January 31, 2018

What Factor Determines the Success of Your Satisfying Retirement?


I imagine you are thinking the answer must be having a solid financial  foundation. After all, without enough money retirement can be an endless struggle.

Maybe you are thinking the most important factor is not wasting your time. You want to have fun, dig in the garden, read a powerful novel, help serve meals at the shelter, get lost in your favorite hobby, or play with your grandkids. Managing your free time is crucial.

Or, your guess is having a loving family or bunch of great friends who are there for you, whatever the situation.

No? Then, maybe it is living in your favorite place in the world: watching the waves crash on a rocky shore or perfect white sandy beach, looking at the snow-capped mountain tops, being energized by the urban bustle in the big city of your dreams, or living miles away from the noise of traffic and shopping malls, where your nearest neighbor is a 30 minute walk away.

Luck. That must be it. Since life is really unpredictable and the future is going to happen whether you are ready or not, the quality of your retirement is up to the fates.

Hold on, it must be attitude, or maybe perseverance. 


These are all good answers, but not the one factor that determines the quality of your satisfying retirement.

That factor is....... problem-solving.



Everything I listed above is part of a positive retirement experience. All of them help build this stage of life into one that excites you, stimulates you, satisfies you.

But, without the ability to solve problems you will always struggle. No matter how well prepared you are financially, relationally, socially, or health-wise, retirement is going to put obstacles in your path. Something you didn't expect will happen. Something you did expect will fall through. When that crack develops in your path forward your ability to solve the problem will make all the difference.

Importantly, solving a problem doesn't always mean making it go away or having it get better. Sometimes a solution is more of an accommodation or acceptance to whatever the new reality is. Sometimes a solution is taking a different path forward or changes in lifestyle or expectations. 

At its core, how you respond to whatever happens is the factor that will shape your retirement experience. You can approach whatever issue has knocked you off course as a wall or an obstacle to work around as best you can.



13 comments:

  1. Bob, this post speaks to my belief that life issues such as health, relationships, personal growth, time, finances need to be managed in retirement just as they did pre-retirement. Retirement is another phase of life with many of the same issues wrapped up in a different context. For example, a SIL retired recently. We joked about the monthly bills that still need tending to. I believe that how life was managed pre-retirement will be an indication of life post retirement. Many of these life management skills can be learned. There are so many factors, as you said, that influence how we live life. I think a major one is focus of control and whether one feels in control of his/her life or not. Two phrases resonate in my life: (1) Do life so life doesn't do you (2) No matter where you go, there you are.

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    1. I like your phrases. I'd add one: if you don't know where you are going any road will take you there.

      Retirement is not different from the rest of your life in the basics: problem-solving is what is required regardless of your age or circumstances.

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  2. I used to pride myself on being a good problem solver. I still do, but now I realize that sometimes the first step in solving a problem is removing the label of "problem." That helps me look at a situation differently because I am no longer identifying the situation with the negative label of a problem. Of course this isn't always helpful or possible, but I've surprised myself by how many situations I labeled problems didn't have to be.

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    1. We could call it life-solving instead of problem-solving. Or, it can be seen as a challenge instead.

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  3. Excellent post today. Really good point.

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  4. We can't control the cards we're dealt, but we do have some control over how we play the hand. -Jean

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    1. Exactly. Think about bluffing when the hand is weak and going all in when you are holding four kings.

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  5. So far the first 3 years of retirement have gone well for me, no unexpected bumps in the road though they will come sooner or later. I can say I really did prepare for retirement. I must have read at least 20 books on retirement, many were financial of course but at least 6 or more of those were mainly non-financial (including yours and Dave Bernard's). I think the most unexpected obstacle to date is learning not to be afraid of using the money that I spent decades saving for retirement. After all that scrimping and saving it feels almost sacrilegious to be spending it down. What about those bumps in the road? What if I need the money then? Still, I keep reminding myself that retirement is what I saved it for.

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    1. Your "problem" is mine, too. I have more than I will need yet I take pride in not spending it. Odd. Yes, we want to leave a decent inheritance for our daughters but we can still afford what we want. Then why do I spend two hours on Angie's List trying to find a deal for some minor backyard work?

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    2. RESILIENCE is a quality that I think is the most important for success at any stage of life.If a problem or a bump in the road stops you in your tracks, you're sunk.

      We need to teach our kids this trait also--and not step in too quickly to solve problems for them!!

      At every turn in the road, it took resilience to regroup, think creatively, or simply retreat and heal a little then move on.... life is too precious and too much a gift, to get stuck...

      My humble thoughts!

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    3. Resilience is an important response to problems. Good choice.

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  6. I agree that problem-solving, resilience, and that an orientation to “do life” all are really important factors in achieving a satisfying retirement. There is a personal quality that underlies all three of these factors; it is having a sense of personal agency. Agency is the belief that you have the power to make choices and that your choices make a difference. If you have a sense of agency, then you can tackle problems and learn from mistakes. When unexpected things happen, you can bounce back because you make new choices that put you on a good path. When you choose your path, you are more likely to feel satisfied by it. One of the reason that difficult experiences can hit us so hard is that they make us question our sense of agency. My two cents worth for the day!

    Jude

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