As it turns out, life and retirement’s biggest questions aren’t about money. They’re about how to stay happy and avoid regrets.
A recent article in MarketWatch reports, “According to two new books that profile retirees of all income levels, some of the biggest questions and conundrums of the retired life have very little to do with money.”
This may be surprising to you. After all, most of our adult lives are spent accumulating, saving, and spending money. Retirement advisors warn that you won’t have enough money to sustain your lifestyle. The result is a culture in which so many Americans are worried about how much they have (How much should I contribute to my IRA? Do I take out four percent during retirement?) and less about what they will do with what they have.
The result can be regrets, as retirees haven’t planned how they will use their wealth to enjoy life and make an impact.
According to co-authors Thelma Reese and Barbara M. Fleisher, who wrote The New Senior Woman, “People are concerned about being able to sleep at night having had a day that was meaningful in some way.”
Here are six pieces of advice that current retirees, interviewed in The New Senior Woman as well as in Time of Your Life: Everyone Has a Story, have for the up-and-comers:
- Expect some disappointment. Retirement is often depicted as “the ultimate goal,” but it can also be a challenge. That’s why it is so important to get involved in things that make you happy, whether that is volunteering or embarking on a second career.
- Decide, now, how you will spend your time. Deciding in advance how you want to spend your retirement can help to alleviate disappointment, boredom, and regrets. Those who are happiest during retirement, The New Senior Woman found, are those who are busy doing things they enjoy—not just busy for the sake of being busy. Before your retirement, think about how you will find fulfillment.
- Consider volunteer work. With the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. suddenly free, boredom can quickly set in. Many retirees in The New Senior Woman recommended volunteer work. Whether you head down to the local soup kitchen or sit on the board of a charitable organization, volunteering can be fulfilling and can allow you to make an impact on the causes you care about.
- Understand that accidents can happen. One retiree interviewed in Time of Your Life: Everyone Has a Story described his experience following a severe fall that left his left arm paralyzed. A musician, the man was devastated that the accident had seemingly ruined his plans to return to music during retirement. But he soon realized that by giving up, he was throwing away what he had worked for during the past thirty years. His lesson? Expect the unexpected and adjust to situations. With some effort, he regained movement in his arm and is now playing again.
- Move for the right reasons. As parents get older, there is often increased pressure from children to move closer. In the event of a health crisis, the children want to be there to help. But is this right for you? Make sure that if you move, it is because it will make you happy—not because of future potential health crisis.
- Get rid of clutter. A common practical concern is how to clear the clutter accumulated over decades. A great way to get rid of unwanted items is to donate them to charity or to give them to your children.