Don’t Wait till You Retire – Start Now

Author: AB Staff

Don’t Wait till You Retire – Start Now

Editor's Pick Purpose

If you’re thinking about retiring around age 65, you need to start thinking about the 4 building blocks .

To have a fulfilling life in which you have the money you want to enjoy life, the health you need to fully appreciate life’s wonders, strong relationships with family and friends, and engage in the purposeful activities you’re passionate about (i.e., career work, volunteering for causes, travel,  etc.) the best time to start the process is NOW.

Financial advisors have been telling us for decades that if you want to have enough money to enjoy life after you retire, you need to accumulate savings – because you can’t rely just on Social Security. Given the power of compounding, the earlier you start saving the more benefit you will have for your effort.

Health, fitness and nutritional experts have been telling us for decades that you can strengthen your mental and physical immune system to prevent against or slow down disease and deteriorations.   The earlier you start adopting “wellness habits” the better you’ll be able to maintain discipline as your age.

As students we often hear about the importance of networking: the time to build your network is not when you’re about to lose your job but all the prior years, so an existing strong network can help you.  The same is true for your personal relationships.

Relationships are critical to our mental and physical health. Emotionally we need a support system; when we engage in purposeful activities:  building a business, taking a trip, engaging in sports, having a debate, etc. all go easier when we have relationships filled with trust, caring, emotional and intellectual energy, etc. Therefore it’s important to have sufficient people in our relationship network.

Unfortunately, as we age, family and friends move away, people’s interests change and we lose touch with one another, and of course, people die. Even though technology makes it possible to maintain relationships regardless of geography, out-of-sight-out-of-mind often reduces the vibrancy of a relationship. For many people, as their immediate circle shrinks, the number of people and the quality of the relationships decline. As mobility decreases and current means of technology lose functionality, older people often more limited relationships. If you’re going to retire from a job you’ve been in, you’re likely to lose contact with some of those people.

What can you do? Someone estimated once that we all have networks of 250 people – some closer than others.  Think about the network of relationships you had in your 30s and try to keep that number constant as long as possible.  How? Here are a few possible solutions:

  • Regular check-ins with friends and family help cement relationships that may fray over time
  • Keep contact lists up-to-date and keep routine times to stay in touch.
  • Stay involved with organizations to which you enjoyed belonging to maintain and keep making new ones.
  • Find new organizations to join as soon as you can.

The same goes for using your passions and engaging in activities that give you a sense of purpose. During our careers, we often go job hunting before we leave a job. This way we can leave our job on Friday, take a vacation and then start working in the new job thereafter. The same applies to your life when you retire: what are you going to do the next day, week, month, year, etc.  Remember if you live to 95 and retire at 65, that’s 30 years of 10,000 days. If you plan in advance you can fill them with a fulfilling life where you can engage in passionate activities for purposeful projects that enable you to make a difference in your life and the world as a whole. But if you wait to think it through after you’ve stopped working (and taken a rest), restoring the self-confidence and momentum can be more difficult. While some “experts” think you should take as many as two years off after retiring and then decide what you want to do, we disagree.

The time to think about your general life direction and all the things you might want to do is before you need to do so. Most people while still in high school decide what college they want to go to, based on how it will position them for a first career afterwards. The same should be true for fulfilling your purpose.

Roberta Golinkoff & Kathy Hirst-Pasek, the authors of Becoming Brilliant observe that today’s children will probably have to careers throughout their lives – since we’re likely to live to 100+ and most people want to work as long as they feel productive. With planning, some of these careers can build on the foundations set by prior ones generating greater fulfillment, income and prestige as people age through them. Similarly, you might start a hobby playing a musical instrument and continue playing it for fun through adulthood and then decide to focus on playing or teaching others to play once you’ve stopped work. That happens with some planning and investing times in the plan.

How do you plan your future?  Share by telling us what’s working and not working for you at our Planning Forum.  Our members have told us they want better tools and we’re going to introduce new planning tools later this year. If you’d like to be a beta-user, let us know!  Together, we all will have a more fulfilling life to 100+.