Retirees: Now Is The Time To Enjoy Living!

Robert L. Veninga, Ph.D.

In the heat of the day the great Italian artist Michelangelo could be seen laboring over a huge rock, hoping to create a magnificent sculpture. A skeptical neighbor asked: "Why old man, do you work so hard on an old piece of rock?" Michelangelo's reply: "There is an angel in this stone wanting to come out."

Deep within every human being is a dream wanting to come out. It doesn't matter whether you are black or white, blue or white collar, rich or poor. It doesn't matter whether you are 55, 65, or 90 years of age! And it doesn't matter where you live.

How do you make retirement the best years of your life? When I was researching my book Your Renaissance Years: Making Retirement The Best Years Of Your Life, I discovered five strategies that can help you achieve your retirement dreams.

First, if you want to make retirement the best years of your life, remember this fact: Attitude is everything! Most people live by the 25% rule. If they had 25% more money, they would be happy; if they had 25% more time, they would feel content; if they had 25% more fame, they would have it made. A better strategy: Live by the 1% rule: If you can change your attitude a little bit every day, your life will have added joy.

Second, develop a financial plan. It is a fact: individuals who report that they are enjoying retirement have a financial plan they believe in. It's a plan that enables them to enhance their wealth. But it is also a plan that protects their hard-earned money in tough economic times. One 68 year retiree said: "I am not wealthy. But what has helped me is a financial adviser who designed a financial plan to protect my finances. I'm living within my means and I am saving money each month. Best of all, I don't feel poor. And someday, Lord willing, there will be enough money so that my grandchild can afford college." If you want to have a great retirement, have a financial plan.

Third, make time for your friends. It is a fact: Retirees who have social networks are happier than those that don't. Why are friendships so important? When discouraged, friends will provide a big boost. As Elton Mayo, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic notes: "One friend, one person who is truly understanding who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problem can change our whole outlook on the world".

Fourth, if you want to have a great retirement, lighten up! Forest Gump was right: life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get! What should you do when disappointments occur? Take a deep breath. Identify one thing that you can do to make your life better. And remind yourself that you have solved problems before - and you can do it again!

Fifth, have a dream. It can be a big dream like taking a international cruise on the Queen Mary. Or it might be a modest dream like having a great garden or volunteering to help those in need within your community. Here is a fact: Great retirements begin with great dreams! Even when health problems appear. In fact, health issues often recede in importance when retirees are living out their hopes for the future. As author Tom Clancy says: "The ultimate defense against growing old is your dream. Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Your life may change, but your dream doesn't have to. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Your spouse and children need not get in its way, because the dream is within...Your dream is the path between the person you are and the person you hope to become."

What can you do to have the best possible retirement? Here are the keys:

  • Remember the 1% rule: Attitude is everything!
  • Design a financial plan
  • Make time for your friends
  • Lighten up
  • Dream big dreams!

Does it really matter if you embrace these five strategies? Listen to a 66 year old executive who wrote me seven months after he retired from a prestigious company. "I had great difficulty adjusting to retirement. I was cynical and difficult to live with. But I listened carefully to your remarks. I decided I had nothing to lose so I emphasized your 1% rule: every morning I tried to change my attitude just a bit. Then I took out paper and pencil and asked myself what dreams I had for my life. It was amazing - two hours later I had my notebook full of dreams I wanted to achieve..The transition into retirement has been difficult. But I'm making it - as long as I don't forget the 1% rule. Thank-you."

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