Which do you fear more: dying or outliving your retirement savings? A 2010 Allianz survey of men and women 44 to 75 (quoted in the October 2012 issue of Money Magazine) reveals that 61% of respondents prefer dying. For you and me, this may not turn out to be an issue: if we face our sixties and seventies with trepidation, burdened down by constant money worries, we probably won’t live that long anyway!
Here’s a second question for you: assuming in your middle years you wisely save and invest for retirement, how are you going to spend all of that free time once you retire? Here are a few suggestions on how not to spend your time:
- Sit around and watch TV all day and all evening. (After a few years, those game shows and reality programs get kind of boring.)
- Routinely listen to talk radio then bitterly complain about those fool politicians who are ruining our country.
- Play golf 365 days a year, except when it snows or pours. (This may get a bit stale, especially if you keep playing on the same course. Also a bit expensive with club dues, green fees and balls in the water.)
- Travel all around the world seven times. (Travel is great but it can grow old if that’s all you do.)
- Stare for hours on end at your computer, i-pad or smart phone, mindlessing tweeting, blogging or browsing through trivialities on the Internet.
- Argue with your spouse over every little thing. (He or she soon will wish you were back at work.)
- Overstay your welcome at your kid’s house. (Your visits are great, but grown children and your grandchildren need some time and space to lead their own lives.)
Over time, living out retirement years strictly for self can become both stifling and unfulfilling. If you’re like me, at least part of the time you’ll want to remain actively engaged in service to others, whether you get paid for it or not. Here’s the key: why not serve others performing only those activities you’re good at and which you genuinely like to do?
Well-funded, balanced retirement provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve others in three ways: love and support for family and cherished friends, volunteer projects in church and community and assistance to people around the world through networking, traveling to serve, writing books, articles and Internet blogs and contributing time and money to cherished causes.
What are you good at? I’m a terrible carpenter, so I don’t plan to build my neighbor a new garage or to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. I am good at business and might serve as a Junior Achievement advisor or offer advice and counsel to a disadvantaged start-up business.
Given today’s tough economy, I trust that you were not thrust into retirement sooner than anticipated because of a sudden layoff, plant closing or corporate downsizing. Presuming you are still on the job and have have time to scope out, save and invest for retirement, I urge a holistic approach to planning for your retirement years:
- Financial preparedness. This is the cornerstone to everything else. You will need to set aside “buckets of assests” to fund various stages of retirement based upon where and how you envsion living during each stage. You mustn’t neglect planning for contingencies which become more and more likely as you and your spouse grow older (illness, medical emergencies, residence down-sizing, long-term care.) Plan to work full or part-time should you wish, but not because you must to pay the bills.
- Health and wellness. For a joyful and carefree retirement, exercise and a balanced, healthy diet are a must. Exercise needn’t be strenuous, especially as you grow older. In my sixties, I routinely jog, swim, go on long hikes, swim and use the treadmill. As I grow older, a leisurely one or two mile walk a day may be enough. Like me, don’t you invariably feel better after exercise and a healthy meal?
- Mental attitude. Regardless of circumstances, don’t be an “old grouch.” As you grow older, it is inevitable you will experience loss of loved ones and other difficult challenges of aging. There is no way to avoid loss but you and you alone will determine how you react and how quickly and strongly you recover. Once grounded within by a firm, positive self-image you will find ways to cope with every major crisis, loss or challenge of growing old.
- Remaining involved in service to others. When you leave your last paid position, retire from work, not from life! You are so much more than your workday and your career! Planning and launching an active, fun and accomplishment-filled retirement can be every bit as fulfilling as launching a successful new business or finding that perfect job! Your key is to continue thinking and behaving like a person who wants to, can and will make a difference. As a relaxed, adventuresome, fun-loving retiree, you will gravitate to other positive like-minded individuals: all of you will have a good time.
Next to adequate funding, the most essential single element to a long, joyful and prosperous retirement is a clear and detailed personal plan for the remainder of your life. Update the plan periodically as your tastes, opportunities and circumstances change. Never set your retirement plan aside to collect dust. Whenever a change in circumstance, setback or obstacle arises, modify your plan but don’t don’t abandon it.
The balkooning US budget deficit and the uncertain future for Social Security and Medicare means we can’t sit back and wait for Uncle Sam to carry us through. But why depend upon someone else? You are CEO of you, I am CEO of me! Does anyone else care as much about your future? The good news is you can begin to plan today far a well-rounded, carefree retirement on your very own terms.
Make those tough decisions now–upfront while you still have time. Beginning this very day and right up until retirement, pay yourself first putting money into that IRA, 401(K), self-funded pension plan, annuity or other form of savings before you squander money on today’s luxuries that you really don’t have to have. Locate a sound financial advisor who genuinely cares about you as a whole person, concerned with your life-long goals and ambitions, not just your finances. By making reasonable sacrifices now and scoping out plans for a long and bountiful retirement, you can buy yourself years of carefree living and the freedom to pursue your dreams–a true lottery winner’s mentality!
To learn more about the many benefits of holistic retirement planning, tune into the October 8, 2012 podcast of my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. My guest is Jack Tater, Amazon.com best-selling author and noted expert on the keys to a safe and balanced retirement.