4 Retirement Resolutions Worth Keeping

As another year comes to an end it is once again time to take stock of the past 365 days. By now, resolutions we may have signed up for at the beginning of the year have either been realized, modified or forgotten, and it’s time to make a new round of resolutions for next year. Here are a few ideas for worthwhile resolutions to get you started.

Review and consolidate services. Take a close look at your monthly expenses and consider how much value you are getting from them. At our house we noticed a steady increase in what we pay for cable TV service. Upon review, my wife and I agreed we did not need 300 channels to choose from, all of the premium channels or the land line that was part of the bundle. We trimmed down the bundle and are saving a few dollars. I have also paid between $30 and $50 per month for a gym membership since I graduated from college. I decided I could do what I need with a stationary bike and a few weights in the garage. I cancelled the membership and we are saving a few dollars more there. We also dropped our wine club membership after we found ourselves paying a hefty price for some wines that we did not really like. Now we just buy what we like. If you look closely you may uncover little adjustments to reduce what you pay for services without negatively impacting your lifestyle. Maybe you don’t need three disks at a time from Netflix and can get by with two or one. Saving money is always a good way to start the year.

Make yourself smarter. People stay sharp on the job because they are challenged and forced to quickly react to situations. But once removed from the mix, where do we find the stimulation to keep us on top of our game? Those of us reaching retirement age know that if you do not use your brain you can begin to lose your edge. But you can counteract that by continuing to learn new things. You could decide to enroll in a local community college course that interests you. The grades don’t matter when you are taking a class for fun. If you prefer the comfort of your home you can look at online courses. You can even work your mind via apps you download to your phone and use them to sneak in a little learning while waiting in line. For some people an old fashioned book club is the perfect venue to meet and share thoughts about popular literary works. My wife helps stay sharp conquering increasingly intricate jigsaw puzzles. There are lots of ways you can crank your brain up a notch.

Explore something entirely new. Recently I have watched a handful of movies about cooking and the life of a chef. I have always enjoyed eating good food and am now contemplating the cooking side as well. This year I plan to don a chef hat and try my hand at some creative cooking. And after viewing a wonderful course on French impressionist painters, I am starting to have an interest in giving painting a try, something I never would have imagined myself doing even one year ago. Some of us have passions that we were unable to pursue due to the requirements of a job and raising our family. Now in retirement we have the opportunity to revisit and explore overlooked interests.

Try to make an impact on someone’s life. Many of us remember someone who had a positive impact on our lives. Perhaps there was a special teacher who inspired our extra effort, a coach who taught us the importance of working together or a particular author who changed the way we look at the world. Each of us has the ability to influence the lives of those around us. It does not necessarily require superhuman effort. Sometimes a little thing said or done at the right time is all it takes to make a difference. You might prefer to volunteer your time for a worthwhile charity or nonprofit organization. Or you could commit to making an extra effort at home to help family members. Then you will get to look back at the end of 2015 at the wonderful difference you made in someone’s life.

Written for my weekly blog on US News & World

Savor Your Freedom in Retirement

When you retire you will be free to do whatever you want with your time. You won’t find any such flexibility in the working world. And raising a family rarely allows for more than a momentary respite from the struggles of paying the bills and securing a safe future for family members. Only rare opportunities exist to spend time in pursuit of what you really enjoy or genuinely care about. It is not until you retire that you are finally able to leave the rest behind and cut loose in pursuit of your personal passions.

Imagine the freedom you will enjoy. You get to choose how to spend the day without anyone else having claims on your time. You could enjoy 20 more years to fill with hobbies, passions, opportunities to volunteer, trips to take, food to enjoy and moments to share with those you hold dear. Retirement should be your time to savor this freedom.

I recently found myself searching for something productive to do with my time. Years spent in a demanding career pounded into my head the importance of putting every minute to good use. Then it dawned on me that I am now retired. There is nothing I have to be doing with my time. I am free to choose whatever sounds good at any particular moment. Best of all, I do not necessarily need to do anything productive. My old bosses would fume at their desks at even a hint of wasting time, but I don’t have to answer to them anymore.

You don’t necessarily have to have something to show for every day in retirement. Enjoying what you are doing is what retirement is all about. Lingering over activities you enjoy may actually be making the best use of your time and freedom. Sometimes the most productive use of your time is taking a nap, reading a book or watching your plants grow. You get to decide how productive you want to be.

The challenge is figuring out how to avoid feeling guilty while enjoying downtime, especially when many relatives and neighbors are continuing to work so hard. On numerous occasions my hard-working wife comes home from a day at the office and asks me how my day was. I find myself planning ahead to manufacture a list of at least a few productive items to prove I have not “wasted” my day. If I can share accomplishments like mowing the lawn, making dinner or bathing the cats at least I have something solid to show for the past eight hours. The reality is I still feel guilty that she is working while I am retired. I cannot wait for her to join me in the next few years so we can waste our time together.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with choosing to be productive in retirement. Retirement can be a time to unleash new creativity and pursue second careers or other passions. The key is to be doing what you want and enjoy. The ideal mix of productivity and leisure is different for each person. We need to make choices and try the things that will bring us the most enjoyment and satisfaction in retirement. Our freedom to do as we please has been hard earned over many years. Now that retirement has arrived, it is time to savor the moments and appreciate the freedom. What an incredibly empowering feeling.

From my blog for US News & World