The Thrive Guide: The Three Secrets For Being Happy in Retirement
:Discover the three secrets to happiness-and much more-in the later years of life. Never before in human history have so many people lived for decades beyond their working years. 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and their average life...
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:Discover the three secrets to happiness-and much more-in the later years of life.
Never before in human history have so many people lived for decades beyond their working years. 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and their average life expectancy is another 20 years-and many will live longer. But will they just live or have a meaningful life? The truth is that many-if not most-people approaching the latter years do not have a plan, much less a strategy to thrive instead of just survive. Packed with information based on research as well as common-sense wisdom, here are some examples of what readers will discover:
How retiring at the wrong time increases the likelihood of dying 89%.
What can delay Alzheimer's onset an average of 9 years.
How everything that makes you happy comes in just 3 forms.
Which partner is most likely to initiate divorce after decades of marriage and why.
ERIC THURMAN has a history of blazing trails. He was one of the early leaders of the microfinance movement, heading anti-poverty programs in 30 less developed nations. Now, driven by personal passion to find both meaning and enjoyment during his later life, he is creating a new path for people who also want to thrive during the last third of their life. Thurman began his career as a broadcast journalist and has extensive media experience. A partial list of his coverage or appearances include: CNN, Fox and Friends, Wall Street Week, PBS, CBS News, Newsweek, Time, Harvard International Review, CNBC TV, Forbes, Christianity Today, The 700 Club, Financial Times, and The Economist. Thurman and his wife, Diane, reside in Illinois.
Chapter 1: A Surprising New Stage of Life.
Long life is not enough. You can have more. Aim for your life to be both long and happy. It’s possible! Do all you can to be healthy and extend the years of your life. In addition, be sure to include delight and meaning so you enjoy all the years you have.
Every day another ten thousand Americans turn sixty-five. On average, all will have another twenty years to live beyond their milestone birthday. Many will live well into their nineties, and an increasing number are passing one hundred. Compare that to the 1800s when the average person died near age forty. Retirement is no longer a short pause between work and the grave. It is now a long, major stage of life, because never before in human history have so many people lived decades beyond their working years.
Growing older is your destiny. How do you feel about what lies ahead? Do you consider it a curse or a blessing? The witty Kitty O’Neill Collins reminded us, “Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.”
You probably have healthy, active decades to fill. Yet older adulthood is different from other seasons of life. Will your extra years be inspiring and satisfying?
I have a friend in California who is in his mid seventies and says he’s still getting used to retirement. He built a good-sized business that he was able to sell a few years ago. He is secure financially but says this stage of life is a huge emotional adjustment:
Nobody warned me about this time of life. I thought that if you are in pretty good health that things didn’t change much between sixty-five and eighty-five. That’s not true. It is very different, a big adjustment.
My ego and the image I had for myself—what it’s been for a long, long time—had to change. That’s hard to deal with. I really had no concept about how challenging that would be.
Men and women who had powerful careers usually feel loss when they step down. Moms and dads often undergo a difficult transition when their children grow up, launch out, and leave an empty nest behind. The life you’ve known for so long just isn’t the same anymore.
Even if your transition into retirement is ideal, you are likely to be surprised by unexpected, new realities. A close friend told me what happened when she and her husband began planning their retirement:
My husband was a lawyer who joked that after “the big case” came across his desk, he would retire to a warm climate, play unending golf, and dine out to his heart’s desire. We had friends who were buying second homes in a lazy Florida coastal town. We dreamed of doing the same and, one day, moving there full time to spend our old age.
Then it happened; a wrongful death suit for the son of a former client resulted in the largest settlement in the history of the county. With our part of the fees, we purchased a gorgeous home on the outskirts of that coastal town, close to his buddies for a guaranteed foursome whenever the course summoned his inner golf pro. This home had bedrooms for our daughters and their future spouses plus a loft where we dreamed of eventually welcoming grandchildren who we would lure to visit Grandpa and Grandma with our backyard pool and the Atlantic beach a block away.
