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What we can learn from City Slickers: Just ONE Thing

How do we apply Curly Washburn’s “ONE thing” in the 90’s movie City Slickers when preparing for retirement? For those that don’t remember the movie or haven’t seen it before, Jack Palance plays Curly. Curly is the rough cowboy who leads adventure seeking city slickers looking to be cowboys and cowgirls, for a vacation herding cattle over the open prairie. As Curly and Mitch ride side by side, Curly leans over close to Mitch, Billy Crystal’s character, and he holds up one index finger. He asks Mitch, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch doesn’t know. Curley tells him “One thing, just one thing…” Mitch wants to know what the one thing is, but it turns out that he needs to figure that out on his own.

So how do we apply this to retirement planning?

First, you need to consider what retirement looks like for you. What do you plan to do with time away from the office, jobsite, or business that was all-consuming?

It’s ONE tough question for sure.

Why is it so important to discover what this “ONE thing” should be? Because people are living longer. As a result of modern medical advances many retirees can live healthy, productive lives for as long or longer than their prime working years.

When you are retired you suddenly have 7 days a week to do whatever you want, not just the weekends. Maybe your favorite pastime is fishing, golfing, hiking or perhaps a hobby you enjoy while you’re notworking. But what about doing that activity 7days a week, 365 days a year? My guess is that activity will get old before you get old.

Many clients say they want to travel in retirement. If your financial plan provides you with the means to travel around the world for years in retirement, great! However, I’ve learned from many of my retired clients, it gets harder and less enjoyable as we age.

Research shows that people need to “invest” in their mental “portfolio” before they retire, to find that “ONE thing” that makes them happy. If not, many retirees experience anxiety, marital strife and feelings of loss.

Here are a few ideas to consider as you are pursuing your “ONE thing”:

    • Volunteering a few days per week. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that older adults who had volunteered at least 200 hours per year, reported greater psychological well-being than those who did not. Many seniors have immense experience both professionally and personally that can really benefit charitable and non-profit organizations.
    • Spending time mentoring. When seniors and retirees volunteer their time to serve as mentors for young people, the children and teens are not the only ones who benefit. Volunteer work in mentoring can give seniors a greater sense of purpose and lead to a greatly improved quality of life. Mentoring can go a long way toward alleviating depression and the sense of isolation that some seniors experience in their later years. Tutoring students or mentoring young adults gives seniors an opportunity to pass along their skills to the next generation. This has a multiplier effect; it’s good for the retiree, good for the child and good for the community. In exchange forgiving of their knowledge and time, seniors are rewarded with personal wellbeing.
    • Plan for a “giving retirement”. Most retirees spend their working lives painstakingly saving for retirement. But what if you have done such a good job you won’t spend it all? As they say, you can’t take it to the grave. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly.
    • Enroll in courses at the local community college or adult education centers. It is widely known to many that keeping your brain active and stimulated is good for your cognitive health, but also for your emotional health. Interacting with fellow students provides the connection that many seniors desire, especially after losing a spouse or partner. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language, become an artist, or gain skills you’ve never had before? Retirement may be the perfect time to give it a try.

So, what is the secret to a joyful retirement? Plan with your advisor to set that “ONE THING” in motion for you.

Together, we can work to keep you on-track towards your financial goals. Request a consultation with me to learn more.

Read more articles by Kevin Harrell