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Nine Principles For An Exceptional Retirement

Nine Principles For An Exceptional Retirement

By Mike Drak

Being the season for giving I thought I would share with you a condensed section from our new book that outlines the nine retirement principles for an exceptional retirement.

Retirement should be the best time of your life, the payoff for all your hard work over the years. But a successful retirement doesn’t just happen because you have a lot of money.

It’s important to have a good understanding of the cause-effect relationships that govern retirement such as not challenging our brain, not working out, not having friends, not having purpose and in some cases not having enough retirement savings.

These considerations are all important plus you want to have good guiding principles in place so you can focus on getting the big things that will make you happy, right. By choosing to follow and commit to these scientifically proven principles we can increase the odds of spending more time on this planet.

By neglecting these principles the opposite is also true you will likely leave the world sooner than you would like. As you go through the principles you will discover the added benefit of a crossover effect, when you do well in one area it will positively affect one or more of the others.

Principle # 1 – Family & Friends

My last blog on the people of Roseto taught us that longevity is not just about food choices, about how much we exercise or about having favourable genes. The truth is that the community that we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on both our health and our happiness. You could have all the money you ever wanted, but without loving relations you won’t be happy, and it’s hard to be healthy when your unhappy.

There is something magical about having people to talk to, that care about you, knowing they will be there for you in a time of need. That is why we made the importance of relationships and community the first of our nine retirement principles.

Principle # 2 – Health

Today everyone is talking about increased longevity but I don’t really get excited over it.

Being able to stretch my lifespan from 85 to 95 isn’t appealing to me if I’m going to spend the bulk of that extra time in a nursing home. What we should care about is our “best before date” that period of disability free living, our best years when we can still do the things that we love to do, be it golfing, running or whatever.

The good news is that we now know that lifestyle has a major impact on a person’s “best before date” and we have the ability to push back our own best before date through positive lifestyle change. It’s been proven that you can gain 7 extra minutes of life for every minute of exercise that you do so make sure you make exercise a big part of your retirement. Just remember without a healthy body, all of the money in the world doesn’t mean a damn.

Principle # 3 – Financial Security

Financial Independence let’s you sleep at night. When your living paycheck to paycheck it’s hard to be happy. The question that we all need to answer is what do we plan on doing with our freedom now that we have it?

Principle # 4 – Purpose

A successful retirement is much more than having a lot of money. Money let’s you sleep at night but in addition to money you also need meaning, a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. After spending most of your life crawling out of the big dip your tired and the thought of living a life of leisure is pretty appealing. Many people think family, travel and golf or it’s equivalent will fill their time in retirement and while it will be rejuvenating for a while at some point they start itching for something more interesting and challenging to do something that will give them satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment like they used to feel back when they were working.

It’s natural for people to feel this way as they are genetically programmed to need purpose, their own “why” in their lives and to ignore this fact will result in boredom and believe me you don’t want to live like that. You didn’t come this far just to endure your remaining life and kill time. You need to create a life for yourself that has meaning, passion and purpose at it’s core.

You need to find a way of filling the big hole that was left behind after leaving your full time job something that replaces the positive aspects of a job, something that is challenging that requires you learning new things, that allows you to contribute and feel that you are part of something, something that involves social interaction, something that you can get lost into and makes the time fly by. Use your values to help find out what clicks for you.

Purpose comes in many different shapes and sizes and most people have more than one. Your purpose could be based on eldercare, taking care of the grandkids, volunteering at the hospital or simply cutting lawns. It’s o/k to just do a job to generate a little extra “fun money.” The key is to do whatever makes you feel good about yourself, whatever makes you feel that you still contribute, and that you still matter. A successful VL doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. But then again some of you might decide to swing for the fences and start your own business or write a book like I did. That’s all right too, whatever floats your boat.

The Work – Purpose Connection

Whenever I read a story about someone that’s managed to live to for a hundred years or beyond I always look for a common trait, no matter their race or gender one commonality they work or volunteer in some way late in life. And the important thing to understand is that most people didn’t do it because they had to for money, they did it because it gave them a sense of purpose. Purpose is something that we need until our last breath, having a lot of money will never change that.

Work in a Victory Lap is either:
– A job you do to earn the money to pay for the life that you want to have or
– What you do to contribute and give back to the community, or some mix of the two.

Maybe that means starting your own business or build houses for Habitat for Humanity like my friend Scotty, whatever works for you.

The Rewards of Aging With Purpose

It’s been proven that people who have a sense of purpose or direction in life outlive their peers. In fact, people with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death, than those compared with those who said they were more or less aimless.

In other words the longer you work the happier your life will be.

We believe that the work/purpose connection is so important to your emotional, psychological, and physical well-being that we have devoted a separate chapter in our new book discussing it. But it won’t be the solution for everybody, some people will want to invest their time pursuing leisure, time with family etc. and there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is meaningful to you.

When your doing something that excites you, that challenges you, that satisfies your values, life is pretty good.

Principle # 5 – Reigniting A Sense Of Adventure

Because we have benefit of Financial Independence, we can finally switch back from “survival mode” to “adventure mode.” We can start having fun again, living like an explorer going on adventures feeling excited like a kid, not being afraid of attempting new things.

Instead of trying something new and taking some chances most of us take the easy path and stick with what we know because we have been conditioned to play safe. But it’s important to understand that along with that comfort comes a lack of true happiness from never trying.

It is such a waste of life being afraid to go outside of our comfort zone, being afraid of change and uncertainty, of possibly failing, or not being good enough.

