Contemplating retirement, are you an optimist or pessimist? Or, to borrow from Oscar Wilde, are you the former who sees the donut or the latter who sees the hole? In that vein, it’s been said that in pondering one’s financial future, personal outlook is key. “ Getting retirement right has a lot to do with setting reasonable expectations,” writes Dave Bernard in a smart and gracefully composed usnews.com piece. “It is not just about what you want – it’s also facing the reality of what you get. Some look forward to an idyllic escape from the stress and strain of working for a living, a time to slow down and smell the roses and enjoy the moment. Others may hold a more pessimistic view, imagining their second act as one of gradual decline and loss of independence. For the majority of us, retirement will be somewhere in between. But having the right outlook and a realistic perspective may help tilt the scale in our favor.” Bernard continues:
“When we are young, we have great aspirations for the life we want to live. Ahead lies a promising career that hopefully inspires us. By working hard and saving, we might have those nice things that make life more enjoyable. And perhaps we envision a family to share our life and love with. We want it all, we feel there is no reason we should not have it all and we have plenty of time to give it our best shot.
“As we approach retirement, many of these earlier dreams have either been realized or adjusted where appropriate. The idea of starting a new career can seem unrealistic, although there are those rare seniors who do just that. For most of us, if we have had a good career and achieved the goals we set, that particular hunger has been, for the most part, satiated. While at 25, achievement, recognition and accumulation were all important, at 65, having been there and done that, our goals are different.
“I look back fondly on years spent working furiously for various startups. At the time it was a blast, and I energetically gave my all, happy to be working with a unique bunch of people equally as dedicated. Today, just thinking about running at that breakneck speed honestly tires me out. I believe my mind could still compete, but I really have no desire to do so. The fact is, my goals have changed. I no longer need to outperform my peers to be recognized. I don’t need to compete for a higher position or bigger office or more letters after my name. This is, to a large extent, because I am happy where I am at the moment. But another part might be due to the fact that as of now, I have statistically lived the majority of my life. It is no longer important to me to be the best in the eyes of others. What is important is spending my life with those who matter most, doing what I want with my time and having no regrets.
“Many of us have known someone facing a debilitating or terminal disease that either impacts their quality of life or shortens it prematurely. When they are finally able to come to grips with what their fate, priorities tend to shift. What was so darn important to achieve during a future spanning 20 or 30 years can become less important in an abbreviated time frame. Each day is precious, and we learn to reprioritize what really matters.
“I ask myself how I would spend my days if I learned I had five years to live. I sure would not worry about making a fortune or becoming a vice president or pursuing other lofty goals. I would want to spend time with my family and let them know how important they are. I would want to visit those places I have always wanted. I would sample every new restaurant in the area without concern over too much spice. I would try to find peace inside myself and enjoy every moment I was given. With a shortened future, I would not want to waste time.
“Why would I live any other way in retirement? Now that I am in control of much of my life, I should do what matters to me. I set the standards and make the rules. I can make the choice to positively face each day no matter what may be in store. My retirement happiness is in my hands, and I sure do not want to fumble. No more waiting for the right time – that moment is now.”