Getting yourself to retirement is no easy task. Many individuals who reach retirement age are finding themselves unprepared for their second act. For some people it is a matter of not having enough money to support themselves in the future. Other people discover they haven't put any real thought into life after the job and find themselves ill-equipped to fill their day with enough activities to occupy the hours. Across the board seniors are realizing there is no guarantee of a fulfilling retired life.
For those who are fortunate enough to finally join the ranks of the retired, the journey to get there is often a story worth telling. But the story of those who are unable to retire is equally worth listening to and paying close attention. We don't just happen into retirement; we have to earn our place.
What exactly is required of would-be retirees to increase the odds of realizing a happy retirement?
Most people who arrive safely in retirement can relate to long hours spent on the job and plenty of uninspiring duties. While there are some people who are blessed with a career they truly enjoy that inspires them each day to get out of bed and get to it, there are certainly others who work primarily for the paycheck.
Along the way, successful retirees likely learned to do without today in order to prepare for the future. There are many stories of delayed gratification and past sacrifices. Without putting off our immediate wants we would not have been able to meet the demands of raising a family and steering them down a safe course. Many successful retirees sacrificed short-term rewards in hopes of better long-term security.
Personal wants and needs become secondary to those of our children. Years of providing for schooling, doctor visits, braces, clothing, food, cars and weddings can sap the energy of the strongest, to say nothing of the impact on savings. But we soldiered on with a stiff upper lip and love for those we hold closest in our hearts. Faith in what the future might hold allowed retirees-to-be to keep their noses to the grindstone.
Many of us had a spouse who accompanied us on this life journey. Together we shared successes and failures and hopefully were able to support one another when things got too tough to handle alone. When you finally enter retired life, the two of you have earned the right to focus on each other and your future together.
Most of the baby boomer generation understands the importance of maintaining good health if you hope to enjoy a quality lifestyle as you age. Time spent in the gym, the pursuit of healthy eating habits and avoiding the many practices that are bad for you are all essential to maintain good health into your later years. Having paid dues for so long, retirees hope to enjoy a healthy second act well aware that those good habits will need to continue.
It isn't easy to understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice, work and focus it takes to arrive safely at retirement until you personally make the journey. Only then can you justifiably look back on the incredible accomplishment you have achieved, knowing you survived a journey shared exclusively by fellow determined retirees. Consider yourself part of an elite group that charges a steep price for admission. You earn every moment of your retirement. Once you are there, enjoy.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be." Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.
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