Outside the Box: 3 steps to prepare for a fulfilling retirement

Outside the Box: 3 steps to prepare for a fulfilling retirement

Are you ready to retire?

That seems like a fairly straightforward question, doesn’t it? It is most often answered with numbers. We affirm that we either are or are not ready based on how much we have saved and have available in our retirement accounts.

But the answer can be more complex than that. Yes, having enough money is critical to a comfortable retirement, no doubt. But what about being ready to retire from all that we know and have done? How ready are we for that? And, if we have always been doers and achievers, what will we do and achieve now in the rest of life that lays before us?

This complicated crossroad is filled with issues that simply have to be resolved to go on and finish well. Most of us are still capable. We have learned a great deal over the years and, in fact, are smarter than we have ever been. We have a broad range of relationships and connections and important people will take our calls. We have a depth of experience. In many ways, we are more valuable than ever. How will we use all of that accrued value?

In my last column I talked about some tools to use that will allow us to take baby steps toward figuring this out while we are still working so that we are prepared and so that the transition to retirement is less severe. We talked about low cost probes, parallel careers, and doing more with less.

Let’s look at two more.

Time

If you believe the adage, “time is money” (which I do), then you will need to be just as careful about how you manage time as how you manage money. Time is a limited resource and if you are not careful you will squander it to the point that you are not effectively contributing to your second half goals.

Pacing is a big issue for people, too, and especially so for those who are not dependent on a regular salary. Initially, you feel as if you have all this time on your hands and it’s easy to become careless about managing it. If you try to do too much too fast you will surely burn out. If you give in to the temptation to spend too much time on your leisure pursuits, you will rust out. It’s a delicate balancing act that many new retirees report as being a struggle.

Begin now to think about how you spend your time. Set aside time to rest, time to play, and time to accomplish your goals. As best as possible, try to keep these times mutually exclusive so that when you are playing you really play and when you are working, you really work. Get used to compartmentalizing your time and be disciplined about it. I promise you that this will serve you well when you begin Life 2.0.

Self-assessment

If you haven’t taken a pause to get to know yourself through all the years, now would be a great time. Most people are blissfully unaware of their strengths and their blind spots. Turn on your dreamer again and think about what gives you joy and fulfillment. Are your gifts and talents a good fit for that role, whatever it may be? If not, where would you be the best fit?

Sometimes the best self-assessment is just asking yourself some key questions: What am I good at? What do I like doing? Am I a people person, or am I more comfortable working in an analytical mode? What was my proudest moment in my work? What do I care about, really? I have found that busy people seldom take the time to work through these questions, so that may be the first step for you.

But I would also recommend finding a more formal type of tool to help you get at the very core of who you are and what you are most suited to do. We use an assessment that asks questions about your personal growth, health, marriage, etc. But it takes an even deeper dive into your finances, parenting, career, and friendships. All of this information gives a more complete picture of where you are so that you can know where you should be going next.

Get started

I hope these suggestions are helpful. They have been used successfully for many years to help those who come to us seeking answers and direction.

Perhaps the most important advice I could give you would be to get started. It’s very easy to be busy these days. The average knowledge worker is interrupted every 11 minutes by some form of communication or the other. Trust me, you’ll always have something to do! Take some time and begin now to prepare for what could be the greatest time of your life.

Paul McGinnis is the chief operating officer of the Halftime Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people lead more purposeful lives. The Institute has helped thousands of leaders figure out what’s next for them and how to use their talents and experience to leave a legacy.

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