The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire, Part 2

Today we’ll conclude my thoughts from the book How to Retire Happy.

If you missed part one of this review, you can find it here.

Today we’ll cover a few of the unique topics this book highlights and I’ll share my thoughts.

Let’s get started…

Retiring and Working: Having It Both Ways

The author addresses working in retirement with the following:

The line between work and retirement is becoming more blurred all the time. The fact is that many people who retire go back to work part-time, and some even go back full-time. People are living longer and want to remain involved and productive.

Several precrash surveys reported that 80 to 85 percent of boomers planned to continue working—at least part-time—after retirement. While a relatively small number of people said that they expected to work because they needed the money, most said that they wanted to keep busy or pursue individual goals. A significant number of people indicated that they wanted to start their own businesses.

The changing nature of retirement and work was described by Neal Cutler, former director of survey research at the National Council on Aging in Washington, DC. “We will see more and more people who describe themselves as retired but continue to work,” Cutler said. “Many of these people are working by choice not because they have to. In the twenty-first century, retirement will encompass a wide range of options. We will see some 75-year-olds working two jobs and some 40-year-olds lounging poolside.

“Retirement,” Cutler continued, “used to be defined by what one was no longer doing—not parenting, not working, not actively involved. Increasingly it will be defined by what one does do—second career, volunteer work, travel, sports activities.”

I am 100% in agreement with these thoughts:

  • The definition of retirement is changing (despite the retirement police fighting us every step of the way).
  • If you work, that doesn’t disqualify you from “being retired”. To me, being retired is “doing whatever you want to do”, which includes working. In fact, for many this is the chance to move from something they didn’t like as much (maybe they fell into the profession by accident) to a job they’ve always wanted to try because they think they’d enjoy it. Why not go for it?
  • I would recommend a side hustle (i.e. “own business” above) to help you get to retirement faster as well as have 1) something to do that you enjoy and 2) an extra income when you retire (which never hurts). If you want to see what a big impact a side hustle can have on getting you to retirement, check out my ESI Scale calculator.
  • I like the “used to be what you were no longer doing” to “now defined by what you do” change. To me retirement is exactly about that — the freedom to choose.

In summary, I’m ESI and I approved this message.

Retiring with Your Spouse: The Togetherness Test

Here’s another important topic we’ve seen addressed in a couple retirement books.

But it’s covered relatively rarely so when it’s mentioned and the book has something good to say about it, I like to share their thoughts.

Here’s what this book says about spouses spending more time together when one (or both) of them retire:

When you start to weigh the pros and cons of retiring, take a few minutes to think about what your life will be like after you leave your job—especially if you are married.

Sara and I organized our lives so that we had both time alone and time together. Sara retired first. By the time I retired 2.5 years later, she’d already developed a schedule of social and community activities that kept her busy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

I quickly realized that Sara’s schedule was an opportunity for me to get both the “space” and the time that I needed to work on my freelance writing, take care of the family finances, and expertise at the community fitness room.

“When you retire, you’d better be friends,” Sara said, “because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.”

Haha! That last line is so true.

I think this book summarizes the situation perfectly:

  • You have to like each other. If you don’t, nothing will likely work (other than completely ignoring the other person, which isn’t good.) Hopefully most ESI Money readers like their spouses.
  • You need to have activities that each of you do separate from the other. My wife has church projects, outings with friends, and daily chats with her sisters and my mom. I have blogging, pickleball, and reading. We both workout separately as well.
  • You need to have activities you do together. We walk twice a day, play pickleball once a week with another couple, watch church (it used to “be go to church”), and watch TV/movies.

This gives a good balance of being together enough to enjoy the other person but not so much time together that you need to get away or become frustrated at the situation.

Besides, if I spend too much time with my wife our cat gets jealous. 😉

Exercising the Brain

Here’s a topic I’m very interested in — how to keep the mind strong and healthy in retirement.

Many (most?) people get a significant amount of their mental challenge from work. But when they retire, work is no more and thus the challenge is gone, which can be detrimental to their minds.

Here’s what the book says on the subject:

Keeping the Memory in Shape: The best way to do this, the experts say, is to keep yourself in good physical shape. Regular exercise and a proper diet will do as much good for your brain as it will for your muscles. It’s also a good idea to keep your mind active, whether you play poker, chess, pool, or the stock market. Reading newspapers, magazines, or novels will help keep those brain cells humming, too.

Here’s what I do in an attempt to stay sharp:

  • Exercise several times a week including cardio, weights, pickleball, and walking (averaging 19k steps a day so far this year).
  • Eat well most of the time. I do intermittent fasting and eat in an 8-hour window. I do allow myself one cheat day a week (which is generally topped off with a bowl of ice cream) but otherwise try to eat well and low carb.
  • I do at least one Sudoku puzzle a day.
  • I do three chess puzzles a day. Here’s the site I use. I generally get the easy one right and then the other two are hit and miss. Sometimes I get all three right, much more often than I miss all three.
  • I “play” the stock market. Haha! Not really, but I am more interested in it since I bought dividend stocks.
  • I read quite a bit — online and money books mostly (retirement books lately).
  • I write quite a bit. I post three times a week and am working on a bit of side writing as well. The blogging alone is 2k words per post times three times a week times 52 weeks — or 312k words per year. According to Google, most books are “between 60,000 and 100,000 words.” So if we assume an average of 80k words per book, I basically write almost four books a year. 😉
  • I play strategy games. Risk, Stratego, chess, and Monopoly are all apps on my phone. Anyone have any other strategy games they like?
  • I would like to learn bridge some day. It’s on my to-do list.

That’s my list. See anything I’m missing? What do you do in retirement to keep your mind sharp?

I am so interested in this subject that I wanted to see what other sources said about it. I found a few good articles starting with this one from Kiplinger suggesting how to stay mentally sharp in retirement:

  • Regular exercise.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Stay socially active.
  • Puzzles and games.

Ok, I’m pretty good on all of those.

Next we move on to Goodnet which suggests eight ways to stay mentally sharp in retirement as follows:

  • Stay Physically Fit
  • Volunteer
  • Keep Learning
  • Get Proper Sleep
  • Manage Stress
  • Identify and Treat Health Problems
  • Eat a Brain Diet
  • Practice Memory Ticks

I do pretty well with all of these, but could improve on #2 (I need a more challenging volunteer opportunity), #4 (now that I’m used to exercising more, I’m not as exhausted at night and don’t sleep as well — when I first started I would pretty much collapse every night), and #8 (which I’m not really sure what this would entail — I guess I need to do more research).

Finally from Harvard we have what’s titled as “six simple steps to keep your mind sharp at any age” but is really a set of 12. Here are the first six:

Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits:

  • staying physically active
  • getting enough sleep
  • not smoking
  • having good social connections
  • limiting alcohol to no more than one drink a day
  • eating a Mediterranean style diet

I’m good on these except for the sleep (so-so on it) and the Mediterranean diet (I have more of the Iowa diet with veggies thrown in). Haha!

Here’s their next set of six:

There are various strategies we can use to help maintain cognitive fitness. Here are several you might try:

  • Keep learning
  • Use all your senses
  • Believe in yourself
  • Prioritize your brain use
  • Repeat what you want to know
  • Space it out

These are a bit vague IMO and very subjective. But I’m including them in the interest of overall information.

And I’ll get to work believing in myself right away. 🙂

That wraps it up for this book.

Any thoughts on the book or what I shared? Anyone read it?

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