplin Dixieland Jazz, but need practice to keep my fingers nimble and do it right. What better time than now.

Get more serious about cooking. My wife and I plan to combine efforts to make new and tasty meals along with recreating family masterpieces we each grew up with.

Spend more time in the garden. We have a yard that will benefit from a bit of personalized attention. Between the roses, lavender and other flowering plants, we look forward to creating colorful and fragrant arrangements. We even have space for a vegetable garden. There is nothing better than picking fresh herbs, a ripe tomato or a crisp apple from your own yard.

Take time to do nothing. We plan to make our retirement a mix of action and relaxation. We have comfortable seats situated to view the nearby mountains and follow the descent of the sun as the day comes to its end. Or we can sit on the back deck and look into the surrounding oak trees that line the canyon below. I already have the perfect spot picked out for the hammock.

For my wife and me, this feels like the right time to retire. Now, we just need to make the move.

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.

Retire at Your Own Risk

For many hard-working individuals, the promise of retirement is the carrot that keeps them going through the good and bad life throws their way. No matter how hard times are right now, we optimistically hope to make it to the point where we can leave the job behind and begin to enjoy our second act. All the saving and scrimping will finally pay off when we enter the ranks of the retired. We are ready to breathe a big sigh of relief as we prepare to make the big move.

But the retirement reality can sometimes fall a bit short of expectations. Taking the leap into retirement is not without risk.

Choosing to leave your job voluntarily to begin retired life can be unnerving as well as bittersweet. You have made the difficult decision to leave behind the co-workers who have been an integral part of your life for years. There will be no more Monday morning life updates or gossip around the coffee machine. It may not have always been smooth sailing, but generally the relationships we build on the job are a positive part of our lives and will be missed.

Even more importantly you have made the conscious decision to step away from the regular paycheck that has made even the most difficult job at least somewhat tolerable. To some extent you are rolling the dice because you hope you have set aside sufficient savings and investments to pay all your expenses for the rest of your life. Even the best laid plans that take into consideration the ups and downs of the economy cannot foresee exactly what is to come. The top financial minds in the world are repeatedly blindsided by unexpected events that rock the economy. What are the chances those of us less informed can hope to better predict the next bubble or political upheaval that looms in retirement?

Once you retire from the job, you also assume responsibility for additional expenses that your employer previously handled. It is easy to overlook the significance of the bills being paid until you are the one writing the checks. Prepare to add to your regular expenses health care premiums, vision insurance, dental insurance and any business reimbursements that you have grown accustomed to. You will even have to pay for those miscellaneous office supplies that found their way into your backpack over the years.

Retirement offers you the time and freedom to do what you choose to do. It is a wonderful thing to wake up with a calendar free of anything you must do. You will be able to live the day at your own pace. It is up to you to decide what you will pursue. However, for someone accustomed to having a calendar laid out for them, as is the case with many jobs, this new freedom might prove tricky. If you retire at 65 you can look forward to twenty or more years as a retiree. Do you have enough hobbies, interests and projects to keep you busy for that long? Are you creative enough to keep engaged and avoid becoming bored? After surviving the long road to get here, it would be a shame to feel you are wasting the hours.

When you retire you will finally have quality time to spend with your partner as the two of you explore this new chapter in your life. Get ready to share the moments and experience the togetherness you have only known on weekends and infrequent vacations. Of course, this new 24/7 togetherness may not be all sunshine. If one of you has been working from home or is already retired, those intended-to-be-helpful suggestions to improve what has worked just fine for the past ten years may ruffle a few feathers. And if your spouse is not yet sure how to live this new retired life, don’t be surprised to find him tagging along as you go through your daily routine. Being with someone 24/7 can require a bit of flexibility and tolerance, especially in the early days.

Retirement holds the promise of freedom to explore our interests and pursue our dreams. But it is not without risk. The trick is to know when the time is right, because you are not likely to get a second chance to do it over.

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.