Most of us think of retirement as the finish line, but this isn't the best way to plan for retirement. Retirement is just one step on the staircase of life, and we have a lot of years to live before and after that step. Here are some better ways to envision your retirement years:
Enjoy life today. Some people are so focused on getting to retirement that their present lives suffer. I'm sure many people with golden handcuffs are just holding on to their jobs for the retirement benefits and counting down until the day they can retire. Older workers who are financially ready to retire might hang on for a few more years until they can collect their full pension. What they forget is that life is short, and you need to enjoy it now. I'm not saying you should go out and spend all your money, but you don't want to have to suffer at a job you hate until you are 55. It's better to find a different job you enjoy and perhaps delay retirement a bit.
Retirement can last a long time. Retirement could last 20 years or more. That's a significant portion of your life. Retirement isn't a finish line because there are a lot of ensuing years left to live. Most people focus on their retirement finances without giving much thought to what to do with all the unstructured time they will have. Consequently, many retirees develop depression and loneliness due to feeling adrift. Developing hobbies and nurturing interests outside of your regular job can provide an avenue for fulfillment, without making work your whole life's focus.
Work is fulfilling. You may think work is boring now, but what if you don't have anything to do after retirement? Work is an easy source of positive affirmations. You finish an assignment, and you get a jolt of good feelings afterward. Your boss and your customers may also give you a positive response. Retirement can be much more isolating without the social interaction, and you might not have the kind of fulfillment you get from work unless you actively go out and look for it.
Contribute to society. Retirement doesn't mean you have to stop working completely. You can work part time, consult, open your own business or volunteer. Retirees have a wealth of experience, and they can make a big positive impact on the world. Volunteering for a cause you believe in will be good for both the people you help and for yourself.
Retirement isn't the finish line. It's just a transition from one stage of life to another, and it can be good or bad depending on your attitude. We shouldn't wait for retirement to bring us happiness because life is short. We need to figure out a way to enjoy life in the present and be happy with ourselves. If you're happy with your life before retirement, chances are you'll be even happier after retirement.
Joe Udo blogs at Retire By 40 where he writes about passive income, frugal living, retirement investing and the challenges of early retirement. He recently left his corporate job to be a stay at home dad and blogger and is having the time of his life.
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