First year lost and found

It’s been a year of changes and discoveries during my first year retired. It was a time to uncover what retired life means to me. I am often asked if I am happy being retired. A Merrill Lynch survey on leisure and happiness uncovered that 93% of retirees say their life is as good or better than before retirement. I am one of the 93%.

I was not happy early in retirement. I was living in a new place with limited social connections. I spent a good part of the year finding happiness. I boiled this learning experience into five of my most important factors in living a happy retirement.

I need a plan

Google living a happy retirement. The results are mostly about being financially secure. I worked with an elder law attorney and financial advisors to assess my financial security and set a financial strategy for my retirement life. It was the best decision I made this past year. I know exactly where I am financially now and in the future.

Retirement planning is not just finances. I spent many hours reading about happiness and retirement. Something constantly popped up in this research. A good retirement life needs three things: passion, community, and structure. I worked on those this past year. They helped me determine my life vision and goals.

My health is important

The importance of health and its relationship to happiness is a fact. An AARP study showed that happiness is critical in thriving in retirement. The main finding was that without health, it is difficult to achieve happiness. People who are in excellent health are the most likely to indicate they are very happy.

I had episodes of ignoring my health over the years. I pay the price for this behavior. Most of the things that make me happy are dependent of me being healthy. Achieving a higher level of health is my number one priority.

I need to stay busy.

My day as a retiree is an open calendar. I have the time to do what I want to do. I have many  interests and had several on the back burner heading into retirement. Time is not limitless. This newfound freedom made me realize that I need maximize time doing the things I want to do and minimize unproductive time.

Busy does not mean that every second of every day is filed on my calendar. Retirement is about leisure and enjoying time after a lifetime in the workforce. I had to determine the balance of free and busy time that made me happy. It is not an overnight task. I now have that balance working well.

I like to do new things

If you asked me a year ago what my passion was, I would tell you cycling as much as I can. It is something I am living well. Hidden from me was a greater passion. I thrive being actively involved in the community . It took some time to understood that it was missing in my life. It is now coming to life.

This past year has been filled with doing new things. I became a beekeeper. I started a cycling club. I began volunteering. I drove a pony team in a fair horse and pony show. I entered my photography in my county fair photography show. I look forward to a future of filling my life with new things.

I need structure in my days

Having structure in retired life is common in research and the media when talking about a happy retirement. I thought I was done with structure when I stepped out of my office for the last time. This phase of life needs structure to keep me happy, focused, and moving forward.

Retirement structure is not the strict working world structure. It is a framework that manages my free time. I schedule some time and leave other time open. I try to be consistent in my scheduling. I always make it a priority to leave time to have some fun.

Have some fun today!
Tom Bilcze

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