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There is much emphasis in America on retiring early…enjoying your golden years…and banking enough to enjoy a long retirement. Retirement is mostly an American idea. In most parts of the world, people either can’t afford to retire or never even think about retiring because they are too busy working and living their lives. But in America, there is much pressure on people to save for retirement and to retire.  It is a huge goal that Americans work toward and prepare their whole lives for. So, if you plan on retiring or have entered into retirement, don’t just count your money, but also take the time to count on what your retirement years will look like.

For too many, retirement is either a self-indulging time or a time where they have given up doing anything meaningful or contributing to the betterment of society. Either of these extreme views isn’t healthy. Rather think of retirement as a new phase of life or your “second act.”  Like for anything, make sure you have a plan.  Here are some suggestions when thinking about retirement:

Explore interests that you have but couldn’t pursue because you were working or raising a family

Join groups, clubs or communities so you can stay connected with the “outside world.”

Teach – it may be part-time at a local school or university or it may be less formal by offering your skills and knowledge to the next generation

Start a business – turn something you love into a business. This time it won’t be for the money, but for the joy and satisfaction of doing something you love and giving back to others

Work part-time – you earn a little extra money as well as boost your self-esteem and social connections

Volunteer – retirement shouldn’t mean being dead, but rather using your experiences and gifts to make the lives of others better. God may call you to retire from a certain job or career, but not from giving out and giving back. Think of the organizations that can use your time and talents – churches, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, animal shelters, homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, services for the elderly or disabled, meals on wheels, parks, youth clubs just to name a few

Go back to school – you finally have the time to learn things you never had time to learn while you were working.

The more you do during your retirement years, the more balance you will bring to your own life and the more you will contribute into the lives of your family and others. It all starts with a plan!

(Sources: Entrepreneur, August, 2015, University of Pennsylvania, January, 2016)