When I talk to clients after a year of retirement, I get one of two answers. Some say it’s going great and they’re really enjoying an amazing stage of life. Others say it kind of stinks. They thought they’d be having a lot more fun with their free time. That they’d be enjoying it but really, they’re bored and it doesn’t feel right.
I’m not sharing this to scare you, but because I really want you to think about your retirement. If you’re going to make it the best stage of your life, you’re going to have to think about it. Now, we both know that retirement isn’t just figuring out the money side of things. That’s important, but it’s actually easier to figure out the money side than the non-financial things. At Streamline, we have been doing this for 22 years and have it, we believe, down to a science. We know that once we start monitoring and running the income system and the investment system, it brings a lot of peace of mind for clients.
But why are some clients–who don’t have to worry about the money side of things anymore–happy, and some are unhappy?
In this post, I’m going to share seven things that I’m seeing in people who are successful and happy retirees. These are things that they are doing to enjoy retirement and live their life to the fullest.
Make a Non-financial Retirement Plan
The happiest retirees take dedicated time before their retirement date to think through how they want to spend their time. Maybe you’re thinking, I’ll just do whatever I want. I’ve got freedom now and that’s all that really matters to me. But be careful.
There are five stages of retirement and the third one is actually kind of a let-down stage. It’s when many people fall into a slight depression. The honeymoon phase of retirement is over and they’re starting to feel like they don’t have direction or purpose in life. This happens because work used to be their main source of purpose and meaning for the day or for their week. Also, work was the main source of social activity and now connections are less a part of their lives.
Here’s the good news: some people get to retirement and because they spent a little time on the financial-planning side of things, they continue to increase their contentment level and their happiness levels. That’s what I want for you! So here are a few questions to think about:
- What can you do in retirement that you can’t do now?
- What are the top three most important things in your life right now?
This second question will help you get clear on your values. Once your values are clear, money decisions actually become easier. We have seen this first hand. I wrote a short guidebook on how to find your purpose in retirement. Click here to access it.
Set Up Power of Attorney and a Trust or Will
This sounds boring, but if you can do it, you will have less burden on your mind. You can sleep better at night because you removed the worry of the unexpected. Removing burden from our clients’ shoulders is one of the core motivators behind what we do at Streamline. Having your Power of Attorney set for medical and property, and the rights wills and trusts set up for your financial situation, allows you to know that if something unexpected happens, your financial life will still continue to run appropriately.
You might be thinking that when you die you don’t really care what happens next. But what if you’re still alive but unable to act on your own behalf? Within the last year I have seen three clients decline mentally to the point where they are not able to manage their own affairs. Having the trusts and POAs set up make it easier on their family. So, consider talking to an attorney and seeing what makes the most sense for you.
Make Health a Priority
Did you know that the Freshman 15 isn’t just about students who gain 15 pounds in their first year of college? When you retire, you might have less structured meal times. You might be less physically active than when you were up and moving around for work. And you might have more time for social things, which is good, except that social events are usually centered around eating and drinking.
The journals of gerontology (the study of aging) also show that many retirees consume food in response to losing personal identity. This is a very common thing that can happen. Have a plan to stay active, pick up a new athletic activity, or just be aware of what you’re eating. It sounds simple but retirement is a major life change. It’s actually the best time to create some new habits. So, why not create habits around staying healthy so that you have more of a chance of being free from disease and ailments in the future.
One thing my dad did when he retired was get a fitness tracker that he wears on his wrist. It’s kind of gamifying the exercise experience for him and he’s been enjoying it a lot.
Be Generous with Your Time, Money, and Skills
In retirement, you now have the most time you’ve ever had. You have the most money you’ve ever had. And you have the most wisdom you ever had. Now this may not be true for everyone, but it is for most people in retirement. And if it is true for you, then you’re a pretty valuable person and you can be generous with your time, money, and skills. One of the best ways I’ve seen retirees find fulfillment and purpose in life after work is to discover or rediscover their unique strengths, and then use those strengths to help other people.
The reason this is so important is because if you can practice generosity, you have the power to change someone’s life. You’ve seen the studies, I’m sure, about when you give, you’re actually happier and I believe it’s true. It’s an easy equation of give = happy to test out and see if it’s true for you too.
Another reason is that when you watch and read the news, it’s not hard to think that the world is kind of a messed up place. I’m an optimist and I try to focus on being grateful for the things in my life, but sometimes when I look at the world, it does look messy. The cool thing is that when you start giving your time, money, and skills to help others, something happens. Pockets of good appear in the world. I believe that being generous with what you have can actually make the world a better place. And even if the whole world doesn’t change, you might change the world for just one person by your generosity.
If you don’t know your skills, Strengths Finder is a great, short assessment that can help you find out your unique strengths, or rediscover them after retirement.
Outsource Things You Don’t Want To Do
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could spend the majority of your time on things that you actually want to do? I was working with a new client recently and he added a new expense in retirement. His whole adult life he did the landscaping, he cleaned the windows, he did the gutters in the fall, and all these other household things. It wasn’t until retirement that he decided he didn’t want to do those things anymore. We looked at his retirement plan and added in a few extra expenses to outsource house cleaning and maintenance. This did have an impact on his plan, and there was a projected amount that was lost over the next 30 years or so, but it did not hurt his plan at all. Seeing that projection gave him the peace of mind to cross yard work off his list of chores.
This same guy didn’t love keeping up with retirement planning strategies and tax law changes and what’s happening in the economy and abroad. He didn’t want to spend time thinking about it. It made him more stressed when he did and it wasn’t enjoyable. So, he outsourced it to us. This client remained the CEO of this own life, but outsourced the CFO position to our wealth management firm. He sees the cost of hiring us as an investment because he’s getting a return on that money since we’re using strategies that he wouldn’t have to add alpha and tax savings to his plan. Plus, he has his time back, which is even more valuable.
We all know the science behind relationships being the key to health and happiness, so I won’t spend a lot of time going into it. But here’s another question to stop and consider:
- Who do I desire to build a stronger connection with? Why?
Continue to Grow
Happy retirees who retire well continue to grow in retirement. A friend of mine was struggling recently. He was trying to find what he should be doing in life–what was his purpose? He knew that he wanted to feel different, but he just couldn’t get out of this funk that he was in. Here’s how he did it: at the end of each day, he answered the following questions:
- What did I make progress on today that made today better than yesterday?
- What can I make progress on tomorrow that will make tomorrow better than today?
He said doing this has made a big impact on his life. My challenge for you is to take two minutes before bed tonight and answer these questions, looking back on the day that just happened and forward to tomorrow. Try this for five nights in a row. I did this last week and I’m not joking when I say it was one of the best weeks I’ve had all year. Maybe it was a coincidence and things just happened last week that really stood out. Maybe not, but it would be fun it you tried it and see what happens.