Author:Sievert, Fred
Position:LIFE IN AMERICA - Retirement planning

WE ALL understand and appreciate the need for sound financial planning during the years preceding retirement. Who among us has not gone online to calculate our retirement nest egg needs and then panicked because accumulating that much wealth seemed inconceivable--especially if we started the process at age 55 or later?

While it is critically important to solicit financial planning advice from professionals and then to demonstrate strong personal discipline in executing the plan, there is another aspect to your retirement plans that is equally important. My own retirement has proven to be a magnificent experience of feeling happier, healthier, and younger than I have in decades. How did I plan for that and how can you plan, too?

While being prepared financially for a secure retirement certainly contributes enormously to our happiness, I have found it even more important to attend to all of the other nonfmancial aspects of post-career lifestyle and plans. Caught up in the rigors of pursuing a career, many of us dream of a time in retirement when we can relax, pursue leisurely activities, travel more often, and, hence, we believe, enjoy life more fully.

I remember when I was climbing the corporate ladder at New York Life Insurance Co. and working 14 or more hours per day (with little reprieve on Saturday or Sunday). A half-hour with family was rare but wonderful, and even running errands for an hour or two on a Saturday morning was a welcomed escape from the toil and intensity of the job. How enticing it was to fantasize about the days when I finally would get some well-deserved rest and relief from that hectic pace.

However, like many people, since embarking on the very real retirement voyage, I have discovered that the formula for success and happiness has little to do with how much we relax, rest, and enjoy leisurely activities. A happy retirement comes from continuing to live a life of consequence and impact. In fact, if you are like me, when the time comes, you quickly will stop describing yourself as "retired" and instead talk about how engaged and energized you are in the pursuit of your most-important lifelong passions. The adjective "retired" is a real misnomer for me and many like me.

Whether you are in your 60s, 50s, or even 40s, let me offer some advice on how to begin to explore and plan for your nonfinancial activities in your retirement years. The earlier you do this the better since the planning you do now can position you for...

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