How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free

Yoga on Mountaintop-Sobek

2013-10-09 Alfred Polgar

I recently finished reading “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” by Ernie J. Zelinski.  Subtitled “Retirement wisdom that you won’t get from your financial advisor,” this is a sequel to his earlier bestseller “The Joy of Not Working.”

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I can enthusiastically recommend it.  Zelinski shares many of the same philosophies about being happy and finding fulfillment in retirement as I do.  The book is profound in some areas, but merely states the obvious (at great length) in others.

If you are still clinging to notion that retirement is a time of decline or boring years of purposeless idle time, much of what Zelinski offers in his book will destroy those perceptions and replace them with a vision that’s much more positive and optimistic.

Zelinski offers four fundamentals for attaining personal fulfillment during retirement:

  1. Finding who you truly are and being this person
  2. Recreating your life through personal interests and creative pursuits, possibly through a new, part-time career
  3. Making optimum use of your extra leisure time
  4. Maintaining physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

We make a lot of concessions during our working years. 

Obviously, we give up a large chunk of our waking hours – not just the actual hours we work, but the hours we spend commuting, doing work at home, or thinking about work at home.

Many of us live where we do because it’s where our job is.

And almost all of us do things throughout the day that we don’t really enjoy doing – we write status reports, sit through boring meetings, deal with bureaucracy, tolerate jerks, etc.

More important, most of us are engaged in work we’re not truly passionate about.  We’re doing what we do because it’s what we can get paid to do.

When I was in high school and I was contemplating what I would study in college and what type of career I would pursue, I knew that what I was most passionate about – playing jazz on my trombone – probably wouldn’t generate the kind of income or security I knew I would need to live a comfortable life.

So, I ended up majoring in accounting, because the aptitude tests they gave us in high school indicated that I was well suited for that.

Looking back, I can now see that test was full of crap.  It’s a shame that I allowed my future to be determined by a standardized test, not by an honest self-examination of my passions and talents.

But I didn’t know any better at the time, and it was what was being pushed on us by my school.

Halfway through college, I had already realized that I wasn’t enjoying accounting at all, and that I had more interest (and higher grades) in the computer programming classes I had taken.  So, I ended up with a double major in accounting and computer science.

I spent most of my career as a software engineer in one form or another.  It was okay, and it afforded me a pretty good income, but my passion was always music.

Along the way, I have discovered that I am also passionate about public speaking and sharing knowledge with the hope of helping others.

Many other people make concessions similar to mine.  Only about 20% of the people are doing work they are really passionate about.  Even those have to put up with some of the hassles I mentioned above.

The greatest thing about retirement is that you will be able to pursue what you are truly passionate about, without concern for whether or not you can earn a good living at it. 

You may make your most significant contributions to the world during your retirement! 

And you can achieve a level of happiness and fulfillment that may not have been as possible during your work years.  You might even be able to make some money at it.

What would truly bring you happiness and fulfillment?

What would you do with your time if earning a living was not a factor?

What things have you given up along the way, that you would like to have back again?

Share your thoughts in the comments (below)!


© 2013 Dave Hughes.  All rights reserved.

Photo credit:  Tomas Sobek

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