For almost two years we have been writing this blog about our move to Cuenca, Ecuador and the ups and downs of living here. It has been our good fortune to have had thousands of readers who were looking for on-site information about a possible move to Ecuador. No blog can answer all the questions though each of us who write a blog try. Some of the questions are quite personal. Others venture on the impossible task of trying to help people with different concerns via the impersonal internet and email. A lot about life in Ecuador has been covered here and on other blogs. But there seems to be one nagging question that hides below all the others.
Among retirees abroad and here in Cuenca there is almost a universal concern about what life will be like once they retire. Although some are not yet retired, many have recently entered the last quarter of their lives and don’t know what to expect after a lifetime of working and raising children.
Some of the recurring questions have been “What can I do when I retire to Ecuador?” or “What job opportunities are there?” or, an even more telling question, “What is it like to be retired and no longer working? What will I do with myself?”
A couple of years ago I wrote a book for real estate community developers to distribute to their potential customers. Though the book is not in print any longer, we thought it might be of interest to look at some of the issues the book dealt with relating to the process of planning and the actuality of retirement. How to deal with this life changing event is an almost universal question. So, in this posting, we will print an exerpt from the book and, if there is interest, we will print others later that seem most relevant to approach this question of a new life and the changes it brings.
Change Versus Being Stuck
Countless books have been written about having a positive attitude and how it effects a successful life. Unfortunately, few have been written about how people’s attitudes relate to prospering in retirement.
Study after study has found that our perceptions about work and retirement are rapidly changing. No longer is retirement considered the end of a fruitful life. Questions are being asked and answers sought. Growing older is no longer the main issue, but how we live our later years and the vitality of our lives, have become the subject.
One of the changes we are seeing is that, in the past, many people spent their lives in retirement doing the same things with the same friends each and every day. Very little changed from the time when they worked and raised their children. They were stuck in a life-long rut and the inevitable result was a downward spiral in health and happiness.
But, this is not the way it has to be. An adjustment in attitude involving using more free time to develop new activities and new friends would bring vitality and interest to those people whose lives have reached a dead end. What do you think would happen if you struck off on a new path in retirement and tried something new and different that would surprise even you by its audacity?
Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, gave the commencement address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. The following excerpt from his speech to the graduating students is just as relevant to retiring people as it is to graduating seniors.
“…Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
How Did Successful Retiree Do It?
If you take a look at affluent American retirees in their 70’s you’ll find some interesting tips. Some are no brainers. Others may be ideas you haven’t given much thought to.
Most of today’s “successful” retirees are active and independent people who recognized, early on, that personal freedom is a major source of satisfaction. A large percentage have traveled widely. Many have made significant charitable contributions and have done volunteer work. Countless numbers have helped out other family members financially.
It is interesting to note that most of today’s retirees have planned for a lengthy retirement by understanding that they may live long, productive lives. These fortunate people have factored in almost a third of their lives for retirement. Conversely, there are many younger people who haven’t given a thought to the length of time they will probably spend in retirement. Those who have, often underestimate by guessing at around twenty-two years. Research shows that most people actually need to plan for twenty-five to thirty-five years in retirement.
Many of those retiring today seek professional advice when they need it which results in the fact that a much larger percentage of retirees hire professional financial planners than they did during their working years.
Most relied on themselves to supply the money needed for their retirement. The expectation of gaining an inheritance was seldom a factor they considered in their planning phase. In addition, most of these independent-minded successful retirees expected their children to achieve financial success on their own.
One thing that almost everyone agrees with is that older people should find ways to spread their knowledge and experience to younger generations. To mentor a willing student is a rewarding and empowering activity that is done by many of today’s retirees.
If you take notice of the issues that successful retirees before you have discovered, getting yourself on the right track will be easier and the chance for doing well in retirement will be higher.
Get Excited About the Future
Being excited about the possibilities the future might bring will make the whole planning process a lot more fun and stress-free. When you realize that you could be facing a number of years in retirement nearly equivalent to all those years you spent at work, you begin to understand the importance of putting the coming phase of your life into a wholesome and positive perspective. Attitude seems to be the key.