Putting down new roots in the active adult community that’s just the right fit can be an important first step toward a fulfilling and enjoyable active retirement. It’s a wonderful way to surround yourself with friendly neighbors (some of whom will truly become great friends), and many opportunities to live a balanced life—physically, mentally and emotionally.
So, what exactly fills your retirement years with joy and purpose?
According to Robert Laura, self-proclaimed “retirement activist” and author of Naked Retirement: Living a Happy, Healthy & Connected Retirement, ultimately, we care about experiences—the people we spent time with and the places we went. Laura points to a 2010 Merrill Lynch survey that found 51% of retirees wished they’d focused more on their life goals (in addition to financial goals) when it came to retirement planning.
He advises that we ask ourselves that cliché question: What would you do on your last day on earth? Then pose it with a twist: What would you regret not doing, seeing and experiencing? Brainstorm a list of what’s most important to you, write it down, and then put a copy somewhere you’ll see every day. Laura says that when you examine what you truly value, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that some of your most important dreams require more of your well-earned time than cash. His book and other resources are here: http://www.retirementproject.org/pages/nakedretirement.html
Another author received some thoughtful and interesting answers when he asked several people he considered to be successful retirees: Why do some older people have the knack of living life fully, even though, by conventional measures, they have plenty of reason to feel depressed, bored, or lonely? Their advice:
- Get involved. Give back. The happiest people on the planet are “other centered.” The average retiree spends 43 hours a week watching TV, while less than 4 percent of retirees invest more than four hours per week helping others and only 27 percent do community service.
- Honor Your Eccentricity. Throughout our lives, most of us strive to fit in. Somewhat surprisingly, many of the most successful retirees interviewed claimed to have often failed miserably at this and cheerfully described themselves as “odd,” “wacky,” or “a little nuts.”
- Have a plan. It has been consistently demonstrated that having a plan is among the most important habits of the most successful retirees. Those who have a plan, both for fiscal and non-fiscal aspects, and who frequently revisit and update that plan, are the most satisfied with their retirement lives.
Holding onto—or discovering—that precious joie de vivre is the key to happiness at any stage of life, and certainly a goal for a happy retirement.