Put in the Work Before Retirement

It takes work to retire successfully. And I don’t mean the kind of work you probably expect.


Sure, we all must make certain we have the necessary financial resources to retire. If we are no longer working at a job, there has to be money available somewhere to sustain our lifestyle. So, we work to earn a living and to save for the future. But that’s not the kind of work I’m talking about.


To retire successfully – defined loosely as being truly satisfied with your life – you have to know what makes you tick. It is vital that you spend time figuring out how you will spend your time in retirement, to know what makes you happy.


As it turns out, that can sometimes take work.


Happiness in retirement is a blend of health, relationships, and pursuits. Without the right mix, retirement may not be what you have imagined.


Health is obviously important. Poor health casts a dark cloud over most areas of life. It can make life a struggle rather than a joy.


Relationships define who you will spend your time with in retirement. For those who enjoy social interactions, this typically isn’t a concern. These types of people enjoy meeting new people and forming new relationships. However, it’s not necessarily about meeting new people. A strong relationship with a spouse, child, or friend can be the perfect dose of relationship in retirement.


It’s the third leg of retirement – pursuits – that tend to cause problems in retirement. I find people don’t spend enough time thinking through this area of their life. Pursuits are like hobbies, but they are often even more meaningful. Essentially, pursuits are what you enjoy spending time doing. Not just a little time – a lot of time.


Pursuits include volunteering, playing a sport, learning a new language, traveling, painting, building things, or playing cards. It includes any activity that brings you happiness and gives you purpose.


Wes Moss is the author of a book called “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think.” He has spent years researching retirement satisfaction. And his studies have led to some surprising findings, particularly when it comes to pursuits.


Moss discovered that individuals who enjoyed retirement the most had an average of 3.6 pursuits. Those who reported that retirement was not as good as advertised had an average of 1.9 pursuits.


Individuals with considerable wealth but few pursuits in retirement, Moss found, are far more likely to be miserable. Happiness and purpose are not things money can buy.


But Moss’s research points to another important fact about retiring successfully. It’s true those who were happier tended to engage in more pursuits. But just as important, Moss found that those pursuits weren’t typically developed in retirement. They had been present long before retirement began.


That’s where the work begins for those who are approaching retirement. The best advice is to carve out time to develop your pursuits. Find out what you enjoy doing and do it – before you retire.


Retirement is a new phase of life. It’s a significant change, and like anything, it takes preparation to be successful.


From what I’ve seen, the ones who struggle the most with retirement are those who had demanding careers. Anyone who devotes substantial time to a career often has little time for other things in life. That usually means there is limited time to develop pursuits.


Put in the work, take the time – before retirement – to ensure you’re ready for the day your alarm clock no longer matters.

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