What follows are some words commonly used to describe retirement. They are all positive and ignore the fact that for some people, they are illusory.
As the global pandemic rages on, whether you’re already retired or it’s somewhere in your future, there is a now need to find good things to think about from time to time. I know that’s true for me.
With gloom and despair increasingly pervasive, both from an economic and social perspective, here are 9 words that come to mind in the context of a future or current retirement.
If you’re now retired and found yourself unprepared for the financial challenges you face, these words may not resonate with you. But if retirement is still in your future, use them as a guide to making better and more informed decisions as the years roll by.
Retirement happiness has little to do with financial wealth. The media fills our minds with things like saving more money, investing here and there, telling us not to freak out when the market crashes. All valid points, but only part of the story. Tomorrow is the first of the last days of your life. Make it a good one.
Here are nine words that people use to describe retirement. Keep them in mind as you think about and make plans for what could easily be a 25 to 35 year trek into an unknown future.
Travel – Most of us have a bucket list of things to do that develops as we travel through time toward retirement. I’ve described retirement as having three definitive stages: the GO-GO years, the SLO-GO years and the NO-GO years. If travel will make you happy, and it’s on your bucket list of things to do and places to go, it needs to happen before you find yourself transitioning from the GO-GO years to the SLO-GO years. It’s no wonder the cruise industry is so popular with seniors. And don’t forget, to do it well requires an ability and willingness to spend money.
Family – Retirement, at it’s most basic level, is having more time to do things that you couldn’t when you we’re working. In contemporary America, people tend to have lots of different jobs over their working lives. That often involves living in many different parts of the country. It’s very possible your family members, both senior and junior members, are scattered all over. Hopefully, you can now not only afford to travel, but to use travel to spend time with family members. If your children and/or grandchildren can’t afford to join you on a family vacation, maybe you can pay their way.
Relax – But not to the point of boredom and frustration, something many of us are now experiencing with the stay-at-home directives. Instead set aside the ever present focus of working all the time and instead find a new passion. Being able to let life come to you instead of driving it forward everyday, can be a good thing. There’s no longer a need to be places at exactly the right time, except perhaps to visit you doctor to help you stay alive.
Happy – This might seem obvious but for many of us it simply means we’re not unhappy. Being affirmatively happy is a desirable outcome if we can get there. We’ve long heard the phrase “money doesn’t buy happiness” but at the same time, not having to freak out every time you spend too much money is helpful. And it helps if you’re able to do things that drive the happiness metric forward because you have a satisfactory income. Where will that income come from in retirement?
Success – In my efforts to help people rig the system in their favor once they transition from working for money to having money work for them, this word is pervasive. The challenge is to somehow define what “success” actually means. Success for me might mean abject failure for someone else. If there’s a secret to having a successful retirement, it’s to make the transition with an understanding of what you want retirement to look and feel like before it happens. The sooner you can begin to define the steps to take before you get there, the better your chances of getting it right. Unfortunately, most of us only get one chance to do that. Getting it right requires time, effort and discipline. Without that, you’re left with hope and good luck which is a recipe for failure.
Freedom – Retirement creates a mindset that earlier demands on your time are now gone. The predictability and purpose required for getting up every morning focused on productivity used to be your weekday normal. Retirement implies you now have a freedom to do nothing every day. It’s been my experience this leads to unhappiness, which counters the word happy which we’ve already talked about. Freedom may give you the time and space to do things you’re always wanted to but had no time for. On the other hand, it can lead to boredom and frustration. Many millions of us are now forced to stay at home, either because of stay-at-home directives, or for those laid off or furloughed. It can be a two edged sword if you’re not careful.
Money – Life in these United States is generally better with more money instead of less money. This is a founding principal behind my book, The Dynamics of Retirement, along with it’s complementary online course. It features a critical question you have to somehow come to terms with. How Much Money Is Enough? It’s question #8 in a series of 8 questions you must ask of yourself, and answer, hopefully before your retirement date arrives. The current pandemic and the resulting market crash is showing itself to be hugely disruptive on many different levels. Like it or not, money is one of the driving forces of our lives. To the extent you can bring those forces under control with effective planning, the more likely you are to find these words as positive elements in your life.
Fulfilled – This is the elusive state of mind we all hope to reach. I argue it doesn’t come naturally without more good luck than is reasonable to expect. As a financial planner for more years than I care to remember, your chances of success, and by extension, a feeling of fulfillment, comes to those willing to expend time and effort to set the stage in advance. What do you enjoy most about your pre-retirement life? What did you do to make that happen? Can you replicate it when you stop working? To find fulfillment, it helps to better understand the dynamics of retirement so you can arrive ready to face new challenges.
Tony Kendzior \ 30 APR 2020