by Mike Drak
Retirement should be the best time of your life, the payoff for all your hard work over the years. But a successful retirement doesn’t just happen because you have a lot of money.
It’s important to have a good understanding of the cause-effect relationships that govern retirement such as not having a good attitude, not challenging our brain, not being physically active, not having strong relationships with family and friends, not having a sense of purpose, and in some cases not having enough retirement savings.
The following retirement principles are from our new book Retirement Heaven or Hell. Through the repetitive application of these basic principles you can slow age-related decline, and enjoy a vibrant, happy retirement.
Principle # 1 – The Importance of Strong Relationships
During the pandemic we were forced to spend long periods of time alone, with little social interaction. Being isolated made us really appreciate the value of the relationships we had with our family and friends. We all crave social connection, and not being able to meet in person with family and friends put many people on the fast path to loneliness and depression. There is something magical and healing about having people to talk to, that care about you, knowing they will be there for you in a time of need.
Bottom line: You can have all the money in the world, but without loving relations in retirement you won’t be happy, period.
Studies have shown that maintaining a strong support network of family and friends lowers mortality risk by about 45% which is greater than the gains realized from exercising or eating healthy.
We also know that;
· Loneliness weakens the immune system, which decreases a person's ability to fight cancers and other illnesses.
· And loneliness increases your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Principle # 2 – Healthier Lifestyle – Healthier Outcome
Exercise and eating right are key anti-aging strategies and incorporating an exercise routine into your life is one of the most powerful prescriptions you can write for yourself.
An added bonus is that keeping healthy and eating right will lower the amount of money you’ll have to spend on health care, which is one of a retiree’s largest expenses.
Just remember - without a healthy body, all of the money in the world doesn’t mean a damn.
Principle # 3 – Financial Security and Lifestyle Planning
Financial planning fails without adequate lifestyle planning. You need to have a good handle on what kind of life you want to live in retirement and how much that lifestyle will cost you. Until you do that, you will never be sure that you have enough, and because of that uncertainty, you will always feel the need for a little more.
Principle # 4 – Reigniting A Sense Of Adventure
Because we have the benefit of financial independence, we can finally switch back from “survival mode” to “adventure mode.” We can start having fun again, living like an explorer going on adventures, feeling excited like a kid, not being afraid of attempting new things.
Challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. By seeking out new adventures and taking some risks we stretch ourselves and discover our true capabilities. We can travel, enjoy new food, meet new friends, and live the kind of happy, healthy lifestyle that we could only dream of back when we were working full time. We want to see and experience as much of the world as we can, up close and personal now that we have the chance.
Principle # 5 – The Power of Tribes
One negative about leaving your career is that you miss the camaraderie you enjoyed while at work, and in order to be happy in retirement you need to come up with a suitable replacement.
A great way to do this is by finding and joining a tribe that shares your interests. A tribe may be a formal group, like Rotary, religious groups, Toastmasters, dance groups, photography groups, or swimming with a group at the local pool
The simple act of joining a tribe offsets loneliness, gets you up off the couch, and gives you an optimistic attitude along with a sense of purpose - all key longevity ingredients.
Principle # 6 – Spirituality
A number of studies have shown that people who belong to a faith-based community can expect to live up to nine years longer, are happier, and have better marriages than non-believers. Religious communities help to alleviate the dangers of isolation and loneliness by giving you a chance to make new friends. Participating in a spiritual-based activity gives you a temporary respite from anxiety and a chance to reflect and re-evaluate. People are less stressed because they have faith, hope, practice gratitude, and know they are not alone. Because of that, they have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and suicide.
Having a sense that you’re connected to and part of something much bigger than yourself provides retirees with strength, confidence, solace, hope, and the resilience to deal with whatever life throws their way.
Spirituality comes in many different forms and you don’t need to go to church to get it. Activities like meditation, yoga, and prayer trigger a relaxation response, a state of mind-body rest that has been shown to decrease stress, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Principle # 7 – Attitude
Adopting a positive attitude in retirement can extend your life by 7 and a half years, which is more than the longevity gained from low blood pressure, low cholesterol, abstaining from smoking, and exercising regularly.
Principle # 8 – Time
The pandemic showed us how boring retirement can be when you have more free time than you know what to do with.
Time slowed to a crawl for people who couldn’t work. Their days became a blur, and they had trouble remembering what day it was because it really didn’t matter.
Every day was similar to the next; watching virus updates on tv and making calls to family and friends to see how they were doing.
Without a plan for how to spend your time, this is how boring your retirement could be, too.
Smart retirees understand that time cannot be replaced when it passes. They know there is only so much time left on the game clock and it would be a big mistake to put off to tomorrow what they can do today because tomorrow might never come.
Go back to school, take up tennis, go on that bike trip to Spain you’ve been dreaming about, learn to scuba dive now while you still can. And if you need to work part time to help pay for all the fun things that you plan on doing, do it now while you still can.
One of the biggest regrets you could have is to put off things now only to not be physically able to do it in the future.
Principle # 9 – Purpose
Having purpose is a key ingredient for a successful retirement and it’s been proven that people who have a sense of purpose or direction in life have a 15 % lower risk of death.
Many of us felt a loss of purpose during the pandemic. If you couldn’t work from home, there wasn’t much in the way of meaningful things to do, outside of just trying to survive. Not having a sense of purpose made us feel a little lost, and frustrated, and life got boring real fast.
Some of us woke up to the fact that having a job, any job, was far better than just puttering around the house killing time and taking the dog out for another walk around the block.
In retirement you need to find a way of filling the big hole that was left behind after leaving your full-time job; something that replaces the positive aspects of a career; something that is challenging, that requires you learning new things; that allows you to contribute and feel that you are part of something.
Many newbie retirees mistakenly think that grandkids, travel, and golf or its equivalent will fill their time in retirement and, while it will be rejuvenating for a while, at some point they start itching for something more interesting and challenging to do, something that will give them satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment like they used to feel back when they were working.
Purpose comes in many different shapes and sizes and most people have more than one. Your purpose could be based on eldercare, taking care of the grandkids, volunteering at the hospital, or simply cutting lawns. It’s OK to just do a job to generate a little extra “fun money.” The key is to do whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever makes you feel that you still contribute, and that you still matter.
Purpose is something that we need until our last breath, and even having a lot of money will never change that.
About the author: Mike Drak
Mike Drak is a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry and lives with his wife, Melina (also known affectionately as "The Contessa"), in Toronto.
He started his own Victory Lap in 2014 and is currently working with his wife, an investment advisor helping her clients design their own fulfilling retirement lifestyles.
Mike is a best-selling author, award-winning blogger, public speaker, and retirement lifestyle designer. His retirement blog articles can be found at boomingencore.com.
His bestseller, Victory Lap Retirement, was based on the realization that traditional full-stop retirement doesn’t work for most people anymore due to increasing longevity. The book presents a new life model better suited to today’s reality.
His follow-up book, Retirement Heaven or Hell, which was released in January 2021, shows people how to design and transition to their own unique retirement lifestyle. This book also outlines the valuable retirement lessons learned from the pandemic and introduces the nine retirement principles for a long, healthy fulfilling life.