Money is a critical consideration for everybody approaching release/retirement. Financial security allows all Canadians, including Canadian Armed Forces members, to have choices and options going forward. It gives us peace of mind and the freedom to create the future of our dreams. But a successful retirement is about more than just money.
For many CAF members, longevity (because they are very fit throughout their career!) is a bonus; but it can be a curse for those of us who have planned only for the financial side of life after work. It is crucial to make sure we won’t outlive our money – but just as important, we should be asking ourselves, “What will I do with my time?”
Research has demonstrated clearly that the people who are happiest in “the next phase” prepare for retirement by engaging in some sort of life planning as well as financial planning.
Consider these 5 critical life components for success:
Positive Attitude & Open Mind
A positive attitude and an open mind. Look around. As far as the happiest and most fulfilled people are concerned, the cup is always full – or at least half full. Retirees who consider themselves very happy say that having a healthy, positive outlook is the foundation on which they have built their new lives.
For released members (also known as “inactive”) and retirees in general, being open to new opportunities is an important component of maintaining a positive attitude. We often think of our retirement as an extended vacation, but many have expressed to me: “after a month we discovered that a permanent vacation has become rather boring.”
Rather than getting stuck in a rut, maintain your motivation by looking for new activities that would enhance this next stage of your life. Investigate volunteer and part-time work activities that you think could be interesting, fun, or rewarding.
Maintain Healthy Lifestyle
Maintain a healthy lifestyle, because when you have your health, you have everything. The most successful retirees practice health-building habits. The first thing they often do after retiring is joining a health club or start a walking program to replace the facilities they enjoyed working on base, including the associated camaraderie challenge and competitive spirit!
Other healthy living basics include not smoking, limiting one’s intake of alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and controlling food portions – simple steps, but not always easy to practice.
Retirees who live a healthy lifestyle are out having fun; some are even working part- or full-time. It’s important to understand that as you age, you’re bound to have physical issues – but the more fit you are, the less impact aging may have on your everyday life.
Stay Connected With People
Stay connected with friends and family. One of the things people miss most when they retire is their community of work friends. Socializing with people – whether they are family, coworkers or neighbours – can be fun and stimulating, and it gives most of us a sense of belonging. Whether we call them colleagues or just “the gang,” those social contacts are still important.
Staying connected to one’s industry also helps to continue a sense of community. If you continue to keep up with industry changes and news, a transition back to a paid job, if you are so inclined, will be a lot easier. For many CAF members during retirement, a chance encounter can lead to short-term consulting projects. The money is an unexpected windfall, but contributing to important projects in retirement can also be gratifying.
Interests & Hobbies
Take interests and hobbies to a new level. Having fun is not always about trying new things. Often, taking old interests to a new level can be just as adventurous and inspiring. If you like working in the garden, maybe retirement is the time for you to take a flower-arranging course or to try to grow something new, for instance, heirloom tomatoes from seed or giant pumpkins!
Take Advantage of Your Time
Be willing to explore because retirement offers the gift of time. The key is to continue to be curious about things and keep exploring. That’s the best way to find adventure and to stay excited.
As you prepare many years in advance for the next, inevitable adventure in your life, ask yourself these questions:
- How do you view retirement? Is it positive, negative, or neutral?
- What activities do you currently enjoy? What new activities do you want to try?
- Are there any financial implications?
- What will you do to maintain good health in retirement?
- Have you thought about keeping up your professional skills in case you decide to go back to work?
- Are there any professional groups you would like to join when you retire?
- Have you thought about any great travel destinations?
- Are there any things that you always said you would do if only you had the time?
- Do you have a hobby or interest in which you’d like to get more involved?
I hope that these questions have challenged your thought process as you explore and engage in the next (and most fun, apparently!) phase of your life.