Enjoy the Freedom of Retirement

A typical life story for most of us might go something like this: Our first 25 years are spent growing up, experiencing an introduction to the realities of what it means to become an adult and getting educated as we prepare as best we can to enter the “real world.” The next 30-40 years are spent working for a living, paying the bills and raising a family.  And hopefully the final years – our second act – will be spent retired from the stresses and challenges that we have somehow managed to survive to this point.

Not an easy road by any means yet something we all must travel. Looking back on the years gone by I am sometimes amazed at the resilience and persistence exhibited by we mere mortals. In efforts to make ends meet and prepare for our future we are often forced to endure thankless and sometimes abusive work environments for years on end. Stress becomes our new best friend as we attempt to pay never ending day-to-day bills while somehow also providing for big ticket expenses like education, braces, cars, and the occasional wedding. We are forced to delay the pursuit of our own interests and passions because there is just not enough time in the day. It just plain ain’t easy!

But should we be so fortunate as to safely and sanely arrive at the doorstep of retirement, perhaps this is our time to live a little. Maybe with a large chunk of our responsibilities taken care of there will be a little time left in the day to enjoy the freedom we so rightly deserve.

If I close my eyes and think about what the retired me will be able to do (or not do as the case may be), the future looks bright. I am optimistic and excited and more than ready to jump into that second act and live it for all it is worth.

Here is a short list of some ways I plan to enjoy the freedom of my retirement:

(1) Knock out my to-do list – I have been adding to this list for many years in the hopes I may someday have the free time to attack it. Based on where the list is today, I figure to be busy for about a year assuming I do not add to it along the way. I can’t wait!

(2) Set my own pace - since there is nothing that I must do or any hard and fast timelines, I plan to proceed at a pace that suites me. I figure some days I may be less energetic than others. If that is the case, I can and will take it slower. I am the decider.

(3) Try new things – I am anxious to dig into my various hobbies and interests but now that I have time I hope to experiment with new things as well. I want to take a journey outside of my comfort zone while I am still young enough to do so. A little excitement and a little variety are in the cards for me.

(4) Spend more time with friends and family – the most important people in my life have sometimes been pushed to the bottom of my priority list due the nature of life. I plan to renew and rebuild those relationships I value most.

(5) Writing – I love to express myself in blogs and books. I can see each day starting with some time in front of the computer where I put thoughts to paper (or actually MS Word). And of course if I lack inspiration on a particular day no problem – I will try again tomorrow. No pressure…

(6) Try my hand at cooking – I love good food and am always looking for the next killer recipe. Now I have time to experiment and discover even more.

(7) Do nothing and feel guilt free – I know that the habits built over a 30 year career will take some time to break. One I plan on addressing short order is riding myself of that nagging feeling of guilt should I not put every minute to productive use. If I decide to sit in the yard with coffee in hand for the better part of the morning, so be it. Reading, napping, and daydreaming will have all the time they need in my retired life.

Obviously this is just a subset of what can be a truly impressive list. And your list may vary. Whatever your interests or passions retirement can provide the freedom to pursue each as you see fit. It has been a long road and you have earned the right to do what you want. Enjoy.

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

A Recipe for Success in Retirement

My folks married in 1956 at a little church in San Mateo California. As they said their vows and committed themselves to each other on that cool November afternoon, I am sure they were excited to launch their future together. Looking back over what is currently year 58, they are still going strong living comfortably in the same place for the past 50 years. From their perspective I am sure the last half century has been a truly interesting, unpredictable, never boring, not always easy but well worth it journey. And for those of us lucky enough to witness their relationship they have showed us how to do it right.

My family and friends all say I look like and have many of the same mannerisms as my dad which makes sense – like father like son (my son is a chip off the old block as well). I hope I also take after my dad when it comes to the little things he does to make their relationship not only work, but rock:

No detail is too minor – dad is very in tune with mom’s likes and dislikes. Before she says a word he instinctively knows what she is thinking or in need of. And when he steps up, he always goes the extra mile. Every morning when he brings mom a cup of coffee in bed it comes on a nice tray with a freshly cut flower from the garden and the newspaper neatly folded beside. Each time the calendar rolls around to the birthdays of us kids, dad takes mom out for a dinner celebration. After all, she did the real hard work and deserves to be spoiled a bit. Dad never forgets an anniversary or special date knowing if it is important to mom it is important to him. Even when there is no special occasion, he knows each day is a one-time only occurrence and does what he can to make the most of it.

Once a romantic always a romantic – a few years back my dad gave me a book of poetry. When I browsed through it I noticed various markings and highlights. He explained to me these were some of the favorites he and mom read to each other while dating and in the years after. I can envision them picnicking in a park taking turns sharing verses from their collection of favorite poems. Dad also passed to me a love of music. It is not uncommon to see a tear in his eye while a particularly memorable song plays in the background eliciting memories held special. When out for their evening walks, the two still hold hands as they make their way around the neighborhood. I have learned from their many examples it is always the right time for a little expression of love and romance never grows old

Make time to do what you love – although tied to a demanding schedule working at the hospital, dad was sure to make time to pursue his passions. Weekends were filled with things like fishing first thing Saturday morning, a dose of determined gardening to keep those world class roses blooming, tennis with the family in the afternoon, the weekend family drive, and a hearty BBQ to end it all. Dad has lots of passions and he learned early on the importance of setting aside time to pursue them.

Mom has also shown me what is important to keep a relationship going strong well beyond the first half century:

Family first – no matter how inconvenient or difficult a situation, family comes first. Although we all have our quirks – some more generously gifted than others – when it comes down to it the bond of blood is what matters. I know having the support of my parents while going through various challenges in my personal life got me through what could otherwise have been overwhelming moments. Having been raised like this, I hope I also instill in my own family this most important priority.

Let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy day - mom has always been an optimist perpetually ready with a smile whatever the situation. She sees the glass as half full even when there is no water in it! Mom has always showed the rest of us that things are as good as we make them. This positive attitude has saved the day more than once when dad or one of us kids found ourselves momentarily down in the dumps. There is no doubt that her optimistic outlook is deeply seated in my own personality and for that I am forever grateful.

Play to win but play fair – mom is a competitive person – she likes to win. But she always plays by the rules. She never cheats at bridge, would not dream of calling a ball out on the tennis court unless it clearly was, and basically calls it like it is regardless of the consequences. Winning may be important, but how you win is equally so.

Mom and dad have one other noteworthy tidbit that helps sustain their happy life. They have fun together no matter what they do. In the car they used to sing duets as the family tooled down back roads on another road trip, alternating between songs in German and popular American tunes. They never missed a chance to hit the dance floor where they would twirl and spin enthusiastically to the music. They traveled far and wide on planes, trains and automobiles exploring new destinations for the first time or revisiting old favorites. Their calendar remains packed with dinner parties and bridge games and concerts and tennis and golf. And they have learned to enjoy doing things together as well as apart. Mom and dad live their lives adhering to some right-on advice from Michael Jordan, “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

Tomorrow morning when dad brings mom her coffee and newspaper with a red rose from the garden putting an exclamation point on how to do it right, they will continue living that recipe for success that has made the last 58 years something special for them and all of us fortunate enough to share in their journey together.