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Secrets for a Great Retirement (Part 2)

Last month, we started a three-part series about principles and practices that–if understood and followed–can lead to a more satisfying retirement. 

I shared a few general thoughts about retirement. And I discussed two specific recommendations: developing a written budget and creating a meaningful retirement schedule. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

I want to follow up here with a few more thoughts about having a plan for your time–and about adapting when your plans go up in smoke.

The importance of your retirement schedule

“What am I gonna do?” 

This is the big question all retirees need to answer.  You don’t have to figure out your next 30 years. You can break it down into smaller increments. Get a plan for your first six months of retirement. Then consider the next six months and make some tweaks. Then look at the next year and the next year.

That’s the beauty of being retired. You have the flexibility to change what you’re doing at any time. But at the start, you need to have some sort of direction or you will feel extremely disoriented. 

I’ve seen people flounder around for two or three years, and it starts to eat at them. They get terribly restless. Often it’s only when a friend or former coworker gets sick or passes away that they give serious thought to the question, “What am I doing here?”

That’s why I encourage folks to create a holistic plan as a good first step. You want to craft a workable budget, ideally one that you’ve tested. And you want a schedule that will give you some structure and a sense of purpose.

A resource that can help

At Christy Capital Management, we have a checklist to help people think through these matters. But a resource I often recommend is the book Halftime by Bob Buford.

It’s a thought-provoking read…but an easy one. It walks you through the process of transitioning from your work life, where the focus has mostly been on success, to your post-work life, where the focus needs to be on significance. It answers the question: How do you go from success to significance? 

I always remind folks that retirement is that chapter in life where you get the opportunity to use your skills and experience differently than you did when you worked full-time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play golf, enjoy the grandkids, and travel. 

However, after working with hundreds and hundreds of retirees over the last two decades, our Christy Capital team has come to a sobering conclusion: 

If your sole focus during the next stage of your life is you and your comfort and your enjoyment, you will miss out on the joy that comes from having a strong purpose in retirement.

What if your health fades…

You don’t have to be in your fifties or sixties to know that health is not always guaranteed.

As we age, things happen. I’m noticing now that if I get on a treadmill without stretching beforehand, I’m more likely to pull a muscle.

Though we may have a lot of miles left on our tires, we’re not promised good health–at any age. I think of one client, a very successful professional, who got a stage four cancer diagnosis. She wasn’t quite at retirement age, but the illness prompted her to go ahead and retire. 

She began cancer treatments, and she was such a fighter, always so positive. Her doctors grimly told her, “You have six to eight months.” But five years later, she’s still with us, still fighting!

This circumstance was never her plan for retirement, but she decided to make the best of it, and she was determined to find a purpose in it.

Because she was a devoted Christian, she called the two local Christian radio stations. “I listen to your music,” she said, “and I notice people call your 800 number all the time with prayer requests. I don’t know who talks to these folks when they call in, but can you send them to my cell phone? I would love to talk with and pray for them.” 

The two local radio stations agreed. Anytime people called in with a prayer request, the stations would route those folks to this woman’s cellphone. Before long, she was spending three to four hours a day talking to strangers and praying with them! Here she was in a battle for her life, yet she was outwardly focused and filled with a strong sense of purpose.

Her story is a powerful reminder that even when your retirement circumstances aren’t ideal, you can find a way to make a difference and live with deep meaning.

My mother is another prime example. Her retirement years have been mostly about caring and doing for others. She took care of her mother–my grandmother–for three hard years when Alzheimer’s struck. After that, she took care of my stepdad for several years until he passed away. She’s had to come to grips with the idea that her purpose in recent years has been to care for others.

Contentment and Calling

The Apostle Paul instructs believers in Christ to be content in every circumstance. He adds that he “learned” to be content. We don’t like that idea. Learning involves lessons– and tests! I always want to skip over that part. 

Still, we can learn to be content, provided we remember our calling.

I believe calling–or purpose–is tied to who we are and how we’ve been wired and gifted. 

Think about it. At conception, you were blessed with latent abilities, unique traits, and certain aptitudes. Your passions and strengths–all that is part of your DNA. All that is a clue to how you can make life better for others–and experience joy in your own soul at the same time. 

 I believe something else. Your calling doesn’t go away at retirement. You’re older, sure. But you’re still you, and you still have the capacity and opportunity to make a difference. Except now you have even more time to do so!

I love what author Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

What might that place be for you? Where do you see a big need? Is that somewhere you might come alive like never before?

Next time, I want to tell you about some retirees who inspire me with their willingness to serve.

Meanwhile, if you’d like some help with this sort of planning, visit our website, christycapital.com. There–in the top right corner of the page–you’ll see a green TALK WITH AN ADVISOR button. Click it, and leave us a short message. We’ll be in touch right away. 

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