This May Be Your Last Chance

This is your chance.

Think back to the times in your life when you were truly free. Free to do what you want, freedom to go where you want, freedom from expectations. Freedom to be you.

The last time was probably when you graduated from school in your teens or twenties, a time when you reached a major decision point in your life. But even then it is likely you were bound by other people’s expectations – even though your teens are supposed to be a time of rebellion, most people rebel in little ways while being bound by the life they have known.

Once you make those big decisions that set your life on a path to a career, a family, and a house, you are pretty much stuck. Even if you discover that the path you have chosen is not really the one for you, changing directions mid-stream can be incredibly difficult once you are saddled with all of those responsibilities.

Retirement might be the best opportunity you have ever had to choose, to actually sit down and choose, how to live your life. It would be a real shame to waste the opportunity.

It is likely that you now have the ability to fulfill all of the obligations that have constrained your adult life. Your children are well on their way, you have had a career, and the bills are handled or can be.

If you so choose.

After a lifetime of being who you “should be” it can be extremely difficult to wrap your mind around the concept of living for yourself. Of deciding what it is that you would like to do for the rest of your life, irrespective of other peoples expectations of you.

There are three major components to consider when mapping out your future. You may be familiar – they are people, places, and things.

How you want people to fit in your life is a major consideration. Friends and family are important components of staying engaged in retirement. Above all, for most people, it is social connections that have the largest impact in retirement satisfaction.

Is it important that you have constant contact with your children and grandchildren? Is getting together with your friends on a weekly basis the most important thing in your life?

Are your finances going to be constrained by the needs of your children? Is helping them over rough patches or giving them a quality of life they couldn’t afford on their own very important to you?

Answering that question will have a major impact on how you live in retirement. Where you choose to live and whether or how much you choose to travel. You can’t choose to be a snowbird, or retire to another state, or join an ex pat community in another country if you want to see all of your grandchild’s recitals. If family dinner every Sunday will be an important piece of the rest of your life, that will definitely have a bearing on any extended vacations you might like to enjoy.

By the same token the choices you make regarding the physical things you are attached to will affect how free you really are.

If you really want to live in a big house with fancy cars and top of the line everything, you are obviously making a choice that will limit your financial ability to do other things. There is much to be said for the freedom that comes from shedding an attachment to “stuff”.

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but taking the time to think deeply about just what it is that you really want will likely pay satisfaction dividends for the rest of your life. Try really hard to identify all of the “shoulds” that normally constrain you and jettison the ones that don’t work for you.

Choose carefully, and try to keep in mind that for once in your life it really is about you.

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