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Retirement Options
by Carasue Moody

I think about retirement from time to time. I think about it most often during one of those time periods when nothing seems to go according to plan. When for some reason, everything I attempt becomes a struggle and a test of my patience. There's not a specific reason why things seem so difficult, maybe it's because the stars are out of alignment or that my office isn't fung whatever correct.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy spontaneity and a challenge, but I don't like running into brick walls too often. And during one of "those days", after having bounced off of fifteen or twenty, my mind tends to conjure up thoughts of spending more time with my grandchildren, playing tennis, sailing along a shoreline at sunset or traveling places I've never seen; things I may do when I retire. I have several years to go until I officially take that step but articles pertaining to retirement often catch my eye.

The options for retirement lifestyles have changed dramatically. Science has found cures and remedies for many of the illnesses that in the past had cut lives short and there are new drugs and cures on the horizon for some types of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and other maladies that erode quality of life and hinder length of life. Transplants and artificially engineered devices can replace vital organs that have worn out or become diseased. We live longer than our ancestors did and look forward to reaping the fruits of our labor. My generation and those following have learned to better financially prepare for their later years, although depending on the economy it can alter some of those plans. Some of us will work longer because we love what we do or can't quit because of finances. But some who didn't get caught in the turmoil of life will still plan to follow through on their retirement plans and enjoy.

But even if we haven't amassed a fortune before retirement, there is an abundance of advice on how to derive the most pleasure from the newfound time. I've recently read an article about people who retire and move to another country where the cost of living is far below the American average. Those places are usually in warm climates and life there appears to be easy. Of course, there are pros and cons to making such a drastic move. Although you could keep in touch with family by phone, skype, facetime, etc. you most likely wouldn't physically see them as often. You'd be a distant part of their lives. Language, bureaucracies and financial matters could be difficult to manage. And if you were to buy real estate, the definition of ownership could change if the country's government changed. The warm, gentle breeze in your back yard could become a fleeting memory and you might have to start all over again.

Wherever we go or stay after retirement, the consensus is that the key to enjoyment and fulfillment is staying busy and feeling useful. It may seem inconceivable while we're trying to balance personal and business obligations that being busy and useful could ever be an issue. But apparently, all that changes after retirement. Some retirees claim that self-esteem can suffer if they have no purposeful reason to get up in the morning. After working most of their lives and interacting with people of all ages they can begin to feel isolated. They're no longer mentally challenged by making business decisions and can become depressed. The world continues to turn and they don't feel part of it. Golfing, fishing, traveling - the things they yearned to have time for while they were working - becomes boring.

I've read advice from some seniors who've been retired for a few years. They say that an individual's basic values and interests don't change that much as they age but the manner in which they participate probably will. If they enjoy physical exercise like working out at a gym or running when you're in your 30's, you'll remain active in later life. If you enjoyed hobbies or learning new things, or if you enjoy sports or socializing, those interests will continue, but in a different way. For instance, instead of trying to finish a master's degree, a retiree may attend adult classes to learn things they didn't have time for earlier.

While it's important to fund a retirement plan, their suggestion for preparation for retirement were more personal than financial. Their priorities were maintaining health, developing interests in a variety of things, not to neglect family relationships and friendships, staying mentally and physically active and pursue avenues that will enable to stay connected with the world.

It sounds as though working long hours, neglecting our health, family and friends to accumulate vast amounts of money to retire on won't lead to a happy retirement. Or that moving to another country to stretch our dollars and become idle is the answer. The things recommended by those who know from experience to sustain us in later life can be achieved with or without great financial wealth. We may be wise to invest as much in our personal development as we do in our financial development.