Friday, November 27, 2009

What does it mean to Retire Happy?

Happiness is one of those things that is hard to describe.  It's hard to quantify.  You can't touch it.  You can't tuck it into your back pocket and save it for later.  And yet, it's something so important in our lives.

Sometimes happiness is a state of mind where you can be happy in general and the state of happiness can happen for a long time.  In other words, some people are just generally happy people.  I think my wife Liz is one of these people.  It does not take much for her to be happy.

Sometimes we can use macro thoughts to describe what makes us happy like kids, family, work, religion, etc.  And other times, happiness is simply a moment in time because of something that happened or something you did like eating an ice cream cone or a great round of golf or a watching a beautiful sunset or just going for a walk with someone you love.

Happiness comes and goes.  Sometimes we can be happy but not even know we are happy.  I remember just yesterday Liz asked me if I had a good day and if anything good happened.  I had to really think about it and when I did, I thought of a few things that made me happy.  But I may not have realized it if Liz did not make me think about what made me happy that day.  Happiness can be such a general thought or topic that we can take it for granted.

Sometimes we say happiness is simple or it's the simple things that make us happy.  Ask my kids and they will say lollipops make them happy.

Unfortunately, sometimes happiness is really hard to find.  Sometimes we have tough days, weeks, years or even a perpetual string of bad luck.  But even then, happiness is still present just sometimes hard to find.

Retire Happy with Jim

For quite sometime now, I have used the tag line "RETIRE HAPPY" for the work that I do.  So what does it mean to retire happy?

I think about this lots as it is what I do for a living but I am in the process of putting together my new website and audio program so lately this question has been top of mind.

Here's what I think it means to retire happy

1.  Firstly, I believe retirement can be the best years of our lives and I think we are all capable of making it happen.  To make this happen, I think we all need to plan for the future by simply thinking about what makes us happy today.  In retirement planning people often ask "What do you plan to do when you retire?"  The trouble, of course, is that can be a tough question to answer because retirement can be a long ways out and we have so much that we need to deal with and take care of in our lives that we don't give this question enough proper thought.  So I think we need to change the question.  To make it more relevant, we need to think about what makes us happy today or yesterday or even this past week or weekend.  Recognizing things that made you happy in the past or make you happy in the present will help you to recognize what might make you happy in the future.  Unfortunately for most we don't devote enough time in our days to this issue.

I think for most happiness is planned and requires some effort.  Some people like Liz are naturally happy people.  It comes easy to them.  For the rest of us, it might require that conscious effort and awareness.

2.  Secondly, I believe that having more money does not necessarily make us happier.  That may sound odd coming from a money guy but being a money guy has actually helped me to understand this reality.  OK, so don't get me wrong, I think money is important.  And my industry goes to great lengths to tell people that more money is better.  I believe money gives you choice, control, security and freedom but money also causes people to do really funny things.  Anyhow, I could go on but what I have seen in my work as a retirement expert, is that there are a lot of people out there without millions and millions of dollars who are still incredibly happy people.  I also know and have seen lots of people who have millions and millions of dollars but can't seem to find happiness.  Sometimes lots of wealth makes life more complicated and complex and even more stressful.  No matter how much money we have, I think we always want more.  I believe our happiness comes from recognizing what is important and making sure our money helps us get more of it in our lives.

3.  I think the best way to retire happy is to be as happy as we can long before retirement comes.  It's about living your life today to it's fullest and finding things that make you smile, make you happy and makes life fun.  And most importantly, recognizing these moments of fun and happiness so that we know what is important to us each and every day.  That doesn't' mean you shouldn't plan for the future or save for the future because you need to do that too.

Happiness is an elusive thing but it does not have to be that way.  Take time to recognize moments every day where you are happy and why.  This is the best way to prepare to retire happy.  So here's the important question . . . what makes you happy?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on happiness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today I turn 40

Well, it finally came. I'm 40. what happens when you turn 40? All day, I've downpayed my day and to be very honest it was much like every other day. I woke up, took my boys to school. Spent some time in the office. Came back in to have lunch with my kids. Worked some more and then played outside on this gorgeous November day as it was plus 15 outside.

That being said, my birthday was significant not because it was the day I was born, but becuase of the people in my life. I am truly amazed at the number of people that took even a few seconds out of their day to send me a simple birthday wish. Social media sites like Facebook really enhance relationships and connections in strange ways because I heard from wonderful people that I may not have heard from before the creation of Facebook. For that, I am glad and more importantly, I am glad I took a little time to finally use facebook and connect with others.

I really appreciate those that took the time to use 'old' technology and pick up the phone and make a call. Some, like my nieces and nehpews in Salt Lake City even sang me a birthday wish.

But what would a birthday be without my family. If there is one thing I am truly grateful for at 40 it's the fact that I have the most amazing wife and 4 perfect little boys. What would life at 40 be without them.

40 is a time of reflection

My birthday is my opportunity to let the cat out of the bag. I am working on a new software program called My Legacy Organizer which out of all the products I have created in the past, I am most excited about. It's a program that help people to diarize and share the stories, memories and details of life to create a legacy that is meaningful to the people that love you. In conjunction with this, I have taken the opportunity as a time to reflect back on my life and write a quasi autobiography on my life. Although some might find it interesting, I know that many won't. And truthfully that's OK. Why? Because I did not write it for others. I wrote it for my family and especially my kids. I am proud of my accomplishments especially when it comes to my family. I think we all have things to be proud of and it is those things that need to be diarized and shared.

The best thing about reflecting at 40 is it has allowed me to think about the future in a different light. It has helped me to recognize what is really important.

Thanks again for sharing in my day and my sincere wish is that your birthday, whether it is 40, 33, 51 or whatever age is a time to reflect on what is important!