Successful retirement is not all (or even mostly) about money.

April 29, 2009

For I don’t care too much for money,
For money can’t buy me love

– Lennon/McCartney (1964)

Or happiness.

Many people think that if they accumulate enough physical and financial assets during their careers, they will assure themselves a successful retirement. Assets may indeed assure a degree of physical comfort, a certain lifestyle and a sense of security. But physical and financial assets cannot buy

  • A healthy mind and body
  • Great friends and a supportive social network
  • A happy and positive attitude
  • The joy that comes from living life to its fullest every day

Having money is good and having more than “just enough” is even better for most of us. But tech or housing bubbles may burst, corporate business models may crash, illness may demand large sums, government may redesign or restrict retirement income and other support programs and so on (truly) ad nauseam.

It is best to think in terms of living within your financial comfort zone – within the financial resources available to you. Not living within your financial comfort zone invariable leads to stress which is one of the great destroyers of successful retirements. If your retirement lifestyle aspirations exceed your resources, then you will need to add to those resources by coming partly out of retirement or only partially retiring in the first place. If your resources exceed your lifestyle aspirations, then you are blessed, but remember, as we have seen in 2008-2009, financial circumstances can shift quickly.

With living in our financial comfort zone as a base we can focus on more important aspects of life

  • Exercising regularly: stretching, aerobics, muscle building.
  • Maintaining our existing social relationships and building new ones. Very few people can be truly happy by themselves. We are by nature social creatures. Socialization is not something that will just happen to us; we need to nurture it.
  • Building our attitude: Studies have shown that one of the most important factors in being happy is attitude. There are many things about ourselves and our circumstances that we may not be able to change but attitude isn’t one of them; we can decide to be happy. We need to focus on: what we can do rather than what we can’t do; what we have rather than what we don’t have.
  • Learn, study, grow, create, build, give back, eat, drink and be merry. Retirement is the time to enjoy all the things you love and learn about those you didn’t have time for during your years of work. Learn a language. Make cheese. Be a model. Learn to draw. There are endless possibilities.

Where to get started? You need a plan.

While a “bucket list” (what do I want to do before I “kick the bucket”?) is an interesting thing to about which to fantasize, the plan really needs to be about: what do I want to do with my life? What do I want to build, create, see, experience, learn? Now is the time to pursue your inner talents and creativity and to find fulfillment.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2009 R.K. Price