7 Signs You Have Successfully Retired

Back on August 5, 2011, I wrote my first weekly blog for US News & World On Retirement. It is hard to believe it has been three years already but I am starting to get used to the lightning fast progression of the months and years.

My personal journey into retirement has been a steady progression as I have learned valuable information from industry pundits and first hand insight from readers of my blogs. Fearful predictions of dire trends have opened my eyes to some harsh realities that may play out over coming years. On the other hand optimistic energized comments from those already retired and loving it give me hope.

I feel that I am better prepared for retirement today than I was three years ago. But I am continuing to discover there is a lot to it and nothing is guaranteed.

Here is that first post from August 5, 2011. The journey continues – may we enjoy each step of the way.

Dave

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There is no shortage of worries as we move into retirement. We all want to get there, but are unsure exactly how retirement life will ultimately look. Despite our best planning, scrimping, and hoping, we remain concerned about outliving our savings, maintaining good health, and even being bored in retirement.

[See The 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Spots.]

However, there are plenty of people who have taken the plunge who are thoroughly enjoying retired life. They are finally able to do what they want to when they want to do it. Here are seven ways to tell if you are successfully retired:

1. Toss your alarm clock. You don’t worry about the snooze button because you no longer have to live in the oppressive shadow of your alarm clock. Each day starts when Thumbs Upyou decide it is time to get underway. Sleeping in is not a luxury, but a daily occurrence if that is your preference.

2. Financial freedom. You do not stress over monthly bank and investment statements. Whether you subscribe to the 4 percent withdrawal per year strategy or another spending program, you have done your part to financially prepare for retirement.

[See 9 Secrets of Retirement Happiness.]

3. Personal calendar. Your calendar is filled with things you actually want to do. You no longer have to attend company events, work trips across the continent, or mixers where you do not feel like mixing. You decide how busy you want to be and who you want to be busy with.

4. Travel timing. When you travel, you do so during the week rather than on busy weekends. This allows you to take advantage of special deals on hotels and flights that only exist on non-weekends. Another perk of off-peak travel is that the traffic is tolerable and personal attention is the norm rather than the exception.

5. Fewer lists. Your to-do list that grew for years prior to retiring is now pretty much to-done.

6. A slower pace. You learn to accept limitations that creep into daily life ranging from sore knees to failing eyesight to diminishing stamina. Things could sometimes be better, but they could definitely be worse.

7. A new chapter. You face each day as a new adventure and a never-to-be-had-again opportunity to live. And you do not take it for granted. Whether you want to pursue hobbies, projects, trips, books, or quiet time, it is worth doing.

[See 7 Signs You’re Not Ready for Retirement.]

Crossing over the threshold into retirement is a time of great uncertainty. If you are able to arrive in the right state of mind and accept the good with the bad, you will have a better chance to experience some of these golden retirement moments first hand. Look around for successful retirees and find your place amongst the crowd. There is always room for one more.

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