Most people look forward to retirement as a time to forget their worries, live without a boss or a commute and to perhaps just kick back whenever and however the urge appears.
But in real life, that fantasy isn’t very common – and it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a good retirement, because every situation is in some ways unique.
Many people think the main prerequisite for retirement is having lots of money, more than you need. This is wonderful if you can do it, but in fact most retirees don’t meet that test.
Just as important (maybe more important) no matter how much or how little money you have, is a set of expectations that mesh with reality.
I’ve known people who always want more. They think they need more, and they envy those who have what they don’t. Unfortunately, the result can be a lifetime of frustration and unnecessary emotional pain.
But if the goal is just to accumulate bigger and bigger net worth numbers, what’s the point? That’s what the fictional old miser Ebenezer Scrooge did in “A Christmas Carol.”
The story depicts Scrooge as a miserable old man who took no pleasure in life and was haunted by ghosts.
Scrooge eventually discovers the life-changing joy of generosity and the mental and emotional boost of helping young people achieve their potential.
Likewise, I think the perfect retirement involves positive relationships with children, including (if you’re lucky) access to grandchildren.
Equally important are relationships with friends who live in the same world you do and are pleased to take the time to share it with you.
I know lots of retirees who find great satisfaction from helping others. Some of my friends work hard for multiple nonprofit agencies, and get a lot of satisfaction from it. In my own case, I’m sure I couldn’t be a happy retiree (or even a semi-retiree, as I seem to be) without believing I am helping people in some way.
Sure, there’s an “infrastructure” that is necessary to support a good retirement. You need financial resources, along with peace of mind over how much you do or don’t have.
To whatever extent you can get it and keep it, you need your health to enjoy the opportunities before you and keep up with your friends and family.
About 20 years before I finally retired, I spent some time thinking about what I would do if I won the lottery and suddenly had all the resources I could ever want without having to work.
The really interesting question wasn’t how I would spend my money. It was how I would spend my time.
I identified four core activities to pursue, and I realized that I could (and should) be pursuing them even then.
Pretty soon I discovered some very satisfying ways to do just that. Even after all these years, I haven’t strayed much from my desire for these same activities.
I’ve developed a set of personal guidelines for my life. These aren’t all original, but they serve me well.
Here are a few:
1. Be focused rather than trying to do everything.
2. Life is short, if there’s something you really want to do before your time is up, do at least some of it now.
3. Be kind and generous.
4. Strive to be useful.
5. Invest your time and energy in relationships that have some sort of a payoff for you.
6. If you want to leave your mark on the world, don’t wait to start creating that legacy.
7. Don’t expect everything to go your way, because it won’t………………