August 22, 2016

5 Things That Successful Retirees Do Well

Successful Retirement

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. 



35 comments:

  1. Wow! I envy your insight and the retirement you are living. I have posted only several times on your blog, but I am one of those who has, after 2 1/2 years in retirement, has yet to find the right course for me. While the financial piece for me is solid, I so far have not successfully transitioned in points 1, 2, 3 (emotional piece) and four. And I do keep in mind a previous blog of yours in which you reminded us the clocking is ticking and we don't have forever. As you may recall, after one year in retirement, I took a new full-time job--not a leadership job I once had. I think I am wasting my retirement in this boring, unfulfilling job. Unfortunately, I too often think of the good times at my job from which I did retire--cannot seem to let go and get on with the journey. Again, your comments really hit home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. The transition from a job we love to retirement is not easy for a lot of people. I spent almost 35 years in radio. When I finally stopped it was hard for me not to think of what I had left behind. But, after a few years, my previous life was in my rear view mirror.

      Honestly, you may always miss the satisfaction your job brought you. Think of it like a form of grieving. It will always be there, but you learn to move on and find new ways to re-engage with life. You never forget but at some point you are able to control those feelings so they aren't as dominate as they are today.

      Delete
  2. Interesting perspective. I've never thought there would be a time I sat around and did nothing. Although, when you sit on your butt typing most of the day it might seem that way to others. I know many people who think retirement is the final stage of getting and being old. I believe you're only as old as you feel. Some days I feel 90 and most days I'm feeling 40. I try to focus on the good. It helps.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't imagine spending my days just watching TV or reading. It would drive me nuts. Like you, there are days my body reminds me of my age, and those occasional times when everything works the way it is designed and I am still a spry guy.

      Delete
  3. Bob, You didn't post my comment I submitted early this morning?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See it above. For some reason Google decided it should go in the spam folder.

      Delete
  4. I am feeling like my retirement should go in the spam folder.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, right on target as usual. I told someone last year that it was the best year of my life. They were so amazed. Then I was amazed that they were amazed! I hadn't really thought about it until I got that reaction.

    I loved what you said about each stage being the best stage. That is so true. There is no stage I would go back to. My life has gotten better and better as I've gotten older.

    That doesn't mean that my life has been without challenge and heartache. You know my life story well enough to know that I've had my share of both. That is where attitude comes in. I've learned as I've gotten older that I can choose how I see my life. As Einstein said, we can choose to see nothing as a miracle or everything as a miracle.

    So now THIS year is the best year of my life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, your story would make a tremendous Lifetime movie of the week. I think the challenges and heartaches we all face in some form or another makes everything else that much more precious.

      Delete
  6. Ditto to what Galen said! This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, but it's the best, also. Friends and family have become even more precious to me than ever before. Life is uncertain, but life is good, and I am grateful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Life is good and I am grateful." None of us can ask for more than that.

      Delete
  7. So thankful I ran across your post today! Bang on! My retirement is so different from my working days. I could not return to daily schedules and deadlines but sometimes I find myself dreaming about the rewards and paybacks from that time investment. I re-focus and chase challenges now like I did then, come to think of it, and still hit the wall on occasion! After a rather non-creative week of "walls" I needed someone to remind me to believe! Just like in Peter Pan - I believe! I believe! I believe! May the creative fairies return to sprinkle some inspirational "fairy dust!" Thanks for your timely post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome, Eileen. I have a particular affinity for Peter Pan. My grandson played him in a school play.

      Delete
  8. If there was a poster boy for "we are what we do", it's me. I was a camera operator in TV production in Hollywood. At 68 and 6 months into retirement, even knowing it'll take time, I am challenged by what to do with myself.

    I chose the career I wanted over 50 years ago and saw it through. I have good health, a happy marriage, no debt, financial security and a puppy. We have a financial planner, a family trust, LTC insurance, Medicare and lifetime, secondary
    union health coverage. I am waiting until 70 to start SS to maximize the benefit. It would appear that I've achieved the American dream to the max and done everything "right".

    As much as I don't miss work, it gave me purpose. Though many of us feel that way, I only have to deal with ME. I can never get enough of your articles saying there is no right or wrong way to retire. But I wonder how long it will take for me to find other interests. Other than staying open and receptive, do you have more suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It took me nearly two years to find a purpose after my radio career ended. I was always much too busy to develop any hobbies or creative interests; work was a 7 day a week process. When I did retire I had nothing to turn to.

      I love to read, but after awhile that became a crutch. So did a few naps a day and watching 3 hours of baseball every night on TV.

      Being home allowed me to reconnect with my church. That opened the door to prison ministry which became a central passion for 4-5 years. I got my ham radio license and joined a club because a person I knew at church suggested I do so. I saw a notice in the newspaper for volunteers and became a tour guide for Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Scottsdale, Taliesin West for 7 years.

      None of those activities were on my radar before retiring. But, I was open to new ideas and stimulus and they appeared at the right time. I read a few books on creativity, simplicity, and blogging to become interested in these areas. Your comment about staying open and receptive is really the answer.

      Have you given any thought to doing something with your 50 years of experience in TV production? Consulting, advising others about equipment, writing a book about TV production may make sense.

      Delete
  9. Thanks, Bob, for your ongoing guidance and counseling. Patience may also be a great quality to aspire to.......but I want it NOW!!!!!! Keep doing what you do for us!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bob, great summary of some important retirement issues. Six months ago I thought I knew what I was going to do at least the first few years of my retirement. So glad things have changed. I love what I'm doing now, exercising quite a bit, taking yoga, some volunteering, active at the Y, more involved at church, making new friends, seeing old friends again, using social media more to get and stay in contact, etc. Much different than I expected a few months ago and much better than I ever expected it would be. Every week is brand new with many new opportunities. Looking forward to many years to come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad things are going so well for you, Gary. Finding the right balance is important, but so it knowing things will be constantly changing and readjusting. It sounds like you have figured that part out!

