12 Steps to a Blissful Retirement
Reprinted courtesy of MarketWatch.com.
To read the original article click here.
OK, maybe “blissful” is a bit too strong to be realistic as an image describing retirement. But some of the smartest people I know have figured out how to make this stage of their lives very satisfying and rewarding.
This article isn’t about money. I would be the last person to play down the importance of having adequate financial resources when you retire. But no matter how much — or how little — money you have, the quality of your life will be determined mostly by what you do with your time, energy and opportunities.
I’ve had the good fortune to know lots of very smart people, and they taught me a lot about how to live well. Here are some pearls of that wisdom:
1. What I just said
Happiness in later life isn’t a direct function of how much money you have. This is no surprise to the smartest people I know. To a large extent, your happiness depends on your attitudes, your behavior and your choices. This is equally true before you retire, but sometimes it becomes more obvious after you stop working.
2. You won’t stand out if you wait to be told what to do
The happiest people I know cultivate habits and follow rules that others don’t. Want examples? Look closely at the people in your life that you most admire. What do they do that you don’t?
3. Smart people know what makes them tick
They’ve found whatever it is that’s likely to make them want to get up in the morning — and they make sure their daily life has some of that special something. Want examples? Again look around at the people you know who are actively embracing life.
4. Have fun
The smartest retirees I know make a point to have fun every day. Here’s an interesting thing about fun: It isn’t the activity itself. What’s fun to one person (golf?) may be drudgery — or worse — to somebody else. If you pay attention, you may notice that what makes something “fun” is often an attitude of playfulness, mischief, creativity, surprise. Try to pay attention to what’s going on when you’re having fun. Chances are you will find that you’re focused instead of scattered, loose instead of uptight.
5. Search for balance
Smart retirees look for a balance of taking it easy and working on things that matter to them. The right balance between relaxation and activity won’t be the same for you as it will be for your friends, and it will undoubtedly evolve over time. The key point is to find it and maintain it.
6. Have a mission
The happiest retirees have at least one driving force or mission in their lives. It can be as complex and demanding as running an organization or as seemingly simple as mastering a craft or fulfilling a family obligation. You will know you have found this special something when, every time you do certain things, you just feel good about yourself and you’re glad to be alive. For many people, this leads naturally to my next point.
7. Find something you can do for others
Whether you realize it or not, you have something valuable to give somebody. If you figure out what that is, and if you actually give it, I am pretty certain that a couple of things will result. First, the world will be a little bit better place because of you; second, your life will be richer and more satisfying. In the words of an old country song , “He who’d walk a mile just to hold an empty hand, knows what it means to be a wealthy man.”
If you have an entrepreneurial bent, look around in your community and see what needs fixing. Then figure out whether or not you can get it fixed. If you are looking for a worthwhile established charitable or other nonprofit organization, I think a great place to start is at greatnonprofits.org .
8. Combine passion (No. 6 above) with generosity (No. 7)
When you find something that gets you out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step AND it’s something you regard as really worthwhile in some way, you have truly found your calling. If anything deserves to be called a home run in retirement, this is it.
9. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you
As I wrote last winter, the quality of your life will be shaped by the quality of people in your life. Cultivate friendships with young people, and try to learn from each of them. Many studies have found that having a close group of family and friends is strongly correlated with health and happiness in retirement.
10. Don’t wait too long to do the most important things on your bucket list
We’ve all known retirees whose health or other circumstances prevented them from doing things they had so eagerly anticipated. If travel is a high priority for you, as it is for so many people, do it in the early years of your retirement, while you are physically able.
11. If you are a grandparent, be a good one
Spoil your grandkids. Love them. Teach them. Learn from them. Introduce them to people, experiences and places they wouldn’t know otherwise. Remember that they will learn most just from the example you set. It’s highly likely that even decades after you are gone they will still remember some of the things you said and did. There are many books on grandparenting. One that I particularly like, by Janet M. Steele, is Great Ideas For Grandparents: How to have fun with your grandchildren and promote positive family relationships .
12. Keep your mate happy
If you are married or in a primary relationship, keep your spouse or partner happy. Some of the smartest people I know express that commitment by regularly telling their spouses: “You should have what you want.” Obviously you cannot give your spouse the world. But you can seriously adopt this attitude. As one of my friends likes to say, “Life works best when my sweetie is happy.”
You may not need any guidance other than that. But if you want specific ideas, here’s an article that suggests 50 ways to please a wife and here’s one written for women on 50 ways to please a husband.
There is much more that could be said about living well after retirement. You can find a lot of it in a book I like: The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition by Ernie J. Zelinski.
Richard Buck contributed to this article.