That fall we began picking out furniture to ship to our new home. Shortly after Christmas we took off in a fully loaded Jeep, heading south to soak up the sun’s rays in anticipated coastal bliss. Those first January days were filled with decorating and settling into the house, golf dates every other day and dining out at the city’s many popular restaurants. Friends and family lined up to visit. This was the life we had dreamed of for years. Or was it? At the end of that first month, we were surprised how we felt. My husband said, “I can’t live the rest of my life in constant weekend mode.”
Without realizing it, many people expect to “live happily ever after” in retirement but haven’t thought much about how that will occur. The good news is it is possible to thrive throughout your later years. How? The purpose of this book is to help you identify the few critical factors that will matter most to your life, then offer practical tips on how to increase your happiness.
Three Seasons of Life
Life has three primary seasons, with each lasting twenty-five to thirty years.
Season one is childhood when you grow up, acquire most of your education, and eventually move out on your own to work, start a family, or both.
Next comes season two, adulthood. This covers your most productive years when you build up your net worth, make big purchases like a home and cars, and rear your family.
In due course, you come to another major juncture. Your house is bigger than you need. Your career is over. Your kids are off on their own. Now what? For that matter, what do you even call this next season? Third season? There isn’t a widely accepted term for this period. It is telling that we don’t have popular language to describe this significant period of life.
For a while retirement was the label for this third stage of life, but that word is no longer fashionable. Did you know that AARP dropped retired from its name? Older adults are sensitive about the words used to describe aging and retirement. In 2010, Elderhostel rebranded itself Road Scholar. Whether you call it retirement, third season, or something else, you can be sure that the life-altering experience is still around and stronger than ever.
The third season of life is new territory, in large measure because people didn’t use to live very long past retirement. It is different today. Your third season will likely last decades. What kind of life will you put together in your bonus years? Will your third season be the exhilarating capstone of your life or a dismally long, slow decline? This book will show you how to make your third season a time to thrive.
A friend from North Carolina disagrees with me about life having three major seasons. He argues there are four seasons of age:
1.  Childhood: when you believe in Santa Claus
2.  Older childhood: when you no longer believe in Santa Claus
3.  Adulthood: when you are Santa Claus, giving presents to your kids
4.  Later adulthood: when you look like Santa Claus
Decades to Go
When you turn sixty-five—perhaps you already have—and anticipate twenty to thirty years still ahead of you, what other period of life lasted this long? Two or three decades are about as long as you spent getting all your education. That block of time is similar to how long you took raising your children. It takes thirty years or fewer to slowly pay off an entire mortgage. Hardly anyone stays at the same job for twenty years anymore. Think hard about such an elongated span of time—twenty to thirty years. How will you spend yours? And where will you turn for ideas and advice about how to thrive during your extra years? There are plenty of ways to learn about parenting, marriage, a career, or financial planning, but where do you look for answers about a fulfilling life as an older adult?
This book will help you identify the few critical factors that matter most to your life and then give you practical tips on how to increase your happiness in each part of your life.
Retirement Will Shake Your World
My friend Bill is an energetic guy. He’s physically fit and cheerful. His job is athletic director at a large junior high school where he teaches PE classes and coaches multiple sports. During the summer months, he works in construction, which helps him keep in shape and adds funds to the family budget. He’s so talented with a hammer and saw that he used his building skills to assemble a stately Victorian home where he and his wife have raised their four children. While he had some help, my friend personally pounded in most of the nails.
But this past year has been a troubling one for Bill. He returned to school last fall—as he has for years—only this year will be his last as a teacher. The school district requires him to retire at age sixty, and he’s just crossed that line. He’s at the top of his game, but he’s being forced to stop. What comes next?
Bill is seldom fearful, but his approaching transition is uncomfortable and, in some ways, scary. The end of his long-tenure post is only part of the story. Until now, he and his wife, Karen, worked hard together to make a good life. They worked on their marriage. They worked at parenting. They built and meticulously maintained their large home. Is it time now to downsize? Their roles are changing too. Their grown son moved out to live on his own. One daughter has her own family with a husband and two children. Another daughter is graduating from college, and the youngest daughter is about to finish high school and leave for college.
