Lessons Learned as I Prepare for Retirement

US News

I have looked forward to retiring for years. The idea of having control of my time to do what I want sounds about as good at it gets. As an obsessively organized person who likes to have a bit of control over things, I am not comfortable adopting a wait and see attitude, especially when it comes to something as important as planning for my retired life. I don't want to let retirement just happen. I want to do what I can to provide for the best second act possible.

About four years ago I began seriously researching retirement. I visited popular websites, read books, subscribed to newsletters and joined AARP in an effort to get a better handle on what was ahead. During the process I created a blog to share my discoveries and get feedback from those navigating their own personal retirement journey. What I have learned has caused me to adjust some of my initial perceptions and raised my optimism for the future.

I no longer fear being bored. When I first began planning for retirement, I was convinced that the biggest threat to my future happiness was becoming bored. I have always been an active person on the job and off. Without work to take up the majority of my time, I could not fathom how I would stay engaged and active for the next 20 years. A few fellow bloggers sought to enlighten me and described how their retired lives kept them at least as busy as when they worked -- only now they were having fun. But I was convinced it was not going to be easy.

On my "trial retirement" for the past two years, I have developed a routine that starts at 7 a.m. each morning and keeps me engaged until late afternoon. I have revisited hobbies that I never had time for and discovered some new passions to pursue. And I keep looking for new things to do. Having a basic routine that I am free to modify combined with a renewed ability to explore new activities has me optimistic about my retirement and much less concerned about becoming bored.

My wife has not yet ventured into retired living and might find it initially challenging. She is an energetic, organized and involved person who prefers to be busy rather than stagnant. Work has always been an important part of her life, and taking that out of the equation makes her a tad bit nervous. The good news is her husband has been in a similar situation and has almost made the transition. We should be able to figure it out together.

I realize I don't have to be perpetually busy. After over 30 years in the corporate grind I initially felt a little guilty if I was not doing something every minute. Working in stressful environments left me conditioned to be doing something worthwhile all the time. Transitioning into a retirement lifestyle where I am no longer on the clock took some getting used to. But I eventually came to accept and appreciate down times when I do nothing. I have come to realize it is truly wonderful to relax in the backyard, partake in an afternoon nap or just plain daydream. I don't have to be doing something all the time, and I am getting used to the idea.

I accept that I cannot be prepared for everything. I did not foresee the bubble of 2000 or the recession of 2008, and I probably won't see the next bear market coming either. Although we have saved what we can, there is no guarantee it will be enough. There is a lot of uncertainty in the future, and no one can be prepared for every possible contingency. By accepting that everything is not within my control I feel I am better equipped to prepare as best I can and cope with whatever comes my way.

Retirement is a transition. Getting used to being retired and making the most of it will be a gradual process. I may not get it right on my first try, but I have time to make it better, improve and learn. Although I am getting older, I am optimistic about retirement and ready to give it a try.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.



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