Growing up in Kenya I had an idyllic childhood. We lived in a large compound with my parents, aunts, uncles and my many cousins. Our carefree attitudes meant that my sister Heena, my cousins, and I were one big happy family. It took until many years later for me to realise there was a price being paid for this wonderful life.
Like many families involved in private business, my father’s focus was ensuring their trading business ran smoothly – it was a seven-days a week occupation. Occasionally, Dad would have a free Sunday afternoon, but that was understandably spent catching up on much-needed rest. The occasional holiday broke the monotony of his working life, and while the bank account took a temporary hit, it gave room for a collection of precious memories.
It wasn’t until he was in his sixties that a health event bought his work-life to a grinding halt. This was a real wake-up call for Dad, and it has been interesting watching the process of him adjusting to a slower pace of life. After the initial shock, there was a period of regret for not realizing sooner that there is more to life than work.
In time, his positivity has rekindled, he has committed to his mental and physical health and is well into the rhythm of building his new life. My point in telling you this story is that Dad’s retirement planning wasn’t great, and nor is it for many of the retiring population.
It seems strange to me that the typical view of retirement is that we put life on hold to work hard and earn a living so that we can then afford to retire and start enjoying ourselves. Surely life is for living along the way and retirement is just a transition to a less formal part of life.
Most retirement planning articles focus readers on how much money they should have, or how much an average retiree spends. It seems there’s a belief that once the money part is sorted, your retirement is planned! So, you may have achieved the Freedom of Money and that’s one of the key requirements of a fulfilling retirement. However, the question you also need to answer is, what are you going to do with your newfound Freedom of Time?
I have the privilege of specializing in the retirement planning sector of financial planning, so I have had many conversations with clients planning to retire in the next few years. The best conversations focus on well-being rather than financial security and often include visualizing what they are going to do in their lives when they’re no longer working.
The first question to ask yourself is whether your retirement will be a transition or an event. This is an important consideration because I am working with people for whom the process of retirement will take several years. Being planful about how you want your retirement to play out is a key step.
Dr Martin Seligman is the father of Positive Psychology and his research on the PERMA formula has been a breakthrough in helping people understand wellbeing. The simple exercise below will help you focus on the most important dimensions of a happy retirement.
Over many years of working with the PERMA theory, we have added our own twist – Vitality – to make the formula PERMA+V. Vitality represents that sense of bounding out of bed each day, physically and mentally well, and ready to take on the world. The PERMA+V formula is self-explanatory in the exercise below. You can download a PDF version of this worksheet here.
Anyone can complete this exercise at any point in their lives – it just happens to be useful for people contemplating the future. [Don’t hesitate to pass it on to others who may benefit too!]
There are many ways to make yours a PERMA+V retirement. Being useful is a good start, so we offer to look after our grandkids, jump into volunteering programs, embark on a hobby, or join a group where we feel our expertise is useful.
Be mindful that the initial honeymoon will be a time to relish your free time and the unstructured nature of the day, but once the honeymoon fades, it pays to have a few adventures up your sleeve. Without the right plan, many new retirees report disillusionment with the reality of retirement, indeed the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that being bored was the second-highest reason why people return to work.
I find that those who have taken the time to understand what’s important to them, find it easier to unlock wellbeing in retirement. These aren’t conversations to be left until the last moment, begin the process of discussing what life after work will mean for you.
Our book Wealth with Purpose is a great resource to get you thinking about your ideal future. If you’d like a copy for yourself or a friend, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org