When people talk to me about their finances they talk about ‘financial goals’. Sure, they are important but ‘earning more money’ cannot be a goal. ‘Being happy’ can be a goal.
When I talk to people in the 55 to 72 years of age the most happiness that they have is when they travel with their spouses, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors. Rarely do they have so much happiness when they buy clothes, a new car, house, etc. In fact they have more pleasure when they buy a camera so that they can plan their next vacation with their friends!
I do not see them having so much pleasure when they help their children! Nor do they have so much happiness when they sell their house to move near their children’s house. That is a kind of a compulsory decision than a happiness decision. So what is the best way to be happy in Retirement? One important investment in retirement is making an investment in being physically able to spend the money on social activities, and investing in relationships and friendships that help us get the most out of life.
It’s easy. Spend your money and time on leisure activities. Take vacations. Celebrate Dussera in Mysore with your old college roommates. Have a birthday party with your school mates. Hike the Himachal Pradesh mountains with your neighbor. Learn new things. Take a class at the Yoga Institute Santacruz with your best friends. Learn how to make pottery, run a marathon, play the guitar, do counselling for some young MBAs…or doctors..or ! Learn to ride a motorcycle – you need to prepare for a trip to Leh – and other parts of Ladakh.
Go join a gym. See all your important doctors regularly – dentist, homeopath, cardiologists…and take your medicines regularly. No, you do not need a regular check up – once in 5 years is fine according to my doc. Get a massage twice a month. Given that health is a very important ‘happiness indicator’, retirees should spend time and money sustaining and/or improving their health to the extent their resources permit.
Quality of spousal relationship is also important. If she can participate in all your activities it is great, but even if she is happy letting you go with your friends, that is not such a bad option. An unwell parent or spouse or a child needing special attention all their lives impairs people from travelling so freely. However given our old age homes, sibling support, etc. you should build all these activities even if you have some such obligations to take care of.
So what should retirees and near retirees do?
They should “assess their portfolio of friends for both the number and degree of contact that is incorporated into their life and financial goals.” So having friends is fine, but do you meet them, talk to them, watch plays and movies with them? Friends can be cousins, neighbors, running or cycling groups, yoga or veda group, schoolmates, college mates….this portfolio is also important AND THIS PORTFOLIO ALSO needs investment – of time and effort.
Enjoying life requires a number of inputs!! It takes a combination of health, money, and positive relationships to be happy. This means that investing money is fine, but not enough. We should ALSO invest in the quality of our relationship and in our health to get the most out of retirement.
So how is your preparation for retirement?
Will you be rich, old and grumpy or rich, healthy, travelling and full of fun?
Start investing in happiness. It is a great goal.
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