When you wonder if you are really ready to retire, does your mind go only to what it will take financially to maintain the lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to?

If so, I’d like to suggest that you take a minute to think beyond the financial aspects. When you visualize your retirement – what are you doing? Many people respond to this question with answers like “traveling”, “playing golf”, “sleeping in” and sometimes even “nothing”! That’s when I’ve become more curious.

Having worked in the senior living and retirement industry for over a decade, I know people who have been retired for 10, 15 or 20 years. And I see those who have planned financially for retirement, but I also have the pleasure of knowing many who have gone a few steps beyond that.

Of course, we all want to travel and have the luxury of being in control of our own schedules, but truly engaged retirees know that being retired means much more than that. How many days a year do you see yourself travelling? How many days a year will you be content doing “nothing”? Meanwhile, what about the rest of the days of the year?  How do you plan on filling those days?

In time, most people become bored by not doing anything. Even endless travel can become tiresome. Ultimately they find themselves wondering if that’s all there is to real retirement.

There will come a time in all of our lives when travel is no longer as easy as it once was. It becomes far more cumbersome and the older we get the reality is the less traveling we actually do.

After living lives filled with challenges and opportunities to grow, succeed, and give back to our communities, the slow down we sometimes experience in retirement is not nearly as fun as we had imagined.

Those individuals who seem to be the happiest have taken the time to figure out the things that bring them the most joy in life. They have made a point to put themselves in situations where they are able to continue to do those things even when their physical capabilities might change. They never “retire” in the true dictionary sense of the word. (Retire:  to withdraw from action; to recede; to withdraw from one’s position, or professional career)

When I say “the things that bring them joy” those “things” have to consist of more than just spending time with children or grandchildren. One person’s joy can never be completely dependent on someone else. We need to be able to find ways to create our own joy. Many times, we find that comes in the form of making a continual contribution to society and the community around us.

For example, it’s not unusual for men who retire to have trouble deciding what to do with themselves. Their entire adult lives revolved around their profession and then when they “retire”, they become frustrated and bored because doing “nothing” just doesn’t satisfy their need to be needed for something greater. The same can also be true for women.

So, the key is to find out what brings you joy now, today, and the way you live every day. Then lay the groundwork and make the choices that will give you the ability to continue to do those things well into your retirement.  Funny thing is it may also bring to light things you hadn’t even thought of. Things like giving back, volunteering, consulting, sports or exercising, teaching, and continuous learning are the building blocks for an enjoyable retirement.

Finding happiness in retirement is not just about how much money you have, or how many countries you’ve traveled to, or how late you can sleep. It’s about the idea of feeling relevant and feeling alive. Feeling valuable as a human being. Those things are just as important as money if not more so, because, guess what, you can’t lose them in an economic downturn..

Think about it and make a plan that really gives you the tools to thrive in retirement – it could mean the difference between life and death.

Consider reading the book “So You Think You Are Ready To Retire? US Version: What You Really Want To Know Before You Take The Leap!” by Barry LaValley or visit his company’s website http://www.retirementlifestyle.com

About the Author: Michelle Watkins
After many years of working in the industry of retirement living, Michelle now serves as a Retirement Counselor and Marketing Director of Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor. Helping seniors successfully navigate their choices by better understanding the differences between communities and the services they offer, is an important part of her daily role. Whether these individuals end up moving to Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor, or somewhere else, Michelle knows that she and her team have succeeded if visitors leave with the information and tools they need to create a plan that will allow them to thrive in the next chapter of their lives.

Please call me at 713-660-5033 to schedule your complimentary retirement planning consultation. Or feel free to email me at michelle.watkins@houstonretirement.org.