WANT A HAPPIER, more fulfilling retirement? You work your entire life to get there, and you want to make the most of the time you’re given. But how? Here are my 10 rules for retirement:
1. Have a purpose and a plan, but be flexible. You might have devoted more than 70,000 hours to your career, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if your work has become a huge part of your identity. Giving up what you do for a living can create a void in your psyche. My advice: Before you quit your career, think hard about what you want to do instead. It may take years to work through the details, but consider interests or skills that you didn’t tap into while working. Find a reason to get up in the morning, but without the daily grind.
My reason for getting up: It started with earning a master’s degree in personal finance at age 62, and also becoming certified in career coaching. Now, I work with young adults to help them align their purpose, their passions and their future paychecks, so they can achieve financial freedom while realizing greater personal and professional satisfaction. I do it not for the money, but because I enjoy it.
2. Learn to say “no” without guilt. Your time is your most precious resource. Use it wisely. Do what you want, when you want, how you want and with whom you want. During retirement, you’re in a position to “lend a hand.” You have a lifetime of experience and perhaps you’re anxious to share your hard-earned wisdom with others. That’s a great idea, but don’t get overwhelmed by the opportunities. Don’t feel as though you need to save the world all by yourself.
3. Stay away from crowds. That means never shopping on weekends. Instead, shop during off-hours. While you’re at it, take advantage of the senior discounts offered by vendors.
4. Avoid traffic. Don’t leave your house before 10 a.m. and be back by 3 p.m. My dad, who lived to age 96, made sure he was home by 3 p.m. to pour himself a glass of red wine. Rush-hour traffic or red wine? Not a difficult choice.
5. Don’t commit to activities that are taxing or unenjoyable. Instead, pick one or two activities you’re passionate about and do them well.
6. Spend your time and money on experiences with family and friends. Meanwhile, forget accumulating further possessions. News alert: Your family, especially your children, don’t want your stuff.
7. Organize and declutter. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your loved ones is cleaning up your life before you die. Rid yourself of things that don’t bring you joy and have no useful purpose or sentimental value. Be sure to organize your financial records. Update your will, any trust documents and powers of attorney. Money and death make bad bedfellows, and can create enemies among previously loving family members. Do your family a favor, make your intentions clear—and save your family from themselves.
8. Keep active, both physically and mentally. Research shows that even moderate exercise and mental stimulation help stave off physical and mental decline. Try to walk for 30 minutes each day. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Invite a friend while you’re at it. Similarly, try reading and doing a crossword puzzle each day. That might require a trip to the library or a subscription to your local newspaper. Yes, some of us still read the printed newspaper.
My 97-year-old mother, who has never driven a car, has walked all her life, even now using her walker up and down the halls of her condo building. She never misses a day. She also completes a daily crossword puzzle. She’s one of the most engaged and happy people I know.
9. When you’ve finished the race, stop running. If you’re fortunate to have enough income and assets to sustain your desired standard of living, stop worrying about beating the stock market. Be an investor, not a speculator. If you feel compelled to trade, limit yourself to, say, 2% of your portfolio. With the rest of your money, adopt an asset allocation that allows you to sleep well at night.
10. Take time each day to give thanks. Reflect on who you are, what you’ve become and the gifts you have to share with others. Thank people who have supported you. Look for opportunities to share your kindness with others. You will be remembered for what you do, not for what you have.
After 30 years in corporate sales, Ray Giese, CFP, CCSP, MS, launched an encore career with his coaching practice, Career & Financial Pathways LLC.
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