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Living Well As We Grow Older

Enjoying Life and Living

Search the internet with the phrase “Keys to a stress free retirement” and you will think that money is all that matters. The financial planning industry is an active and lucrative one. SunTrust bank, to take just one typical example, counsels us, “The key to a stress-free retirement is starting to save early.” Most enterprises that profit from planners will provide the same counsel.

Yes, money matters and the wealth that you accumulate during your productive years will constrain the trappings of your post-work life. But, money is less important than the meaning that you find for your life.

If you have earned a living doing what you love, then you are among the fortunate few. You will want to continue active at what you enjoy into retirement with a diminution of commitment as your energy wanes and changes of mind and body begin to impact your effectiveness. For you, a gradual transition from the active life of the workplace toward the life of contemplation may bring you happiness.

Others face a stark transition. Stories abound of marriages torn asunder when the separations of work disappear and a couple now finds themselves together all day long. More common are those who initially experience joy at the prospect of perpetual vacation only to find some months (or years) later that they feel irrelevant and no longer valued by others.

What have you always wanted to do for which there was no time?

Click on this paragraph to be taken to an American Psychological Association article on transitions from the regimented life of the workplace to managing the freedom that comes afterwards. While it is a minority who plan financially for retirement, there are still fewer who enter the years of freedom with a clear concept of how best to give those years meaning.

What do you want to do after retirement? Why does that matter? Will it serve only you or will you be serving others as well? Are you comfortable with solitude or do you prefer the company of others? Do you like the sense of contributing to a shared endeavor? What have been the happiest moments of your life and how can you reproduce them now that you have the freedom to pursue fulfillment? These are profound questions and they deserve your attention, perhaps in concert with your spouse and others, so that your daily well-being can be as strong as your financial well-being.