I turned 50 in March. I’m excited about the milestone but also a bit apprehensive. Retirement, while still far away is closer today than it has ever been before. Certain things like planning my funeral (or worrying about my parent’s funerals) aren’t the hypothetical situations they once were. That’s not to say that either of my parents is close to dying and in turn I’m not either. It’s more that when they were in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, I was only mildly aware that some day they would die. This all sounds morbid but in my defense, I’m not just concentrating on funerals and dying.
I was interested therefore in a recent article that looks at things you should do before turning 60. Here’s a list of their top ten things to do before turning 60.
- Start making younger friends: I’m concentrating on making friends. As a loner, I tend to have one or two friends but I’m joining groups and making time for people. As a single, I know that socialization is important to the aging process. It will be easier now rather than later on to join groups and be active so I’m making the effort now. I also feel like something of a stalker as I wander my neighborhood looking for likely people to age with. The twenty-somethings that live across from me may never know what hit them.
- Break a bad habit: The article talks about giving up smoking, losing weight or exercising but most of my bad habits involve more personal things like taking things too personally and not being willing to listen to people whose view point is exactly opposite of mine.
- Make a retirement plan: Not just how much money you’ll need but what you’ll do with your time and how you’ll still manage to be fulfilled. If you work 70 hours a week and can’t imagine what you’ll do with the occasional day off now, you’ll either need to avoid retirement or you’ll need to have a plan to continue working somehow. If you own your own business, that may not be an issue but for the rest of the world, at least at the moment, older people often find they no longer have a job even when they never planned to leave. That means people will need to think about reinventing themselves. When the Great Recession began, businesses laid off older workers in droves. Those same people have dusted themselves off, begun new careers and started new businesses at prodigious rates.
- Forgive those who’ve wronged you: Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Another great philosopher, Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” Whatever philosophy you choose, studies show that forgiveness affects us physically, spiritually and socially.
- Assemble a dream team: I’ve spent the last few months reassessing my life. This is a great time to look at the people you surround yourself with. Having spent good money on food that was a disappointment this weekend, I can say that I only want to purchase from people who have talent and passion. That can also mean the doctor you see, the accountant or financial professional that gives you advice that makes you confident in their care of you. If you’re not happy with the person you’re doing business with today, you probably won’t be happy with them in ten years or twenty. Take the time to replace them with someone you do like so that your future isn’t filled with the regret of still being with the same unhappy relationship.
- Reclaim an old passion: We all do it. We have a passion for something and then life happens. Our partner doesn’t enjoy that passion, our children make it difficult to pursue that passion. Take time to reassess. If you still think about doing something that you used to love, now is the time to make a move to take it up again.
- Cultivate optimism: As Annie from our office said, she wants to surround herself with positive people. It’s easier to be positive if the people around you are positive. One of the most alert, active people I’ve ever met turned 105 on the day I met her. She exuded happiness. It rolled off her. Despite over a century of life she made those half her age look like tortoises to her hare.
- Explore activities you do by yourself: I’d change this one to learn how to be comfortable with your own company. I do things like gardening, canning, walking in the woods but it takes very little effort to find that I constantly run into people that also garden, can and walk in the woods and pretty soon I’m doing those things with other people. If you’re the type of person who won’t go to the movies, explore a new restaurant or drive to a new destination without a partner, make it a priority to find some “you” time. That sounds selfish or egotistical but the only person you can count on to be with you right up to your end of life is you, so nurture a relationship with you.
- Start saving for your bucket list: If your dream is to cruise on the Queen Elizabeth II or travel Europe, it’s going to take some bucks. Sure a retirement plan includes finances but those finances are often tied up in making sure you have enough to live off from without taking into account having enough to play with.
- Make changes that matter to you: If something bothers you, change it. It might be city government, the fact that the vacant lot on your block is choked with weeds or that the neighborhood elementary school needs a new library. Rather than taking note of the problem and wishing someone would fix it, “be the change.” To me, this translates to create a legacy. Leave your mark on the world by making it better when you leave it than it was when you entered it.
Here is a list of items that people from my office wanted to accomplish before they turned 60.
- Pay off major debts: Mortgages, school loans, your children’s college funds, those are all things that can influence when you can safely afford to retire. It makes sense then to take control of that aspect of your life so that finances aren’t the reason you do the things you do. Having large debts paid off gives you permission to take that unexpected opportunity to take a new job, move to another country or retire early so you can write your best seller.
- Finish school: Who we are is intricately entwined with what we do. Finishing school not only means reaching a difficult goal but also forces the rest of the world to recognize those efforts in a way that achievement and desire can barely touch.
- Start a business: Turn your hobbies into a business or find a new opportunity. There are plenty of reasons to own your own business and it’s still a great American dream.