In past blogs, I’ve talked about a comprehensive financing plan to save and invest for retirement. For God’s sake, whatever else you accomplish during the rest of your working life, take steps beginning now at middle age to ensure you don’t outlive your assets! For certain, I don’t want you flipping burgers or standing out in the freezing cold at age 78 as a school crossing guard simply to earn money enough to pay your bills. That’s certainly no way to spend your sunset years!
Assuming your pre-retirement financing plan is in order, I have one more question for you: “In retirement, how do you intend to spend the 2,000+ hours per year you currently dedicate to your vocation?” I trust by now you agree with the assertion I have been hammering at you in this blog over the past four years: as a wonderfully created, mature man or woman of character and integrity, you value is defined by far more than your present job title or career.
Ponder this: When you wake up that initial morning following your final day on your job, you no longer will be defined by your job title:
- Senior Vice President, Finance, XYZ Corporation
- Third-grade teacher, Finch Elementary School, Battle Creek, MI
- District Sales Manager, Colossal Life Insurance Co.
- Head Nurse, Pediatrics Department, St. John’s Hospital
- Sergeant, Police Department, Anytown, CT
In the end, it matters not how someone else defines you but rather how you define and value yourself. Retiring from your career does not require you to abandon your active, caring lifestyle. Upon retirement, I strongly encourage you not to think of yourself as “over the hill”, foolishly behaving like your life no longer matters or that you no longer can make a difference.
Like most of us in our fifties and early sixties, you undoubtedly have a few “hot projects”, “dream vacations”, hobbies or recreational activities you are most eager to pursue on retirement day one. How will you spend the rest of your retirement when the novelty wears off? We’re talking about potentially 25 to 30 post-retirement years to fill! Without thoughtful pre-retirement planning, you soon may become bored with your day-to-day routine and spend the bulk of your waking hours in front of the TV set, rocking aimlessly on the porch or arguing constantly with your spouse.
Tragically, many retirees become frustrated, bitter and down in the dumps because they have failed in advance to map out and visualize a positive adventure-filled and productive retirement. Have you thought of any ambitious yet realistic retirement targets? Even with complete financial security, the danger lurks of rapidly losing focus, pride of accomplishment, self-confidence and your previous sense of well-being. Don’t let this happen to you!
Creating a chain of misery, disgruntled retirees often take their personal boredom and frustration out on spouse and immediate family. More than one unhappy spouse has been overheard to lament, “I just wish Jim (or Jan) would go back to work—anything to get him (or her) out of my hair!” Are you and your spouse prepared to spend forty or more additional hours each week together? Are there shared hobbies or volunteer causes the two of you would like to pursue? Once retired, will you make life easier or more difficult and stressful for your spouse? Can you agree upon a solid game-plan for retirement? When it comes to your senior years, are the two of you in sync?
Here’s an idea: why not approach retirement in the same manner you would anticipate and prepare for a radical positive career transition? In fact if properly financed, planning a dream retirement is far easier and more pleasant than locating and getting hired for that ideal next job or launching that successful new business. Once retired, never again will you need to locate someone else (customers, clients, a new boss, an MLM downline) to pay you to have a good time. On a smaller scale, your opportunity will be like that of a $50 million Powerball Lottery jackpot winner: earning a living no longer will be your concern, so precisely how do you choose to utilize your talents and spend your time?
So long as you and your spouse remain healthy and of sound mind and so long as your money doesn’t run out, your choice of activity will be entirely up to you. One possibility: spend eight or more hours a day pursuing your favorite hobby, your favorite recreation like golf or fishing or traveling around the world. Is this truly all that you seek out of your retirement years?
After awhile, that eighth hole at your country club will get pretty tedious–especially if it includes a water hazard! So will those elusive fish you never seem to catch. Before too long, you may run out of affordable travel destinations. I know the kids and the grand kids love you, but they have their own lives to live and with constant contact you just might wear out your welcome.
Most all of us in our retirement years will want to give something back to others. Time and again in my book, A Mid-Life Challenge WAKE UP! I emphasize that it’s next to impossible to accomplish genuine and lasting renewal, in retirement or at any age, by concentrating solely upon personal happiness, possessions, even self-improvement. Once you begin to feel consistently positive both about today and the future, you will want to help bring others along.
Post-retirement, your primary daily activities need not generate income but they must provide you with a sense of accomplishment, contentment and self-satisfaction. Your ultimate goal is to spend each day positive, active and alive! Especially in the early years of retirement, it’s generally best to lay out and challenge yourself to accomplish short, medium and long-term goals. Live each hour in the present, but never lose sight of your positive vision for the future. In no way are your best days all behind you!
Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road: how should you begin planning this very day for future retirement? (If you are married or have a life partner, this is a joint exercise for the two.) Here is your step-by-step process:
Step 1: What are your primary goals for the post-retirement years?
- What oft-postponed lifelong ambitions will you strive to accomplish?
- What is your intended primary daily activity? Is this truly how you want to spend the bulk of your time?
- How best can you contribute your time and talents to others? What volunteer causes do you most embrace?
- What kind of relationship do you seek with your kids and grand kids? What kind of relationship do they seek with you?
- Within your sphere of influence, who is most in need of your support and guidance? What can you do to bring them along to a brighter tomorrow?
- How will you balance your time among relationships, recreation, personal development, spiritual growth and service to others.
- What do your strive to leave behind as your legacy?
Step 2: What retirement lifestyle do you embrace and how much will it cost?
- Do you intend to downsize and move into a small apartment or condominium?
- Where will you live? One or two residences?
- How often will you eat out, how many cars and vans will you drive, how many and how long your annual vacations?
- At what age will you consider moving to a retirement community?
Step 3: What is your estimated post-retirement cash flow, year-by-year?
- I trust you plan to follow the principals of cash flow investing discussed in my last two blogs.)
- Don’t neglect “risk management” to protect yourself and spouse financially against health care emergencies and the probability of long-term care (once we reach age 65, 70% of us will require long-term care at some point at an average annual cost of $70,000 to $110,000.)
- With carefully selected “guaranteed cash-flow” investments and diligent pre-retirement savings, you can achieve a clear focus on accessible cash flow each year from your first day well into your eighties and nineties.
Step 4: Crunch the Numbers.
- Will your retirement portfolio generate the cash flow you need to fund the lifestyle of your dreams?
- If not, you may need to scale back certain lifestyle choices or to increase your current rate of savings in order to protect post-retirement liquidity.
- If necessary, factor in part-time employment but only during hours of choice and only performing tasks you’re good at, enjoy and admire.
- Here’s the key: invest now to ensure certainty of sound post-retirement finances, regardless of whether stocks, bonds or the real estate market goes up or down.
Step 5: The final step–plan, save and invest for retirement beginning today, long before the actual date you plan to quit your job.
- Now is not a minute too soon! Map out your post-retirement finances, then with calm anticipation plan for and visualize a stress-free retirement on your own terms
- If you must, make required financial sacrifices up front before you retire, then go for it!
Bottom line, so long as you and your spouse remain active, healthy and engaged in pursuit of cherished individual and shared objectives, your senior years will be your best years ever! The pressure is off–your age of accomplishment and accumulation is over, this is your time for reflection, relaxation, personal development, spiritual growth and the building of life-long relationships. For the first time in years, broaden your horizons and accept new challenges solely for the fun of it! Dedicate time and talents to those hobbies, avocations and volunteer causes you most admire. Express gratitude for your many blessings; give time back in service to God, your family and your community.
Beyond sound finances there is one more essential ingredient for a joyful and productive retirement: you must continue to believe in yourself 100% and behave like a woman or man who can make a difference. Promise yourself every morning that you will accomplish at least one project or lighten the load for at least one other person. As a relaxed, adventuresome and fun-loving retiree, you will attract positive like-minded individuals of all ages to you like a magnet. Absolutely, every day you will have more than enough to keep you busy–and you’ll be lovin’ every minute!
With the proper attitude you and I have absolutely nothing to fear from growing old. Obviously, the older we get, the greater the possibility of a major health issue, that’s nature. Worrying about your health only makes it worse so pursue a healthy diet, exercise all that you can (but not to excess, you have nothing to prove) and let nature take its course. Rather than fretting over growing older, cherish each day as it comes. Plan retirement finances to last you another 25 or 30 years but then live each day as though it were your last–to the max! No matter what your age or physical condition, with a positive mental attitude you will inspire others just by your presence.
One last word: regardless of age and circumstances, our biggest adventure lies ahead. If like me you believe in eternal life and are in harmony with Creation, you can be confident of life after death beyond your fondest expectations. Our finite minds can’t even begin to envision the infinite possibilities. If you think you know it all, ask yourself what lies beyond the universe. But before we cross over, you and I have a lot of joyful and purposeful living to pursue.
In far-eastern cultures, elderly men and women are held in the highest esteem, universally accepted for their wisdom, calmness and maturity. This may not be so true here in the USA, but you and I certainly have every right to hold our heads high in retirement. Refined by years of adult living experience, we are the same unique, marvelously-crafted human beings we were at age 35, only better!