Don’t panic, retire gracefully
If you think preparing for retirement is all about money
you have probably missed the point.
Chose a combination of happiness, wealth and impact
to deliver a meaningful retirement free from futility and pointlessness
The Baby Boomer generation is between 55 and 75 years old and beginning to retire. This movement is the most significant global lifestyle shift on the planet. It started in earnest in around 2015 and is expected to last another 15 to 20 years. Yet people only begin to consider retirement some five to seven years before they retire. If this is you, are you dreaming about it, worrying about it, planning to retire or just ignoring it?
One thing is for sure: your life after work will be very different from that of earlier generations. Your generation will redefine how to retire, becoming the cutting-edge architect of Retirement 2.0. New and different aspirations and concerns will drive how you retire:
- You will probably live longer; if you are 65 now, you can expect to live to 85 or beyond.
- During the boom years of the ‘80s and ‘90s finances looked good. However, the ‘00s recession and 2008 financial crisis hit hard, and your pensions may not seem so rosy today.
- You may feel some responsibility for the state of the planet and economy, and want to make amends.
- You are worried about the impact of retirement on your home life. Fear of becoming bored and purposeless without the meaning and satisfaction that work provided is a concern.
- Saying farewell to your clients, colleagues and your work community will be an emotional strain. (I know, and I’ve seen others in tears at the prospect.)
So if you are looking forward to retirement with some apprehension then pat yourself on the back. You have already understood that it will be challenging. Appreciate that health, community, connection, purpose and values, as well as money, contribute to a happy and ‘good’ retirement.
These factors all need to be brought into your retirement equation. All things considered, retirement isn’t straightforward. The secret lies in the virtuous circle of happiness, wealth and impact. Happiness is an essential pre-requisite for managing and using your wealth successfully in retirement. Your wealth provides you with the resources to have an impact. In turn, making a difference brings meaning into your life and reinforces your happiness.
You may think that leaving work with good health and a good pension will guarantee a successful and happy retirement. Well, I’ve got news for you. ‘Decades of research have shown that happiness is not the outcome of success, but rather its precursor’ writes health psychology expert Emma Seppälä.(1) This finding may come as a surprise, especially if your lifelong career aspiration has been to achieve happiness through wealth, success and self-affirmation, rather than vice versa.
Neuroscientists define happiness as a sustainable state of heightened positive emotion. Fortunately, they have discovered simple steps to becoming happy rather than waiting for happiness to be thrust upon you.
In other words, happiness is a habit, not a serendipitous event. It is a series of straightforward and intuitive practices.
I believe my happiness comes from a balanced diet and a glass of Italian red each night. Regular yoga, Metafit, massage, meditation and counselling sessions are essential. Running between twenty and thirty kilometres a week and racing up to half-marathon distances also keeps me fit. Trips to the sun are crucial, as is a less critical and stressful approach to life. I listen to music, read books, contribute to my local and virtual communities. Taking time out by walking gives my mind that chance to wander. Gossip, judgement and criticism of myself and others are prohibited. Finally, I always remember that my mistakes are my greatest asset.
Happiness is essential for growing, maintaining and utilising your wealth. So what is wealth exactly?
In our money-obsessed world, the default measure of wealth is financial. Indeed, I would not be surprised if much of your pre-retirement preparation concerns having enough money to retire?
However, the word wealth has its origins in Old English for well health. Your real wealth comprises your physical, spiritual and emotional well-being, as well as your financial fitness. Indeed, as a baby boomer with forty years of experience behind you, much of your wealth lies in your wisdom.
Wisdom grows out of the pain of your mistakes. Shame, humiliation, fear and rejection are heavy burdens. If you handled them with courage and vulnerability, you would have grown and changed. Then your mistakes become your greatest asset, the source of your real wealth.
So as you prepare to retire, catalogue the wealth, wisdom and experience you can use to make an impact. Become more self-aware (another happiness cornerstone) and determine the lessons and skills you learnt and the wisdom you gained. Consider how you might use these to make an impact and a difference when you retire.
Retire to make a difference
Based on my own experience and that of my clients, family and friends, those who veer towards living for others are generally happier and more satisfied when they retire than those who focus on themselves. When you make a difference in the lives of others, your own life develops meaning. In turn, this reinforces your happiness.
One of my friends is a retired doctor and now a local councillor. He is active with his family in fighting fracking in North Yorkshire where I live. His medical knowledge provides counter-arguments to the fracking companies who claim fracking is harmless. Part of his time is spent at a protest camp with other members of his family and he is a respected member of the anti-fracking community. In a recent radio interview, he and his fellow protesters asserted that their joy came from their cause, community, purpose and the fulfilment from making a difference.
Time to fly
I began this article by relating how the baby boomers are redefining retirement. Now it’s your opportunity to take everything you have gained from your working life, to re-purpose it and use it in a way that benefits you, your family and the wider world.
Don’t let fear hold you back as you think about how to retire. Have the courage to face the changes. Accept your vulnerability with grace and resolve to fly. Have the courage to face the changes. Accept your vulnerability with grace and determine to fly.
(1)Seppälä, E. (2017). The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. Piatkus
(This is an abridged version of an article written by the author in the recently released book Retire Inspire. The book contains guidance, lifehacks and cut-throughs on a wide range of subjects to do with retirement contributed by over twenty experts in their field. It is available from Amazon in the UK, Australia and the USA. Photo by Reza Hasannia on Unsplash)
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