Retirement: Too Important to Gamble On

Ask people the requirements for a successful retirement, and most will unfailingly say “money”!

But is money the only ingredient that will provide for a satisfactory retirement? Will money alone secure happiness? My experience is that retirement is only one fourth of the recipe for a successful retirement. The remaining components are emotional, social, and physical aspects of one’s life.

Workers are instructed to begin planning for their retirement from the first available opportunity. They invest in retirement plans, meet regularly with their financial planner, and monitor their investments, all in an attempt to keep on track for reaching the financial resources they believe they will need to make their retirement a success. Once that magic number is obtained, they retire.

People are living longer in retirement than ever before, thanks to improvement in nutrition and healthcare. Thus, it is all the more critical to plan for not just the few years that our grandparents experienced post retirement, but perhaps decades of retirement. The following tips will help you avoid gambling away the opportunity to guarantee a successful retirement:

Recognize the value that work has in your life. In retirement, roles change overnight. No longer are you faced with daily schedules that are directed by others. While this can be refreshing, the other side of the coin is that you risk having no daily schedule, unless directed by you. You worked hard to be respected and valued at work, and as such developed an identity tied to a hierarchy in the work place. Stepping into retirement means to be entering an undefined role.

Assess the impact retirement will have on your marriage. After years of being away from home typically 10 hours per day, the adjustment to a couple’s lifestyle is significant. You and your spouse will be coming together much like two newlyweds. Some wives have been heard to say, “I married him for breakfast and dinner, not for lunch.” Issues of privacy, household responsibilities, and role changes need to be openly discussed with your spouse prior to retirement.

Know that retirement is not an everlasting vacation. You’re retiring from your job, not your life. After a period of time, you will need to find a new sense of purpose in life. Trust me, despite our fantasies, basking in the Caribbean sun every day while sipping margaritas gets boring after a while. You need to find happiness in emotionally satisfying relationships, mental stimulation, and meaningful activities.

Identify activities that interest you but previously did not have the time to pursue. Unfortunately, people often make the mistake of getting involved in new activities only after they have retired. If possible, start getting involved with these activities while still employed. This will help prevent a void in your life when you retire. After all, it may take some trial and error to discover activities that are right for you.

Examine the rewards in developing a deeper spirituality. Along with all the benefits of retirement come the inevitable losses of meaningful relationships. Investing time in your place of worship can serve multiple purposes. A strong spiritual base can offer you the opportunity to make new friendships, find a supportive base during dark periods, and provide you with new avenues of learning and appreciation of life.

Success in retirement will not occur without your active planning. You cannot assume your retirement will be on the same path as others you know, as success will be dependent upon your own needs, lifestyle, and personality.

Transitioning from employee to retiree is a journey in experimentation. Actively planning on how you will spend your retirement – rather than gambling on hope and a wish – will bring emotional satisfaction and happiness. Planning will result in the creation of new opportunities, accomplishment of goals that previously couldn’t be pursued, connection with individuals and society as a whole, and discovery of a new sense of purpose.

Please share your own ideas, concerns and experiences with regard to your own retirement.

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Eileen Lenson