(6.5) Emotional Approach to Retirement Planning

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I read a book called “Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old” by Paul Leland. It’s not a wonderful book, but it did have some good ideas. In it, the interviewed centenarians’ words made it clear that they were most happy in their life when they had a sense of purpose. The ones who achieved that were sometimes lucky, but often had planned to get there. I want that to be me.

Ok, I may never make it to 80. Or I could live to be 120. I don’t know. So I refuse to sacrifice the happiness of today in the hope that later I can enjoy it. I will savor my life now, living with joy, as I mentioned n the previous lesson, not worrying about always being happy, but content with the inevitable ups and downs.

I also don’t think, looking back from 80 or 100, that I would be particularly pleased if I had waited until then to be happy. I think happiness takes practice, so why not start?

And yet, say I do make it to 80. What do I think I will want? What will give me a sense of purpose?

So my answer is personal, and yours will probably be different, but I recommend at least pondering this question, looking at the NVC needs inventory. Here’s some of what I came up with:

  • Having people around me who I can help in some way would give me a sense of purpose.
  • Continuing to write books or teach in some way would give me a sense of purpose. To do so it helps to continue to be a lifelong learner.
  • I love the outdoors, and I’d want a space where my dogs can run without me needing to walk them on a leash.
  • I want to live in a place where I see people who recognize me and know me on a real level.
  • I’d like to have a partner as long as I can.

These are all things that it makes sense to lean toward now, rather than waiting until I’m 80. I read this book 4 years ago and I now have that land where the dogs can run, at the edge of a town in which people recognize me. I built spaces on the land that allow my friends to visit for long stretches of time, and it is essentially a very tiny intentional community. I started running open mic music nights in the town, so I could get to know more people there. When someone here needs help, I help out with my time and effort.

In terms of a partner, I have worked on my own ability to be a good partner, and continue to do so. That made it a lot easier to recognize a really awesome partner when he came along. It has only been a month and we are just getting started, but I have a lot of faith in this relationship lasting, because of all of the mutual respect, good communication, chemistry, shared interests. Life is unpredictable, though, right? And impermanent. So I will savor it every day while it lasts. That’s a good way to make it last.

I do save money for retirement, when I can, but I don’t intend to ever really stop working, so my focus is more on making an emotional plan for my senior years. I am building connections that may possibly nourish me when I get there. I don’t know if these exact connections will be there. But they are nourishing me now, and I imagine they will lead to other connections as time goes on.