How to Achieve the Highest Quality of Life in Retirement
Published November 4, 2016
Today’s retirees are finding that retirement requires at least as much psychological and emotional preparation as it does financial preparation. Retirement planning needs to include a thorough assessment of human assets and liabilities along with an assessment of financial assets and liabilities. It is no longer enough for retirees to know how much money they will need to live; they need to know how they will be able to make the most of this new life stage.
By focusing primarily on financial issues, traditional planning reduces retirement to an economic event with its financial objectives marked by a finish line. The dangerous misconception it perpetuates is that, if you hit the finish line, on time and on goal, your planning is done and you’ll have a successful retirement. While it may address the financial goal of creating a sufficient standard of living, it doesn’t address the larger, more important issue of the quality of life.
There is clear evidence that shows the majority of retirees who try to step completely away from work eventually grow despondent, while those who stay engaged and productive, are happier in all aspects of their lives. Many people find the sudden loss of interaction to be especially difficult, and are saddened and disoriented by being separated from “the tribe”.
The prevailing attitude among a growing number of pre-retirees is that they aren’t going to limit themselves by trading a life of work for a life of leisure; rather they are going to take control and trade in work that they no longer want to do, for work they really like to do, and for many of them that “work” comes in the form of volunteerism.
The great Norman Vincent Peale said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” Who among us doesn’t seek purpose in our lives – something that goes beyond our own material needs? Living for a higher purpose is a reason to get up in the morning, to contribute to the world in a way that derives immense satisfaction. It’s where we find our passion, and it’s the legacy we leave behind. When we have something greater that drives us, life is better, more exciting and much more gratifying.
For many retirees, volunteering offers them the first opportunity to match their knowledge, skills, values and beliefs with a worthwhile endeavor and a way to give back to the community. Whether it’s tutoring a high school student in math, training seniors in new skills, being a docent for a local museum, providing executive-level experience to charitable organizations, or offering back-office skills to a non-profit group, many of our retired clients are discovering how the “butterfly effect” of their contributions creates an expanding circle of value throughout their communities.
It’s all about Quality of Life
You may have even witnessed, first hand, the remarkable transformation in people who have seized this opportunity to reinvent themselves by learning new skills, starting new charitable ventures, forging new relationships while nourishing existing ones. They will probably tell you they have never received greater fulfillment and have never enjoyed themselves more in their lives.
Consider yourself very fortunate. You have valuable knowledge and skills. You have a unique ability that drives your passion. But, most of all, you have the rare opportunity to improve your quality of life while making a difference in a way that will not only benefit you and your family, but your community as well.
By shifting your retirement focus from your standard of living to your quality of life, you will more likely achieve those things in life that will have a more enduring impact on your health and well-being. Quality, not quantity is the goal. Retirement is a time to harvest fulfillment, not to create more demands. It is also a time for regeneration, which can only occur through a deliberately planned transition that incorporates your own needs, wants and values. For that, there are no rules; only your vision and a plan.