I’ve been in the financial services industry for the last 39 years. I was taught a good retirement was all about how much money you had saved. I’ve watched a number of my clients in retirement and I can tell you two things unequivocally. First, it is not about the money, and second, it is not the retirement we all thought retirement would be.
I speak from some experience as I have been preparing to retire now for over four years and during that time what I thought it was has changed for me significantly. The financial factor of retirement can arguably be said to be seventh out of eight factors to consider in retirement planning. So let’s take a look at that.
The first consideration is time. None of us know how much we have, so take precious care of what is there. Realize time is given us in unequal quantities. What we think we have today can be gone forever in a heartbeat. The amount of time you have may considerably alter what you do with it.
2. Physical Health
Second to my mind is our physical health. When we are in poor health or fighting an illness, we are not being or doing all we can in our life. We are handicapped by our unhealthy circumstances and our retirement can be a poor substitute for what we thought it would be. Work very hard at being, getting or staying healthy. The dividends are in a better life! (For related reading, see: Why Working After Retirement Is Good for Your Health.)
3. Emotional Health
Third, is the emotional side of our life. Inextricably bound with the “spirit,” I put it before the spirit as I believe we accept how we feel about things far too often. I recall that satirist Oscar Wilde strived to “master my emotions.” To make them do his bidding and not the other way around. Often our emotions rule us one way or the other. We do not try to control them. Learn to use and control your emotions, and be happy with your lives and yourselves and those around you.
4. Spiritual/ Mental Health
Fourth, I would say is the spiritual/mental part of life. This could be as simple as meditation, the study of the Bible or reading Confucius. A peaceful mind is a great key to health. Time spent every day in meditation or prayer or thought is also a key to happiness. If you read the Aramaic translation of what Christ said about prayer, it goes like this: “Go into your closet and be still.”
Number five to me is family. What are you doing to make one of the most important parts of life better? Kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces—a very long list. Since you stopped working how is the relationship with your spouse? Is it getting better?Winston Churchill said one of the most important parts of life was your partner. Pick the right one and make it work, especially when you are both spending a lot more time together in retirement. (For related reading, see: How to Factor Family Into Your Retirement Plan.)
Number six is purpose. How are we using the 40-60 hours a week we freed up when we left our work life? Are we a productive member of society or are we sitting and watching TV? Studies have conclusively shown that inactivity (watching TV) is a sure way to ill health, both mental and physical. Do something that has meaning: volunteer, mentor, tutor, help the less fortunate, work at or with a civic organization, your church, municipality or whatever fills your heart. (For related reading, see: 6 Ways to Give Back After Retirement.)
So, we come to number seven: money. Yes, you need to save and yes, the more you have the easier life can be to some extent. But all the money in the world will not give you a good retirement if you are not healthy and happy inside and out. Save enough to give yourself some freedom in retirement. Save enough to give you and your family some comfort. Allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your long labors. But realize there is so much more to retirement than all those commercials would have you believe. Most of your retirement planning should not be focused around money, it should be focused around who you are and what you want and how you will be a productive member of society.
If I were to add a number eight it would be hobby. Have one or two or six, but make them all things you love to do. Something you dreamed of as a kid. Something you wanted to do before you got married but just didn’t have the time. What is your passion? Find it, do it!
While you can argue about the order of the above (devout members of a church would rightfully say that number five should be number one or two), I believe you would be very hard pressed to say that money is more important than any of the parts above it. The best part of your life is here. You have the time, the means and desire to your fill your final years. Years and time that you control and can do with as you please. Have at it. Plan it…. Love it… Live it!
(For more from this author, see: Teaching Financial Responsibility to Your Kids.)
The opinions expressed are those of Mr. Stites alone. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/ SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. A Registered Investment Advisor. Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc., and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated.