2024 January 9 Making retirement the best it can be

Jan 09, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about another way to look at retirement. So let's get started. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, send me a message.


Tonight's all about retirement. What does that mean? Retirement is a funny thing.  It's very different for everyone, and different people plan for it in very different ways. They oftentimes don't really plan for it. I'm not talking necessarily about financial planning, although that's obviously a part of it. I'm talking about life planning. What am I going to do after I don't have to go to work every single day? I'm generally amazed at how many people just never think about the whole period after your primary working years. It's potentially like a third of your life. So it probably deserves some amount of thought.


Let's take a high level view of this. It's been on my mind of late because, so far as Social Security is concerned  I'm washed up, and I'm about reaching the maximum of my retirement contributions.


They still take money from my paycheck. They're always happy to do that. But it's interesting how these little landmarks in society set these little milestones that indicate that you should move along and move into this next phase of your life. There's a lot of little subtle things in society like that, and social security is one of those.


Some of my friends just retired, and I know a few others contemplating retirement, so it's been in my circle of friends over the past couple years and getting close for me. What's interesting to me is that there's a big difference between how different people did financial planning and life planning.  Some of my friends are not well off financially, but still have thought extensively about how to maximize their retirement years and what they want to do with them. 


Others are financially set, but they don't really have a plan as to what they want to do during this next phase of their life.  It's a mystery to them. They have no idea what they're going to do. There are also some who are just total free spirits. They have no plan whatsoever, but honestly, they never did through their whole life. Honestly, they'll probably do fine because they're just used to working that way through life.


But there's another interesting group. They're looking at retirement as a sort of new full time job which has to be managed. They're laying out their day, scheduling activities and relaxation times.  It's not my place to criticize anyone else, certainly, and if that works for them, that's awesome. But to me, you miss one of the best parts of the new freedom that comes with retirement because you generally have more control over your time.


When you turn it into another job, you lose that aspect of it.  Many of my friends have described retirement as when you can choose where and how much you want to work. To me, that seems like a pretty balanced approach. You define your desires, and then work to fulfill them, rather than trying to work to the max just to accumulate more money.


I read a story in the Wall Street Journal this morning. But it was different this time. It was about very low income people. They had a series of articles about people retiring who were either fully or somewhat prepared financially for retirement, and how their happiness, interestingly enough, was not in proportion to the amount of money that they'd saved.


Some with more money were still very concerned about running out of money, and some with far less money were making very satisfying personal choices that brought them a lot of contentment. Today's article, called Many retirees depend solely upon social security, is in the personal section. If you look online, it's from Tuesday, January 9th. They talk to four people in the article.  Four nice, brave people who talked to the Wall Street Journal and had all the details published online. I actually admire people that do that.  


Today's article shouldn't have surprised me, but it really did. The people who were interviewed were getting between $1970 in Social Security benefits (the highest earner), and the lowest was at $1040  a month. One had a little tiny bit of savings, but the other three had none. They only had their Social Security to live on.  What was fascinating was that three were relatively content, and the other one was doing okay, but wished she'd been told more about how to manage finances when she was much younger. 


We've talked about that before a lot, that in grade school, and especially in high school, it's unforgivable that schools don't teach personal finance and how to plan for retirement and plan your life money overall. It should be covered for everybody multiple times. It's not just a one year course.  They do nothing about it. So talk to your grandkids about it. Talk to your kids about it. 


These four people were living okay, not great. I'm sure they would have preferred to have  a different situation, but all of them had adjusted their expectations and were finding joy in what they had. In short, they made the personal decision to change how they reacted to the situation and that allowed them to get more out of a challenging situation than many people I know who are better financially prepared. 


One person who liked to travel discovered she actually liked to do house sitting, so she met new people, could go to different places and stay there for a week, two weeks, a month. Sometimes it was a whole summer.  It was a whole new adventure, but it was consistent with her vision of how she wanted to retire, doing traveling all the time. As we said before, more money typically just makes people act the same way as they did before, but on a bigger scale. 


If you read the story, you'll see that all of them are generally outgoing and caring people, and that's continued into the retirement. Having to live on a budget didn't take that from them. That was who they were. You are who your principles are. You are what you envision. That's what they envisioned themselves as. That's what their principles brought them to, and they were still able to do that, even in a challenging financial situation.


The short version is that perhaps the best way to prepare for retirement is to remember there are two very different plans required. Financial planning, of course, is important. Even if you can't suddenly earn a million dollars to retire on, you can still think about what's most important to you and how you want to preserve that in your retirement and how you're going to do it financially.


But just as important, and perhaps even more important, is the life planning aspect. That also plays a huge part in retirement.  There are a number of aspects, some financial, but many of them are really centered around your life vision, because those are the things that will likely bring you contentment and joy.


All the envisioning of your life that we talk about has many purposes. One of them is to see how new freedoms during retirement make something possible that wasn't possible before. There are many activities you may have wanted to do when you were younger, but you didn't have the time. They may now be possible. Learning languages, volunteering, doing art, music, new skills, crafts. Many of them are free, many of them are low cost, and they're now all within your reach because you have more time available. Similarly, you may enjoy working a little bit  and now you have the luxury of only doing things that truly interest you.


Maybe you want to learn, work a little more, but in a different capacity. You want to be a company mentor, you want to be an aide at school, whatever it is. You now have more options. I think it's important to realize that your attitude is as important as your bank account.


Your attitude will guide you and set how it is that you actually live, irrespective of how much money you have in the bank. If you work towards your vision, your mind will always find ways to make your life fulfilling. Does money matter? Of course it does to some degree. But it's only one ingredient, and like any good recipe, other ingredients can often be substituted for each other. The results may be a little different than you had thought, but it probably still comes out fine. Never lose faith in your own abilities. We always have the choice to make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in. 


That's it for tonight. Remember, even if it's a late start to your financial planning, it's never too late to start your life planning. While that may include finances, it's so much more than just money. It's how you will live your life. The most important thing you have is you, your vision, and your abilities. Each one of us has unique talents. We have the ability to find the best in any situation. 


Your homework (always optional) is to think about your retirement, no matter how old you are. The money part is easy, but what do you really want to do? Probably not live on a cruise ship your whole life. Try to think more about what really matters to you and what you will find satisfying in your retirement years. Extra points if you take that life plan and compare it to your financial plan.


Don't panic if they don't initially match up. Calm down, think about it, and take just one aspect of what you would like to do, and see if you could approach it differently to still get what matters most to you. Remember the house-sitter? She wasn't planning on doing that before she retired. She discovered a whole new path of contentment and entertainment and adventure in her life. 


That's it for the evening.  The links to support the people in Ukraine are still at UKR7.com. You can find the World Central Kitchen at WCK.org.They  spend their times working in all types of disaster areas. 


Donating is really great, but if you're not able to do it, that's okay.  The big thing is to think outside of yourself, to think about other people, even if it's just greeting somebody in the street. Just acknowledge them. Just that can make somebody feel better sometimes. The best way to care for yourself is to care for others because it changes your perspective on the whole world and moves you outside of yourself to see the rest of the world. 


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 


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