By Joe Casey
There’s a lot of uncertainty we face in planning for retirement. On the financial side, we can’t control the direction of the markets, interest rates or unexpected events (Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!). On the non-financial side, there are important questions to resolve (Where will we live? What will we do?) and many things we can’t fully control, like our health and longevity. There is one thing we can control in retirement – our attitude.
In my HR career, I remember meeting with an internal client who prominently displayed a sign on his desk that was impossible to miss: Attitude is Everything. It rang true then, and still does today. A great conversation with Fritz Gilbert (The Retirement Manifesto) helped me appreciate what a difference it can make in transitioning to retirement.
Retirement brings opportunities and choices, along with challenges and losses. What makes a difference in pursuing the former and persevering through the latter? The attitude you adopt. How you look at things essentially determines how you experience them. If you have an opportunity to talk with former colleagues who’ve retired, you’ll see it right away. (I had dinner with two just last night). Listen to how they describe their life in retirement. Most, if not all, have faced some sort of challenge. It’s a funny thing though. Often, the ones who have had the most difficult challenges describe their experiences differently. You can hear it and feel it in their attitude. They are more resilient. There’s a different outlook – and it matters.
You may be thinking, “Some people have always been that way.” True. But the change of pace in the transition to retirement can test even the best attitudes. There’s an adjustment period. It is one of those rare times in life where you really do come upon a fork in the road. You can make different choices. It’s up to you. It can be a real turning point. (Despite Yogi Berra’s advice).
You may discover that the attitude that helped make you successful in your working years needs some fine-tuning in your retirement years. With a significant shift in how you spend your time, this can be important. How do you ensure that your attitude is in the right shape for retirement? If you’d like to adopt the type of attitude that will be helpful to you (and to the people you care about) there’s a great place to start.
Begin with gratitude. It doesn’t take much time and it can pay huge dividends.
Gratitude is a practice of taking time to notice, acknowledge and appreciate the good in life. Three Good Things ,developed by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, is a simple daily practice that’s very effective. Keeping a daily gratitude journal is another. It changes what you pay attention to. After a while, you’ll automatically begin to look for the good – and savor it more.
Why work on gratitude? It’s extremely good for you. A 2018 study by Robustelli and Whisman found that higher levels of overall life satisfaction were correlated with higher levels of gratitude. And in times of loss and adversity, Chopik et al. (2017) found that gratitude can help people see and appreciate the positive sides of life and it encourages greater resilience.
And it might just be a game-changer. Why? Psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson notes that positive emotions “broaden and build” and can create an “Upward Spiral” of other positive emotions, in contrast to negative emotions which can narrow our range.
We had a great discussion recently with Fritz Gilbert for our podcast. Fritz is a corporate commodity trader, who is just weeks away from a well-researched and well-planned early retirement at 55. He created his outstanding blog, The Retirement Manifesto, three years ago. At first, he focused primarily on the monetary aspects of creating financial independence and early retirement (FIRE). Over time, he’s written many excellent pieces of the “softer” side of retirement emphasizing how important it is to proactively plan for both sides of retirement. I often retweet his work – it is exceptional and practical. I highly recommend his post on The Ten Commandments of Retirement. You’ll benefit greatly by following his posts.
Listen to our discussion with Fritz on The Retirement Conversation podcast to hear his insights on the softer side of retirement planning. In addition to his wisdom and useful ideas, you can hear and feel his attitude. I sense that it is one of the most important assets he’s bringing to his retirement. It might give you some ideas on continuing to cultivate your own so you’re in good shape for retirement.
Fritz Gilbert, @RetireManifesto, joins The Retirement Conversation podcast: Listen here.
Chopik, W. J., Newton, N. J., Ryan, L. H., Kashdan, T. B., & Jarden, A. J. (2017). Gratitude across the life span: Age differences and links to subjective well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-11.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 47, pp. 1-53). Academic Press.
Robustelli, B. L., & Whisman, M. A. (2018). Gratitude and life satisfaction in the United States and Japan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(1), 41-55.