Why retirement will be the best time of your life

Arriving at the doorstep of retirement with all of your marbles intact is an achievement worthy of praise. You have survived a career that even if stimulating has likely taken its toll over the years. Your children are hopefully approaching independent status, your mortgage if not entirely gone is ideally in good shape, and you have built a sufficient nest egg to subsidize the retired lifestyle you hope to enjoy.

As you evolve into your second act, you have the opportunity to experience the best of what life has to offer. Assuming you can cope with the challenges that come with aging and as long as you manage to live within the constraints of a budget by being a bit frugal your future can be bright for many years to come.

Why should retirement be the best time of your life?

You don’t have to act your age

The other day my wife and I were walking past a little restaurant when we heard a Mariachi band playing an energetic number for those dining in the patio. Without thinking twice, I put my arm around my favorite partner and we did a little dance right there on the curb. I noticed some smiles on the face of passerby’s and most importantly on the face of my wife.

We do not have to act according to any set of rules for what is “right for our age”. What is right for our age is what we choose to do! There is nothing wrong with acting on the spur of the moment. Why pass up a chance to enjoy the freedom we have painstakingly earned? Why attempt to bridle the energy we feel inside? Our new motto should be “if it feels good, do it” (so long as we do not hurt ourselves or others in the process). I plan to act the age I feel rather than my chronological age. And sometimes I feel like a little kid.

You don’t have to wait for the weekend to have fun

Get ready to experience the wonder of weekdays, when the crowds are non-existent, hotels are affordable, and traffic is generally at a tolerable level. Say goodbye to long weeks spent dreaming of those sacred, oh-so-short two days off when you hope to catch your breath and recharge. Your weekend is now seven days long so no need to wait to enjoy.

Once you get the hang of retirement, you may find yourself trading the old two-day weekend for a five-day weekend, actively pursuing life Monday through Friday when things are calm and less busy. Then retiring closer to home during the frantic Saturday and Sunday when the working masses try to cram all they can into 48 short hours of freedom. Does a five-day weekend sound better than a two-day weekend? Welcome to retirement!

You don’t have to waste time doing what you do not want to

More than any one thing, I believe the freedom to do what you want is a highlight of life in retirement. You decide what and when and how long you will do whatever you wish. If you don’t want to do it then don’t. Retired from the burdens and restrictions that come with making a living, you can now spend your time pursuing what really interests you. Don’t waste one precious moment.

You don’t have to heed what others tell you

“You need to drop everything and get that project done right now!” words perhaps familiar to you from your working days. When the boss spoke, you jumped. However as a retiree, there is only one boss you must heed and that is you. This is your chance to put to use all the wisdom and experience you have accumulated over a lifetime. Decisions made can actually reflect what you know is right for you. Of course there will always be those forever free with advice and recommendations on how you “should” live your life. And there is nothing wrong with listening. As long as you remember the ultimate decision is in your hands and act according to your personal values and wishes, you are good to go.

You can learn/study/read what really interests you

How much fun would it be to take a class in a subject you love without worrying about a grade at the end? Imagine learning simply for the pleasure of learning. No pressure, no sweat, and at a pace that suits your new lifestyle. Best of all, should your course of study become boring, you can walk away guilt free and move on to the next topic. Whether you enjoy the classroom setting interacting with fellow students or prefer the privacy of your own home attending a virtual session, you are free to explore to your heart’s content.

Get ready for an inspiring exciting second act doing what you want with your time and energy.

Retirement is only the beginning…

Still Navigating the Retirement Jungle after 4 Years

Time sure does fly. The other day I took a look at the first blog I posted for “Retirement – Only the Beginning” way back on July 4, 2010. I had been contently working away at various start ups across Silicon Valley for over 30 years raising a family and setting aside a little something for the future. At age 52 I figured I had another ten to twelve years to build that nest egg and get ready to depart the working world. Then suddenly I found myself out of a job.

After a reasonable amount of panic and some fruitless searching for an immediate replacement job, I stepped back to catch my breath and put some thought into the future. It was a bit scary but I had faith I would re-enter the business world within a reasonable period of time. In the meantime I thought about what I would like to be doing and what I definitely wanted to avoid. Of course it was a real possibility I might not have the luxury of making a choice if I needed to return short order to the competitive job market

With my job search under way I began to think beyond my career and look to what might lie ahead. I had never given any real thought to retirement but with time on my hands and the years ticking by, what better time than now?

I had come to the realization that although only 52, each passing year brought me closer to retirement age. I had no idea what retired life would look like but I knew I wanted to retire at some to-be-determined age. I just did not have much insight into what exactly I would do with those months and years in my control.

