Five Things that Successful Retirees Do Well By Bob Lowry
I have never met a retiree who is trying to “fail” at having a satisfying retirement. By fail, I mean spending time worrying instead of enjoying, stagnating instead of experiencing, and second-guessing major decisions. We expect retirement to be the payoff for years of working, commuting, saving, and delayed gratification. Does it always work that way? For too many of us the answer is, “No.”
I believe there are five definite traits and decisions that separate the truly “successful” retirees from the rest of us. While things would run more smoothly if we exhibited these attributes well before the end of our full time working life, the good news is that any of us can improve the quality of our retirement journey by adopting them now.
1) See retirement as a beginning not an ending.
For many of us, what we do for a living defines us. Our job or career controls how we think of and describe ourselves. “What do you do” is the first question virtually anyone asks of a stranger. A successful retirement requires that we celebrate our working life, are proud of what we contributed, but see the future as a new and exciting stage of life. Retirement is the beginning of what can be the most creative, productive, and fulfilling part of life. It is not the end of our relevancy.
2) Believe retirement can be the best stage of life.
I will quickly qualify this sentence, with my belief that a happy life means we think of each stage of life as the best. Each holds joys and experiences that are usually unique to that time in our lives. It should not be the case that we simply exist until retirement. But, retirement brings with it a freedom to experiment, to adjust, to focus on what makes us happy and satisfied. Those with this attitude will prosper.
3) Prepare financially and emotionally but don’t over-think or second -guess decisions.
Think of it like skydiving. Once you leave the plane it is a little late to worry if you rolled the chute correctly. As you fall at 120 miles per hour, wondering if your training was really complete isn’t likely to cross your mind. Retirement isn’t that dramatic, but the point is a valid one. Once you leave the working world behind, the preparation you completed beforehand should be sufficient. Adjust with change, yes. Second-guess everything you did to get where you are today, no.
4) Believe attitude makes all the difference.
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” I agree with Winston Churchill. Our attitude determines how happy or unhappy we are either for a moment, or a lifetime. It is completely under our control. Even under the most trying of times, how we react to that stress determines its power over us. Abe Lincoln said something about how we either see the thorns on the rose bush, or the blooms. A satisfying retirement tends to recognize the thorns but keeps its focus on the blooms.
5) Want to leave a legacy that empowers others.
When all is said and done, we want to leave something behind. While a legacy might mean money for your family, I tend to think of it as warm memories, an example of a life well-lived, compassion for others, and a faith that nourishes and supports us and those we love. My parents left me and my two brothers a financial cushion that has smoothed out any rough spots in our future, and for that we are eternally grateful. But, even more important was the example of a 63 year marriage, concern for others, and a desire to do no harm. One of the important choices we can make during our retirement journey is the legacy we are leaving behind.
By Bob Lowry