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The Seasons of Life
Written By : Dee Cascio 
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Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. March 21 is officially the first day of spring and longer and warmer days will be here soon. This is the time of year when we begin to long for warmer weather activities. Many of us are contemplating summer vacations, family reunions, planting gardens, trips to the beach, picnics and barbecues to name a few. For me, it's a most welcome season of the year.

Seasons of life

Poets and songwriters frequently used seasons as a metaphor for the seasons of our life. I like this metaphor a lot and use it in my work with clients. Unfortunately, people often take this metaphor too literally. They see spring as synonymous with birth and winter as synonymous with the end of life. Taken to its logical conclusion, the summer of all of our lives needs to be extended at all costs while winter should be avoided and put off for as long as possible.

I'm sure the thought process involved with this commonly accepted order of life affects many of us as we approach retirement. For too many of us, retirement signifies the winter...the end of one's life. As a result, retirement needs to be avoided or put off for as long as possible.

The fact is that there are no good or bad seasons of the year. Each season brings its own unique joys and challenges with it. While some of us long for the warm lazy days of summer, others love the cold and snow, waiting all year to participate in winter sports. Some of us are born in the winter and some of us will surely die on the most glorious day of the summer. Just as there are no good or bad seasons, there are no good or bad phases of our lives.

The point is that retirement shouldn't be confused with the "winter of our lives" or the end. I personally believe that this time in our lives as we enter our 50s and 60s can easily be the very best times of our lives. For a majority of us, this is the first time in our lives when we are wiser, financially comfortable, healthy enough and have the time to focus on what we want to do with our lives. By this time, education, child rearing and career building are behind us so we are free to concentrate on what will truly fulfill us.

Many of us begin to think about retirement long before the event actually happens. Some of you know exactly how you want to spend that time of your life. You have planned well financially and planned how you will spend your life using your gifts, talents and life experience. Others are not sure what they want to do with this precious time. All they know is that they are tired and want the work stress in their lives to be over so that they can truly relax. While working, you have used weekends to rest and recover from life's stresses. Several times a year, you might take a vacation as a way of relieving the stress of work. However, like the season's metaphor just discussed, retirement is not just another form of vacation. Consequently, taking a vacation is not the best way to think about retirement. If the truth were known, it's the farthest thing from a vacation.

Retirement is a lifestyle instead of a temporary break from the normal routines of life. As such, you should pay more attention and invest more conscious effort into planning a fulfilling retirement than you do into booking your dream vacation.

Vacation vs. retirement

Suppose for a moment that you had good friends or family members who always talked about their lifelong dream of going to Europe for a month during the summer. After listening to their dream for years, they excitedly tell you that they have finally decided to go next month and they've already made their plane reservations. They've saved for a long time so money is plentiful. While you're excited for them, you're also amazed when you realize that the only planning they've done is buying plane tickets and purchasing travel checks. Where would they stay, what would they do?

Your friends sense from the kinds of questions you're asking that you have some concerns about their plans. They brush off your concerns by saying that reservations aren't a problem and that they'll book their tours, hotels, museums, etc. when they arrived in Europe. You wonder if their dream will be realized if they can only find a few available tours and the ones that they do find aren't to the places that they dreamed of seeing.

Unfortunately, leaving vacation plans to chance can result in a huge disappointment and leave one with a very incomplete feeling. Doesn't it make sense that not planning one's retirement lifestyle can have much more devastating consequences than going to Europe without room reservations? The irony of this comparison is that many people put more energy into their vacation planning than they actually spend thinking about their retirement lifestyle. Be thoughtful about this very important transition.

Planning guidelines to make this time of your life the best yet

As you work on your financial plans, please consider the following steps towards a retirement lifestyle that will give you so much more to look forward to. You need to be conscious and prepared to pursue a quality of life and a purpose so that you can leave a legacy that you will be proud of.

1. Begin planning 3-5 years ahead of this transition because there are many lifestyle factors to consider in addition to financial planning.

2. Read and educate yourself about all of the aspects of this transition; for example, moving to a new location or staying in place; staying close to family and friends; financial plans that will support your desired lifestyle.

3. Talk with your spouse or partner about your expectations and listen to theirs so your plans don't end up looking like the aimless trip to Europe mentioned earlier.

4. Consider whether or not you want to work in retirement and thoughtfully explore what that career would look like so that your life will be fun, flexible and meaningful.

5. Just as many of us have used the guidance of a financial planner, seek the support of a lifestyle retirement coach. A skilled retirement coach can help you plan your dream retirement and keep you from making mistakes that could be costly both financially and emotionally.

After taking these kinds of steps, you can look forward to this season of life with excitement, peace of mind and confidence in what you are planning. You will be creating a legacy that you can be proud of.

Find out more about: retirement
  About Author
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