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Retirement – A Balancing Act!

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by Denis Wuestman

Balance is an important concept in many aspects of our lives. Let’s look at a few where we hear the word and where practicing the “balance principle” is likely good for us.

  • Riding a bike – this one was my earliest recollection of balance. Anyone who has done this knows that you need to master balance in order to enjoy riding.
  • Diet – eat a “balanced diet” was something that I heard early on in my life. Supporting this were phrases like – “everything in moderation”.   In visiting a nutritionist years ago this balance principal was at the core of her approach. Diet fads come and go – if only we practiced proper balance in our diets throughout our lives – we may never have needed to “go on a diet”.
  • Exercise – a regimen that combines a balance of cardio, strength, flexibility and, yes, balance exercises itself, seems more logical than just doing one element alone. How many runners can benefit from mixing some weight training and some yoga into their regimen, so they can avoid stress fractures and knee/hip problems.   Not to say that we would never get hurt, but when we think about doing one thing only vs. a mix of things physically, it seems logical that the “balance principal” can improve our odds of getting hurt. Think of what causes stress injuries…. too much of “one thing”!
  • Work/Life – this more modern phrase popped up in the last twenty years as workers were spending too much time at work related activities vs. home life. Employers became more sensitive to the need for people to reach a better mix between work and home life and we saw the advent of telecommuting, flex work schedules, and increased vacation benefits for many.
  • Investment philosophy – one of the main principles of investment is to have a “balanced or diversified” portfolio of investments.   Putting all your financial “eggs” in one basket certainly increases your risk/reward.   You either make a lot or lose a lot. Diversification or a more “balanced portfolio” is one way to lower the overall risk of your investments.   Oh – and then there is the “re-balancing” that you do at various intervals to maintain your risk/reward profile.

What Do Some Experts Say about Balance in Retirement

Ok – so what does balance have to do with retirement?   In the book “The New Retirement”, Dr. Richard Johnson, PhD promotes 6 key life areas that we should focus on achieving a balance among to help ensure for a more happier and successful retirement.   These areas are: Career, Family, Relationships, Self, Spiritual and Leisure.

In the “New Retirementality” book by Mitch Anthony, he points to the importance of a balanced life in retirement as to where and how we spend out time.

So – we have been exposed to the importance of balance in many parts of our lives up to this point – seems like it is also a key component of a successful retirement.

My Personal Balance Anchor

My personal transition to my second act forced me to deal with this and I quickly realized I needed an anchor point if I ever became “unbalanced”. For me this anchor was – “structure”.   I found that having the proper structure in my day and week helped my balance the things most important to me. This worked for me like a good diet or exercise program. I planned for how I would approach my day and week and ensured I had a balance of activities and social interactions that work for me. I didn’t learn this on my own- I spoke to a few friends as to how they balanced and they quickly pointed to their structured “day” or “week”.   This was something I could relate to, but took some goal setting, planning, discipline and focus to ensure success. I had to do some soul searching of what was most important to me – and once I figured that out – the rest of it came into place.

If things went “off the rails” I can come back to the structure of my day or week and re-examine that in relation to my goals. Not being naïve here- things have a way of impacting what you do every day. I think of this as the 80/20 rule – if you have a good structure aligned to your goals in retirement you will have a good shot at a more “balanced retirement”.

What are your experiences with the importance of “balance” in retirement? Or – have you thought about how you will plan for the proper “balance” as you transition to retirement?   Worth thinking about….


Johnson, R.J. (2001), The New Retirement – Discovering Your Dream. Career Partners International.

Anthony, M. (2014). The New Retirementality, 4th edition. New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons.

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