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Taking it for granted

About 20 years ago, nearly five years before I retired, I began investigating what retirement might be like and what I could do to make it what I wanted it to be.  My friend, Keith Lawrence, and I joined forces and were fortunate to learn enough to write our book, Your Retirement Quest, and to begin speaking around the country, helping others plan for the non-financial aspects of their retirements.

We advise people to develop a diverse portfolio of meaningful activities to complement their diverse portfolio of financial investments.  And we help them think about what those activities might be by sharing what we dubbed the “10 key elements of a fulfilling retirement.”  You can learn more about these in our book or at YourRetirementQuest.com.  

This past week, I was reminded of an aspect of retirement life that we tend not to think about until we’re in the middle of it.  I joined the many who were homebound with the flu.  In many ways, this experience was similar to being at home for recovery/rehab after each of my two hip-replacement surgeries a few years ago.

Retirement life planning, in fact life planning in general, is built around answering the question, “How do I want to spend my time and energy in a personally satisfying way?”  That’s not always an easy question to answer, but it’s definitely easier when you have the full range of options available to you—options like doing things with friends and family, doing things outdoors, joining others on a volunteer project, attending commumity or cultural events. 

But what if your options are limited to what is only available to you in the confines of your home?  You could choose to sit in front of the television or social media all day.  There’s nothing wrong with a bit of TV or Facebook, but each is a passive activity and not geared to keep you intellectually stimulated and fulfilled.

The answer to the life planning question is different for each of us.  For me, it included formatting my most recently-completed book manuscript to get it ready for publishing, including designing a cover.  It included editing the current book I’m working on and doing the research to identify a potential agent or publisher.  It included doing challenging crossword puzzles.  And yes, it even included watching more TV than normal. 

What’s your answer to the question, “How do I want to spend my time and energy in a personally satisfying way if I need to be homebound for a time?”  While I certainly wish that is not something you’ll need to answer soon, if ever, doing the mental exercise might be worthwhile to make sure you’re covered if you ever need it and not just taking your full flexibility for granted.

Alan Spector is an author, business consultant, baseball player, traveler, and grandfather.  He has authored five published books, including, with coauthor Keith Lawrence, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement (www.YourRetirementQuest.com).  Alan and Keith conduct workshops across the country helping prospective and current retirees plan the non-financial aspects of their retirement—to make the rest of their lives the best of their lives.  Alan’s latest book, Body Not Recovered, is a work of historical fiction from the Vietnam War/Protest Movement era, and it has deep St. Louis roots.