Retirement lessons from Walden

retirement walden

I’ve had Walden on my reading list for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t get around to reading it until earlier this year. I was struck by how closely several of Thoreau’s key philosophies paralleled with those of us here at Intentional Retirement. Below are 7 ideas from Walden that are worth considering, pondering and maybe even incorporating into your life and retirement.

From Walden: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”

Application: We all need to live deliberately (i.e. intentionally). Pretty much everything I write points back to this concept in one way or another, but if you want some ideas on how to apply this, check out A Brief Guide to Retirement Bliss.

From Walden: Thoreau questioned the wisdom of spending “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”

Application: Right on Henry. In other words, don’t save the best for last. Retirement should not be a timeline where youth is 0-20, working years equal 20-65 and retirement is 65 plus. Instead it should be a pie chart divided between time you control and time you don’t. Retirement is using whatever time you control now (whether that’s 10%, 50% or 90%) to live the life that you want to live. For more on this check out The problem with delayed gratification and How to retire today.

From Walden: “So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre.”

Application: You don’t need to live your life either a) the way you’re living it now, or b) the way you think others are expecting you to. It’s your life and like Thoreau said, your options are pretty much unlimited when it comes to how you can live it. Decide what’s important to you and then start taking those plans very seriously. For help on this read 15 Practical ways to live a purposeful life and 10 Questions that will help you decide what to do during retirement.

From Walden: “I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”

Application: Don’t be cash rich and lifestyle poor. Your money exists so you can fund the experiences and things you really want out of life. If you have A without B, you’re doing it wrong.

From Walden: “In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simply and wisely…It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.”

Application: Don’t focus too much on work. One of the top five regrets of the dying is “I wish I had worked less.” Work is important, but keep it in perspective. To help with that you can read (and watch) One year to live.

From Walden: “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at.”

Application: Unless you want and can afford both, seriously consider focusing on experiences over assets. Regardless of which you choose, however, when you find out what’s important to you, don’t hesitate to invest extravagantly in those things.

From Walden: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

Application: If you’re going to have a meaningful retirement, you need to embrace the idea that your goal is not to have busy days or full days, but days spent on things that bring meaning, fulfillment, purpose, fun and happiness.  For help in this read How to cure the busy virus or Maximizing retirement: Maintenance vs. Milestones.

Thanks for reading.  Have a great weekend!

Joe

 

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