      Delete
  11. Another great post. And the first comment by Anonymous hit home for me as well. I'm seven months into this retirement thing, and last week I was approached by two different people with job possibilities. I've been working at patience and not jumping overboard on filling my calendar, so these two calls got my old engine revving. I never stay never, but Anon's description of an unfulfilling job took me back to the feelings I left behind and I can't imagine going back to regional jet travel and constant hotel life.

    The big question is what I will do to fill my time. Like you, I love to read, but am beginning to see that books and movies can only take me so far. We have a fall vacation planned, but again, that's time limited. I've stayed busy with deferred home projects and maintenance, but here in the Midwest the days are shortening (wah!) so gardening will come to the stop and I need more social interaction. I'm not sure going back to work is the right way to get it. Ha!

    OH, and I didn't realize you were a Taliesin West guide. We've been there multiple times and I've commented that if I lived nearby, I'd love to do that!
    --Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe you were on one of my tours! That was fun. FLWright was an odd duck. His personal life was a mess but he was a designing genius. People on the tour loved all the stories about his life, his failures, and his successes.

      Fight the pull of the job market, Hope. 7 months is too soon to make such a important decision.

      Delete
    2. Haha. Great synopsis of FLW!

      Delete
  12. As I read the comments I think about #4 - believe attitude makes all the difference. I think we need an attitude adjustment as to how we measure our self-worth when we're not working 40+hrs in the formal work world. Retirement is when we can work at living vs living at work. I'm still in awe of the freedom I am enjoying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How we value ourself is so important, retired or not. There are too many people and venues that put us down for how we look, how we think, what we wear, what house we live in......That will never stop but how we process that garbage can.

      Delete
  13. I really really like this post! Most of what's written about retirement is about financial planning; but there's so much more we need to learn and practice. It DOES take time to fully get your sea legs once you've jumped into the ocean of no-more-job. I particularly embrace your very first point: see retirement as a beginning, not an ending. Well done, Robert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathleen, and call me Bob. We are friends now.

      Each stage of life is a beginning, but retirement probably has more upside than all the others.

      Delete
  14. Bob, This is another great list. I think # 1, 2 and 4 are all intertwined. Think of the first day of retirement is "the first day of the rest of your life" and trust that it can be a great life full of joy and adventure. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All points should work work together, though #5 generally comes last.

      Delete
  15. I have only been retired just a few months. And what hunts me is the fact that I have more yesterday's than tomorrow'.

    That actually shocks me because as a professor I taught about aging issues

    It's all well and good to find interesting things to do now but But what does the rest of retirement look like the in? I see retirement consisting of three stages the first stage is that active engaged stage we are all talking about --trying to find meaning in or lives and what defines us. The second stage somewhere in our 80s or we start thinning things out more than we've already done as we become frail and can no longer maintain all those hobbies and part-time jobs. in the final stage we find that nest --where we want to die . That's the part that scares me to death and I can't seem to get past the final two stages

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may be right about the three stages. But, being firmly entrenched in the first stage at the moment, what is the benefit of worrying about the narrowing of our world that is somewhere in our future? We can't change the ultimate decline, but we can make the most of the time we have now, when we have the potential to be active and engaged.

      Delete
  16. I am approaching my first year of not working. How has the journey been thus far? It's been great and exciting and relaxing for sure. The sun comes up each day and sets in the evening and I'm grateful to see it.

    I like to do things to stay engaged. Whether it's walking our dog, riding our bikes or motorcycles or hiking on park trails, the act of being active keeps our minds and senses engaged. We just returned from a 10 day camping trip along the Oregon coast. The views were breathtaking! We have a pop-up tent trailer with solid sides (not canvas) and we just camped along the way at our own pace!

    That is just one fun time of being retired! Others reading will continue to define and re-define what a successful retiree does or "fine tunes."

    My suggestion, just get out there and start discovering things at your own pace. New opportunities await all of us before that" final sunset."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 10 days along the Oregon coast...lucky you. That is a beautiful part of our country.

      Thanks for your positive outlook and comments!

      Delete
  17. Hi Bob

    Yes the best stage of life, for sure. The opportunity to be you and not a number in the company.

    Lots of life but no more job. How do you cope?

    I think the answer to that is easy. Don't try too hard. Just live. There is a lot of wonder in the world. Feel it and live it.

    Your point about attitude is immensely powerful. How you live is up to you.Your attitude will determine whether you are the victor or the victim.

    Great post

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Igert. Your point is one I can enthusiastically support: work when you want, but live full time. There is too much ahead of us to miss anything.

      Delete
  18. Bob, very wise points indeed. I suppose I had never thought about retirement until it was on the horizon for me. Whatever thoughts I did have about retirement were unexamined stereotypes, mostly somewhat negative, such as: declining health, social marginalization, constrained finances (or wealthy self-absorption), and boredom. I don't know where these ideas came from, because when I look at my friends and family who have retired, I see happy people enjoying their days in many diverse ways depending on their interests and inclinations, including making important contributions to the community. With the help of your blog and others that I have been reading, I am beginning to form a new perspective and am starting to see retirement as a new beginning, wide open with possibilities.

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Retirement is kind of an unnatural state for Americans. We are raised in a culture that preaches consumption and production almost as religions. It is a leap into the unknown to enter a time of life when the goals are radically different.

      I am pleased you are moving forward and find some things in this blog to help you.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted