In 8 Habits of Successful Retirees I talked about what actions, habits and behaviors make for a great retirement. But sometimes being successful at something is as much about avoiding the bad as it is about doing the good. With that in mind, here are 5 behaviors that will ruin your retirement.
Poor time management. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said “I keep track of minutes like a banker keeps track of money.” He wasn’t just referring to games either. His practices were scheduled down to the minute too. His reasoning was simple. He had 5 two-hour practices each week over the course of a 21 week season to coach his players. That is 210 hours or 12,600 minutes of practice. That time is easy to waste if you’re not very, very intentional. The same is true for your retirement. You will have a very limited time in retirement, even under the best of circumstances. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to waste days, months or even years (See also: The surprising truth about how retirees spend their day). Keep an eye on the clock and be very intentional with your time.
Waiting for permission. Too many of us sit around in life waiting for someone to tell us it’s ok to do something. Call it the inertia of permission. It can kill your retirement. Chances are good that you don’t need anyone’s permission to do what you want in retirement. You’re a responsible adult. You live in a free country. You (hopefully) have financial independence. As long as what you do doesn’t break the law or hurt someone else, just do it. Don’t wait around for someone to give you a green light. You don’t need it. Give yourself permission and get going.
Assuming. We make lots of assumptions. We assume that we won’t develop crippling arthritis in our feet. That we won’t have a heart attack walking to the front door. That we won’t be diagnosed with a life changing illness like cancer or diabetes. That we won’t get divorced. That a friend or loved one won’t die. That we won’t lose our job. Those are all things that haven happened to clients of mine over the last year and when they happened, they wiped out dozens of opportunities from each person’s “To-do” list. If you assume that the opportunities available to you today will also be available to you tomorrow, a year from now or ten years from now, then you’ll tend to put things off. One of the most valuable insights I’ve gained from working with hundreds of retired clients over the years is that these “unexpected” things happen to everyone. Don’t assume that you’ll always have time. Live your life like your opportunities have an expiration date, because they do.
Confusing “Past” you with “Future” you. Retirement should be a time in your life when you do the things that you’ve always dreamed of. For you that might be travel, leisure, adventure, volunteering or learning a new skill or hobby. When given the opportunity to actually do those things, however, people will often talk themselves out of it. They say something like, “I’ve never been one to…” or “That’s not me.” Well guess what. That might not have been you when you were working 60 hours a week and raising 3 kids, but your circumstances have changed. You need to get rid of limiting beliefs and redefine how you see yourself. Maybe you ARE the guy who becomes an expat to Ecuador. Maybe you ARE the lady who takes up skydiving. Maybe you ARE the couple that sells everything and starts a B&B in Oregon. Past you does not equal future you.
Not leveraging the first half against the second half. I have a friend who works at IBM. Early in his career he changed positions within the company as often as possible so that he could get a broad set of skills and experiences. His goal was to take that varied set of skills and experiences from the first half of his career and leverage them into a successful management position during the second half of his career.
We should all be doing something similar in life. By the time you reach retirement you’ll have about sixty years of hard won knowledge, skills, wisdom, insights and experiences. Use those things as leverage to define, shape and create a successful retirement. You know what works and what doesn’t. You know what makes you happy and what doesn’t. You know who matters to you and who doesn’t. Put that knowledge to good use.
Have a great weekend!