So I asked myself, “What can I do now to prepare for my future retirement?”

And so I began a journey that continues today and remains a work in progress. Here is how I described my motivation for starting “Retirement – Only the Beginning” in my first blog:

I started LoveBeingRetired.com for two reasons: (1) to attempt to navigate the huge amount of retirement information currently available and distill into accurate, succinct information. In effect, create a checklist to identify now those things that we can do so our retirement is the best possible. (2) Equally important to discuss and share what we can do to help assure a quality retirement, filled with fun and adventure and excitement that makes each day worth getting out of bed.

Today I consider myself “unofficially retired.” I still keep my eyes open for that perfect situation where I would want to hop back into the working world. But over the past two years, my criterion has become progressively stricter. I am not finding much in that fast-paced high stress technology world where I grew up that interests me enough to commit 60-70 hours a week.

And so the journey continues.  I want to share a few tidbits I have learned while blogging these past years. Having them in my back pocket helps me feel a bit more prepared for what the future may hold.

Have a plan

I often hear from readers that are nervous about retirement when it comes to knowing what they will do to occupy their days. Most planning prior to retirement tends to be financial in nature. Not too many spend commensurate time preparing for what to do to stay actively engaged and excited about living once they retire. Some first begin thinking about their retired days when they are on the doorstep of making the move. I have learned that waiting too long increases the risk you may not be able to make changes and adjustments that could improve the quality of your retirement. You might run out of runway before you get off the ground. However, if you take the time to look down the road and visualize the life you want to live before you retire, you might add to your overall enjoyment and avoid at least some nasty surprises. Since you will likely be retired for 20 years or more, having a plan for your future should be a priority.

A regular routine is a good thing

I am a very organized person who does not do well sitting still for extended periods of time. Having something to do keeps me engaged and active. During my pre-retirement warm up, I have established a nice daily routine to keep me busy mentally and physically and I enjoy it. I make it a point to get out of bed by 7:00 each morning. Since I am a morning person, this regular starting point helps me kick into gear rather than find myself reluctant to exit a warm bed. With my routine of blogging, exercise, reading, gardening, walking, and watching the flowers grow, I never find myself remotely bored until maybe 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, just in time to think about dinner and a nice glass of vino.

Frugal is fine

My wife and I love to travel but we have learned we do not need to stay in five star hotels to have a good time. We enjoy good meals out without feeling the need to go to the hottest new spot in town charging exorbitant prices and burdened with long lines. We are happiest being together in a lovely location enjoying each other and the moment. It is amazing how affordable life can be if you do not require all those bells and whistles to have a good time. Outside of entertainment, we do not really need anything for the house, the cars should run for a long time, we have all the clothes we need (still fun to shop for those special additions of course), and we really enjoy cooking our meals together and eating at home. It turns out it’s really not that difficult to live well without spending extravagantly.

It’s okay to do nothing

As I have shared more than once over the years my biggest fear of retirement has been running out of things to do and potentially finding myself bored. But it is important to balance meaningful activities with time off. I have come to realize that a happy retirement for me will be a combination of doing things and doing nothing. I am learning to be okay with cutting myself some slack and enjoying downtime, no longer feeling guilty if I am not accomplishing something every moment. It has been a process to free myself from this self inflicted guilt. After so many years hurrying through incredibly busy work days where there was never a moment to spare, I have come to accept that I have earned the right to do nothing. And I like it!

Good health should not be taken for granted

As we get older we are constantly reminded of what challenges the future may hold from slower reflexes to reduced strength to precarious balance negotiating the roads we walk. We witness it every day in friends and family or read about it in AARP and see it on the news. It won’t be easy but we have committed ourselves to do our best to stay healthy along the way. Working out regularly, walking together, watching what we eat, and generally being aware of our physical and mental state is our conscious contribution to staying healthy. Every healthy day is a blessing and we appreciate it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

An uncle of mine living in a retirement community tells the story of a retired bigwig CEO who feels he is better than the rest of us mere mortals despite having departed the working world many years earlier. My uncle gently informed him that he used to be a CEO. Now he is just another retiree like everyone else in residence. I think as we age it is important to maintain a sense of humor. Those readers who despite challenges they encounter as they age are able to maintain an optimistic outlook have the best chance of living a happy retirement. A smile, a little laughter, and a relaxed optimistic view of the world can go a long way.

I want to thank you readers who over the years have shared candidly details of your personal journeys into retirement. I have learned a lot from your honest feedback, real world experiences and sense of humor in the face of challenges. And I look forward to sharing more as together we continue navigating the retirement jungle that makes up the landscape for our second act.

Good luck to us all and let’s enjoy.

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.