Retirement Planning: Developing Interests and Self-Worth

How to Develop Interests and Self Worth

Many of us envision retirement as that long awaited endless summer vacation. We have been vigilant about preparing ourselves financially and when the big day finally arrives, many of us are disappointed. A recent Harris poll states that the typical female retiree spends half her time watching television and the other half doing housework. Many men who have once been powerful executives in the workplace believe that they have flunked retirement. The truth of the matter is that their vision of retirement failed them.

Because more and more Americans are spending anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of their lives in retirement, it is essential to plan how the time during retirement will be spent. Playing golf or tennis every day might seem heavenly, but after a month or two, the shine has left their eyes and the players are discouraged, even depressed. Even the most enjoyable hobby can become dull and boring when it is enjoyed day after day.

Studies have been done for years looking at causes of unhappiness. Only recently have studies been conducted that try to evaluate how to experience happiness. From these recent studies has come a belief called positive psychology. This is not to be confused with positive thinking. There is a difference.

Essentially, there are three ways to be happy.

  • Pleasure.
  • Engagement.
  • Meaning.


This is the easiest and most obvious road to happiness. This occurs when we participate in an activity that gives us pleasure. For some it is a game of golf or tennis, for others it is attending a ball game, still others love shopping and going out to eat. Such activities give pleasure during the time of the event. That is, we feel happy while we are participating in the activity. The one drawback to this is that the pleasurable feeling of happiness is transient. When the activity is over, the feelings of pleasure gradually recede. On the other hand, a repeat of the experience will often duplicate the feelings of happiness, the bursts of positive emotions of short duration. To maintain a level of happiness, the activity must be repeated again and again. The Pleasure phase of happiness lasts only a short time.


This is more complicated, but will help you to understand why the endless golf game just does not cut it. This stage requires involvement on your part. You know you are involved when you pursue an activity and time ceases to have any meaning. The first time this happened to me was when I first discovered sculpting. I thought I had only been involved for an hour or so when my husband came home from work, wondering where dinner was. (I had started sculpting shortly after breakfast.) You quite literally lose yourself in what you are doing. The Engagement phase of happiness is a longer lasting phase, and will frequently have longer lasting effects than the simple Pleasure phase of happiness.


Meaning is even more difficult to explain, but it is achieved when you use your skills and abilities in SERVICE to something that is bigger than you are. This requires something from you and not just a belief in something bigger than yourself. Look to God, your family, your community, politics, or education. Meaning is something that cannot be purchased or consumed. Giving to a good cause is a valuable contribution, but giving of yourself will mean so much more. For example, a poor school desperately needs books to help the students to learn to read. Buying books for the school is a very worthy effort. Taking the time to go to the school and help tutor children who have difficulty reading, means so much more. The effects of Meaning are very long lasting.

Happiness in Retirement

This is created when you find a balance of the three types of happiness. The first level of happiness is when you are able to golf every day. The second level of happiness is working on your golf game, mastering a new stroke or technique. The third level is joining the local high school golf team as an assistant coach and teaching young men and women the specifics of the game of golf.

By evaluating your interests and then looking at how you can enjoy them on the three levels of happiness, you will find greater satisfaction than by planning your retirement activities for pleasure alone. Not every activity has to reach the Meaning level, but if you incorporate meaning into the activities, your retirement will, indeed, be blissful.


Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Retirement Planning course?

The very word "volunteer" often brings to mind jobs made up to give old people something to do. By evaluating your desires, your skills, and your strengths, the chances of you finding a rewarding volunteer position that suits you increase dramatically. Many retirees leave work that has paid them well but has left them feeling unfulfilled; then they move into a volunteer position that is vastly rewarding. Many volunteers believe that they have found true meaning in their lives, knowing that they are helping others makes a difference in the world.

No Longer Working, Now What?

With the possibility of looking at decades of retirement, lying in a hammock and playing shuffleboard is not a recipe for a satisfying retirement. More and more retirees have no true intention of retiring. Many plan to work at something they love, work part-time at their former job
but only doing tasks they enjoy. Still others dream of being a business owner and start a business even before they actually retire. There are many who pursue college degrees; in fact more and more advanced degree graduates are over the age of 55. Retirement is no longer a period of waiting to die, but a period of endless possibilities where you can finally become what you have always dreamed of becoming.

To Do List

This is not the annoying task list that has hung over your head every weekend for the past thirty years. Instead, you and your spouse work on this list together. And, if you are alone, think carefully about the list. Each person has dreams and desires as they live their life. Some of these dreams and desires change, while others remain the same. On this "To Do List" include things from all three levels of happiness, Pleasure, Engagement, and Meaning. One of your retirement goals is to achieve things on this list and add new ideas and plans as they arise. To enjoy retirement, there has to be a happiness that lasts.

We have given you the recipe for lasting happiness. It must be something that you enjoy, that keeps you fully occupied, and is bigger than yourself.


Where to Live

Retirement often brings to mind places of infinite sunshine, and a number of retirees sell everything and move to Florida or Arizona. For some, this is like moving to paradise. For others, who have never spent the summer months where the temperatures can reach 120 F, it is hell. A good idea is to evaluate possible retirement locations during the months of adverse weather for that part of the country. Colorado is a beautiful state, but its winter months are monstrous. You might even consider renting a house or an apartment in a different part of the country and just try living there for a while. This is infinitely cheaper than selling everything you own and moving, only to find out that you do not like your new location.