Look at all Bill and Karen are facing! His career is ending. Their nest will soon be empty. And this is just the beginning of changes in their third season. Bill should have decades of good health and energy still ahead of him. How should he and Karen plan their next stage of life?
People encounter major life disruptions when there’s divorce, a family member becomes seriously ill, a job requires relocation, or there’s a financial crisis. Retirement is often just as disruptive. I urge you: don’t romanticize retirement, thinking it means you will live happily ever after. Give this season of life serious thought, and it will turn out well.
Caution: Retirement Can Kill You
A landmark study tracked all Shell Oil employees between 1973 and 2003. The study report concluded:
The wrenching effects of retirement often magnify if you take retirement early or leave your career for any reason at a relatively young age. Rigorous research of all the employees at Shell Oil across thirty years produced startling findings. People who retire at fifty-five die much sooner than their counterparts who retire at sixty-five: People who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the 10 years after retirement than those who retire at 65.… “Mortality improved with increasing age at retirement for people from both high and low socioeconomic groups.”
Couple that with the fact that leaving work early risks early death: 61 percent of American retirees say they stopped working sooner than they’d planned. It shows how common it is for people to confront the critical question, What am I going to do with myself now? Having a job often stretches you and keeps you active.
Do you have a plan for a stimulating life once you stop working? What will you do with yourself? Earlier generations didn’t have an extended third season. You do.
It Happened to Me
I was in my mid sixties when I “crossed the line.” You know, that line where you suddenly realize you’ve entered a season of tremendous adjustment. The poet Emily Dickinson said this when she passed that threshold: “Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.”
Each of us crosses into the next season of life sooner or later. The change came early, possibly in your forties, if your children growing up and leaving home was an upsetting experience. Your empty nest disrupted the flow of life you’d had for years. You began wondering, What’s next for me?
For others, leaving a career of many years feels strange. Privately they think, Who am I now? There was a familiar rhythm of going to work and coming home, but now what? Try imagining how someone like the late Billy Graham felt at the close of his hugely influential career. He said, “Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life.”
Have you arrived at that stage yet where you feel life has shifted and become decidedly different from your past? Looking back, I can see when my sudden surprise came. My awakening started with a peculiar birthday celebration on the day I turned sixty-five. I was traveling in India, where I’d been many times for work with international charities. I smugly thought I was exempt from worries about aging, because I was a senior executive with a large nonprofit organization and thought I’d remain that way for a long time. The organization I was leading had recently asked me for my ten-year plan. It seemed I could ignore retirement.
This was the only time I can recall when I was outside the United States on my birthday. Complicating matters was the fact that I was leading a group of donors on a tour. My travel companions wanted to see a high-impact program I was leading for kids in orphanages and others trapped in different types of terrible situations. We had developed a very successful program of training adult volunteers to become lay counselors.
I wanted to keep my birthday quiet so it wouldn’t call attention to my age. Someone found out though. There I was, with a band of American donors and several Indian staff, when someone brought out a cake and the group broke out in a loud chorus of “Happy Birthday.” They were cheerful, if a smidge off key. No one seemed to notice that I had crossed into the classic retirement age. I went to bed that night assuming that my life would stay pretty much as it was. In my mind I was still middle aged. Well, maybe late middle aged, but nowhere near old.
Little did I know how much my life would change in the next few months. A year later, my wife died. Within two years, I had left my job. I woke up one morning and wondered, What is my life now? Am I trapped or am I freer than ever before? I had such a jumble of mixed feelings. Life became different and unfamiliar. It finally dawned on me that I was in a whole new season of life. On one hand, I liked the release from relentless deadlines. Having lots of open time refreshed me. On the other hand, I missed the meaning that came from raising my family and directing important work in foreign countries.
There comes a point in retirement when you have fewer demands on you and you experience a gnawing doubt about whether there’s anything to anticipate in the future. I discovered that my usual habits and expectations about life no longer fit. I needed to do some serious thinking. What comes next? Can I be happy?