Wake up to the fact that we are all going to die and it’s silly to give into fear of possible embarrassment, because truth be told it doesn’t matter anymore. We are beyond that and we now need to do the uncomfortable and painful because those are the things that makes life interesting and worth living.

Challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. By seeking out new adventures and taking some risks we stretch ourselves and discover our true capabilities. We can travel, enjoy new food, meet new friends and live the kind of happy, healthy lifestyle that we could only dream of back in the big dip. We want to see and experience as much of the world as we can, up close and personal now that we have the chance.

The internet makes it’s easy to plan and create as many adventures as you want. The world really is at our fingertips. There is no better time than “Now” to go on last minute flights and experience new things. Navigating the different languages and customs will keep you feeling young and challenge your mental acuity. You will become less stressed and when the occasional bump in the road appears you just roll over it and take it to the next adventures. Don’t make the mistake of missing an experience and the things that you dream about.

Principle # 6 – Find Your Tribe(s)

One negative about leaving your career is that you miss the camaraderie you enjoyed while at work and in order to be happy it’s important that you come up with a suitable replacement. The worst thing you can do is nothing and allow yourself to become isolated. A great way to avoid loneliness and meet others that share your interests is to join a tribe. A tribe is a group of people who share similar interests to yours. It may be a formal group, like Rotary, religious groups, Toastmasters, ski clubs, or informal groups like running groups, yoga classes, swimming at the local pool

Tribes serve as a mutual support networks which help offset loneliness (principal #1) and sedentary lifestyles (principal #2) that could shorten life expectancy. The simple act of congregating with a like-minded community gives you social support, an optimistic attitude, and a sense of purpose which will deliver a number of long term benefits. It’s much easier to adopt good habits when everyone around you are already practicing them.

Another benefit of joining a tribe is that the other members will motivate you to get better and hold you accountable. Our chosen tribe will show us what we’re capable of. They have succeeded at what you are trying to do and will encourage you each time you show up. Ask yourself what are they doing to get the results that you want. Once you figured that out just copy it and show up everyday and do the work. Simply knowing that other members of the tribe have succeeded in doing what you want to do will give you that extra push to keep going when times get hard, and they will.

Over time through the inspirations of your tribe members you will regain strength and lost confidence. Trust me on this, joining a tribe will make you feel good, because your part of a common cause and you will have a great time hanging out with your new friends.

Principle # 7 – Spiritual

A number of studies have shown that people who belong to a faith-based community can expect to live up to nine years longer, are happier, and have better marriages than non-believers. Religious communities help to alleviate the dangers of isolation and loneliness by giving you a chance to make new friends. Participating in a spiritual based activity gives you a temporary respite from anxiety and a chance to reflect and re-evaluate. People are less stressed because they have faith, hope, practice gratitude and know they are not alone. Because of that they have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and suicide.

Having a sense that you’re connected to and part of something much bigger than yourself provides retirees with strength, confidence, solace, hope and the resilience to deal with whatever life throws their way.

Another health benefit is that prayer triggers a relaxation response, a state of mind-body rest that has been shown to decrease stress, heart rate and blood pressure. This state is typically linked to activities like meditation and yoga, and research suggests it can also be found through praying.

Prayer reminds us to count our daily blessings and be thankful for what we already have and what we do not have. I have my health, I have a loving family and I like where I live. I really don’t need anything else in terms of material things. It is hard to feel hopeless when you are grateful for what you already have.

Principle # 8 – Attitude

Healthy aging is all about attitude which means you need to stop watching those retirement commercials they like to show us on tv. It’s a mistake to willingly accept the advertisers stereotypical images of retirement because it will limit your own imagination about what you can do and who you can become. Instead of viewing retirement as a finish line you need to look at it as a starting line, a new beginning where you finally get to do what you want to do.

Positive People Live Longer

Adopting a positive attitude in retirement can extend your life by 7 and a half years which is more than the longevity gained from low blood pressure, low cholesterol, abstaining from smoking and exercising regularly. In other words a positive attitude has a positive biological impact which means you will live longer and healthier than people with a negative attitude.

Who would you rather be?

Principle # 9 – Time

How you spend your time in retirement is the key to happiness and the message behind this guiding principle is to do the things that you want to do while you still have the time and are healthy enough to do it.

In other words don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today because tomorrow might never come.

Go back to school, take up tennis, go on that bike trip to Spain you’ve been dreaming about, learn to scuba dive now while you still can. And if you need to work part time to help pay for all the fun things that you plan on doing do it now while you still can. Free up time from maintenance, managing bigger homes then we need now that the kids have gone. Look into the feasibility of down sizing and freeing up retirement capital that can be invested in lifestyle and also help build a liquidity cushion.

One of the biggest regrets you could have is to put off things now only to not be physically able to do it in the future.

In summary, By living these principles daily you will change your life and enjoy a happy, healthy, fulfilling, Victory Lap. Think about these principles over the holidays and start to apply them in the new year.

Your life/retirement is about to get a whole lot better!

This post was originally published on Victory Lap Retirement and was republished with permission.

Be sure to join us next year for our video blog series with Mike Drak where we will discuss these Retirement Principles in more detail!

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Mike Drak

Author, Retirement Coach and Public Speaker at Victory Lap Retirement
Mike Drak is a thirty-eight year veteran of the financial services and lives with his wife Melina in Toronto, Canada. Mike is the Author of the best-selling book Victory Lap Retirement and also an award winning blogger, retirement coach and public speaker. Mike has also appeared on BNN, CBC Radio and iHeart radio.
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