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How to Maximize
YOUR RETURN ON RETIREMENT
I recently invited Dr. Alex Pattakos and his wife, Elaine Dundon, to give a talk to federal employees about creating meaning within public service. They wrote a book called “The OPA! Way: Finding Joy & Meaning in Everyday Life & Work” and are experts on providing tips to people struggling to find purpose in their work. While their wisdom applies to people from all walks of life, I think it’s especially instructive to those working in public service. Federal employees often feel they are in a profession where things happen to them. Policies change, administrations turn over, and there’s no promise that tomorrow will be the same as today. That’s a lot to reckon with, but you can overcome these challenges with the right mindset. If you focus on the factors you CAN control rather than those you can’t, you’ll find it much easier to recognize the joyful aspects of your work. Everyone has managers over their work on some scale, and very few of us have total autonomy. Remember that the next time work has you down. After their talk, I realized how much of Alex’s and Elaine’s talk could be applied to people who are transitioning into retirement. I can’t tell you how many people I speak with who struggle with enjoying their post-work years. You would
think that would be the easy part, but all too often it’s not. Much of this mindset comes down to the way we’re taught to think about retirement.
Instead of thinking about life after work exclusively in economic terms, I encourage people to consider their retirement as a return on an investment. You’ve saved all this money for many years. When will you enjoy it? In my experience, there’s no better time than when you retire to turn that faucet on. I’m not saying you should spend wildly and without discretion. Instead, ask yourself what’s important to you and how your savings can work toward that. Maybe it’s charitable giving, helping out your grandkids, or traveling. Money doesn’t have value unless we use it as a tool to live the life we want. When I speak to clients, I sometimes feel like they’re seeking permission to spend. The bottom line is that if you’ve saved smartly, you’ve already given yourself that permission. The best years of life are right in front of you. Don’t let them go to waste. In closing, I want to ask you what your return on retirement looks like. Find that purpose, that thing you’ve been waiting to do, and do it. Otherwise, you may look back on the years immediately after you retire wondering what could’ve been. It’s up to you to make that meaning and live life to the fullest. So what are you waiting for?
When we’re working, retirement planning involves saving as much as you possibly can. Like it or not, we usually think of retirement in terms of economics. Will I have enough money to take care of myself and my loved ones? Will I outlive my savings? What happens to my savings if I get sick? These are all valid questions, but they shouldn’t cloud the fact that retirement should also be about joy. WORK YEARS. YOU WOULD THINK THAT WOULD BE THE EASY PART, BUT ALL TOO OFTEN IT’S NOT. I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW MANY PEOPLE I SPEAK WITH WHO STRUGGLE WITH ENJOYING THEIR POST-
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