Another consideration is the cost of living in your new location. Be sure to evaluate property tax rates, sales tax, state sales tax, and whether your retirement income is taxable. All of these can have an adverse effect on your retirement income. If you are interested in retiring in a place like Santa Fe, New Mexico, consider a smaller city not too far away. For example, Las Vegas, New Mexico is only sixty-five miles away from Santa Fe, yet its population is only one quarter that of Santa Fe, housing prices are one third of those in Santa Fe, and there is a fifty percent cost of living increase if you live in Santa Fe. The air quality is exceptional in Las Vegas, NM, but there are certain drawbacks. The shopping is not the same, but since Santa Fe is only an hour's drive away, that seems like a small problem.

Evaluating Your Home

Every day in the reverse mortgage market, from lump sum disbursements to a line of credit based on equity more and more options. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) can be a big help when investigating reverse mortgages.

A newer concept that makes use of one of your primary assets is the concept of a reverse mortgage. This allows you to use the equity of your home to pay for retirement expenses and still live in your home. Unlike a regular mortgage, you do not have to make monthly payments or have to pay off the mortgage. Rather, you get a monthly check, and depending on the structure of your reverse mortgage, your checks continue until you die, or until you sell your home. At that time, you or your heirs pay off the reverse mortgage with the proceeds of the house and then keep the surplus. Generally speaking, you must be 62 and live in your home to qualify for a reverse mortgage. The exact amount you will get depends on your age, the value of your home, and the current interest rates. Reverse mortgage payments are non-taxable and will not affect your Social Security benefits.

As with all recommendations involving money, get financial advice first. Shop around for the best rate and the best deal. There are more and more options every day in the reverse mortgage market, from lump sum disbursements to a line of credit based on equity. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) can be a big help when investigating reverse mortgages.

Other Ways to Use Your Home

A non-traditional reverse mortgage can even be established with one of your kids. Get a lawyer for this one, but you take out a reverse mortgage from your son or daughter and they pay you a fixed sum in direct proportion to the value of your home. You get your money; your kids get a tax break. Neither of you have to deal with high lender fees.

Another option is a Sale Leaseback. This is where you sell your home to an investor who then rents it back to you with a lifetime lease. Usually the new owner is now responsible for taxes, repairs, and so forth. Even if you plan to keep this sort of transaction in the family, consult an attorney.

Lastly, with your home more empty than full you may wish to consider renting out a portion of your home. This way, you retain possession of your home, but now have a steady rental income. You might even find a new friend or companion if you rent to a fellow retiree. This accommodation has worked quite well for a number of people. When I was young, I regularly visited an elderly woman who rented the upstairs of a home where she had her own private apartment. She lived there quite comfortably, and had the added reassurance that the family who lived below her would be there should she need assistance.

Housing Options

Independent Living. More and more retirees consider the likelihood that one day they may need help as they age and consider some sort of retirement community. These can range from communities where it is a retirees only street or part of town, and where they have a community center or clubhouse and activities are planned and offered there. This is considered a fully independent living situation. Some of these living accommodations are single family homes, or are apartments or condominiums. Some allow you to own the home, while others are rental only.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities. However, there may come a time when fully independent living may no longer be an option. On the other hand, you may wish to move into a facility where you can be fully independent and then as your condition deteriorates, you can move into another part of the facility that can accommodate your condition. Continuing Care Retirement Communities is an idea that evolved for exactly this situation. You start out in a private apartment where you are living independently, and even prepare your own meals, though the option of meal plans is usually available. With the increasing need for assistance, you can then move to an assisted living suite where you are provided with assistance with dressing, cleaning, grooming, and food. Should you then deteriorate even further and need nursing, you will then move to the nursing care part of the facility.

There are several types of contracts for Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC's), extensive contract, modified contract, and a fee-for-service contract. Each contract has specific costs and restrictions, and none of these communities are inexpensive. The more luxurious ones charge a very high entrance fee and then relatively high monthly fees for the time that you live there. Others are more reasonably priced, but not quite as luxurious. As with everything involving money, have your attorney review any contract you are considering.

Assisted Living Facilities. Assisted Living Facilities are for individuals who cannot function in an independent living situation, but do not need nursing care on a regular basis. This is a facility where you are helped with basic daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, food, and housekeeping. There are a number of names for assisted living facilities from adult homes, to personal care homes, to retirement residences. Many have nurses on staff in case you need nursing care, and most of them charge a monthly rent.

Skilled Nursing Home. For those who require regular nursing care, you will need to consider a Skilled Nursing Home. You are not sick enough to be hospitalized, but you are not able to live on your own, and you do need professional nursing care on a regular basis. This kind of care is the most expensive, and you may consider long term care insurance.

As we age, we really do need to consider the end of our life. My grandmother chose to live alone in her own home until she died at the age of 96. She had daily help with family coming in to help with housekeeping and food chores, and from time to time, she had a visiting nurse attend to her medical needs. She had a very strong and secure social structure with both family and friends to help her achieve this goal.

Others do not have such luxuries as an extensive social circle or possibly, they will not have the good health that my grandmother had. Consider your family, your social circle, your own personal health situation and try to make the best decision for you and for those who love you. By considering the most difficult situation ahead of time, you can then get on with the enjoyable business of daily living without that worry constantly over your head.