Plan for your Time in Retirement, not just your money

Crossword puzzles. I don’t do them enough to be good at them. The only time I actually sit and try to complete a crossword is on an airplane. You know the magazines in the little pocket attached to the seat in front of you? They have a crossword puzzle, along with Sudoku and other brain teasers in the back. (By the way, gel ink smears on the glossy magazine pages, so bring a ball point or pencil if you plan to work the puzzles – this is the voice of experience!)

Because of where I live and where I travel for business, I usually fly Delta. Recently, however, I was on American flying across the continent to California. When I wanted a change of activity, I pulled out the American Way magazine and flipped to the back. On the way to the puzzles, I happened to see an article called, “Life After Work” by Rob Britton. Mr. Britton is a retired executive from American Airlines. He retired several years ago and now writes for Huffington Post, does guest lecturing at business schools and volunteers. In this short article, he shares several powerful concepts about how to stay active and engaged during retirement.thinking

One of Britton’s early statements about retirement is a gut punch: “[If] you slow down or stop doing meaningful things, you die.” He references his 90-something year old friend, Howard, who volunteered by building wheelchair ramps for needy people. The lesson he took was to stay active, like Howard. A retirement of leisure leads to early death: “My grandfather didn’t seem to have enough to do, and even at age 7, I connected inactivity with his too-early death.” This squares with other research we quote here at Beer and Peanuts indicating that early retirement is associated with inactivity, excessive food and alcohol consumption, and shortened life expectancy.

Dr. Britton has several suggestions on how to have an active, engaged retirement. This first is to write a plan. Not 200 pages, but one page, starting with what you like to do. There are three parts: “must-do, might-do, may-do.” This is essentially a prioritization project. I would add another section: won’t do. In other words, decide what you are leaving behind when you stop working. I had a beer and peanuts retirement conversation with a 61 year old this week. She said, “I’m not doing anything where somebody else tells me when I have to get there and when I have to leave.” Okay, that’s clear! 40 years of answering somebody else’s bell is enough!

Another comment about the retirement plan is to be flexible. Three or five years from now, my friend who doesn’t want to be told when and where might decide she wants a little more structure to her time. But it is really important to be clear about what you do and don’t want to do in retirement. Simply letting it unfold might be a recipe for disappointment. Dr. Britton’s article can be found HERE. I will go through his observation about relationships changing in retirement in a future post.

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