For most of my life I thought of retirement as something people did when they were too worn out to do anything else. Retirement meant having nothing important to do and nobody important interested in what you did. It was the end of things. You retired when you could finally afford to leave work that was boring and deadening or too hard to keep doing. Old people retired.
Of course, all of that is just so out of date and misunderstood. In his book, How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, Ernie Zelinski makes the irrefutable case that “Retirement [is] A Time to Become Much More than You Have Ever Been.” In fact, Zelinski’s real message is to make it happen sooner, not later.
“Most people perform essentially meaningless work. When they retire, that truth is borne upon them.” – Brendan Francis
So why wait?
Well, money, for one, but even that can be a false obstacle. Zelinski challenges the base assumptions underlying the idea of work and careers and the self-images and constraints we willingly assume as we consume our lives in effort that too often fails to bring us the joy and satisfaction we always expected were our due. Especially around the age of 50, according to research the author cites, many of us begin to sense we’re missing something and that we ought to figure out what it is.
That, according to Zelinski, is what retirement is all about — figuring it out and reinventing yourself around what gives you joy and excitement and satisfaction. Retirement planning in the traditional sense, focused upon how you can afford to maintain your current lifestyle, has its priorities wrong. It should begin with determining how to adjust your lifestyle to help you become “much more than you have ever been.”
“It’s time to rid yourself of the values and moral virtues of hard work. You must get the work ethic out of your system and replace it with the enjoyment ethic.”
This 229 page paperback edition is a quick, enjoyable read, with several valuable insights. The author’s concept of the “Get A Life Tree,” in Chapter 3 and his extensive list of life change possibilities is in itself worth the price of the book. Included here is the Table of Contents. Each chapter is arranged by topics, a sample of which I have included for Chapter 2.
Chapter 1: Thank Heaven For Retirement
Chapter 2: Retirement: A Time to Become Much More than You Have Ever Been
• Retirement Can Set You Free
• To have no aptitude for leisure is to have nor aptitude for life.
• Create a new identity because your old one won’t do.
• Being on purpose is easy if you have one.
• Pursuing your true calling can make retirement the best time of your life.
• Work at something that is not so much a job, but a fun thing to do.
• Reclaiming your creative spirit will put joyful purpose into your retirement life.
• Not writing a book can be more difficult than writing one.
Chapter 3: So Many Worlds, So Much to Do!
Chapter 4: Take Special Care of Yourself – Because No One Else Will!
Chapter 5: Learning Is for Life
Chapter 6: Your Wealth Is Where Your Friends Are
Chapter 7: Travel for Fun, Adventure, and More
Chapter 8: Relocate to Where Retirement Living Is Best
Chapter 9: Happiness Doesn’t Care How You Get There
I found this book to be a rich resource for my own thinking about shaking off old identities and uncovering new possibilities for adventure and discovery. Zelinski’s admonition not to wait too long is hard to ignore:
“Think about this quietly and carefully: Years from now, as you review your life, what may you regret not having done? Clearly, it won’t be to have worked longer and harder at your career. And it won’t be that you didn’t watch enough TV. Whatever it is, shouldn’t you be doing it now?”
How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie J. Zelinski; © 2009; Ten Speed Press, 229 pp, Paperback