Someone recently asked me when I planned to retire. Frankly, I didn't know what to answer. I cannot imagine what retirement would 'look like' for me and the thought of not working had me wondering if I ever want to not work. We all hear the stories of people who are incredibly bored during retirement. I remember working with a woman many years ago who started counting her years to retirement 20 years before but when faced with the prospect for real, she chose instead to work part-time doing the same job she anxiously awaited not doing for years.
So, what's the secret? What enables some people to be happy and fulfilled in retirement? I started searching information on this and seem to have found a few bits of information that may be quite useful when the time comes.
It is no secret that money is not the key to happiness - we all know wealthy people who were terribly unhappy - however, being debt free and having enough saved will make life more comfortable and will afford the opportunity to do things you might want to do. With my knowledge base, I also know that having a bit of money will also allow you to pay for care you may need should you be faced with a need for it in the distant future. So while money is not the ticket, it certainly can help you be comfortable.
I think finding meaning is incredibly important - when you spend so much of your life working, work is often a part of who you are and in many cases gives you meaning and reason to get up in the morning. Those who I know who have what they would consider a 'good retirement' spend time volunteering, working part-time or involved in activities that make them feel happy. In a sense, giving back, has that 'feel good' quality that most yearn for. As well, it keeps you socially active, meeting people, less isolated and more in tune with what is going on in the world.
Keeping physically and mentally active is incredibly important for a host of reasons. With medical advances we are all living longer. It's important that we live longer healthier. It doesn't need explanation. The best way to stay healthy is to practice good eating habits, get regular exercise and do things to keep your brain active.
Human beings are social creatures. We need people. People who spend many hours at work often neglect having a social network so when they retire, they don't have that social stimulation they have grown accustomed to in the workforce. Creating and maintaining a social network when you are younger will give you life long connections you may come to depend on in retirement. If however you don't have connections like that or even if you do, do what you can to meet new people, consider mentoring someone, join social clubs, hobby clubs, attend events, take courses - anything that will allow you to meet people who share common interests with you.
In between all of this activity, consider things that you really want to do, things that you simply haven't had the time or money to do in the past, which you might be able to do now that you aren't consumed with a work schedule. If you want to see the world, make a plan to do it, one year at a time, one country at a time. If you have always wanted to learn something new/different/unique, find out how and where you can do it.
So the secret? Ultimately, if you are fortunate enough to be healthy in retirement, take advantage of the gift of time and health - make health a priority, meet people, spend time doing something that is meaningful and plan ahead (financially) when you are younger so that you can be able to do all of the things you would like to. It is far better to look forward in anticipation than to look back with regret.