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How to Use the Economic Downturn to Improve Your Retirement — Part 10, Confirm What’s Important

Having to endure something awful usually has a least one positive outcome–you get honest with yourself about what’s really important. An economic downturn doesn’t have the same heft as a hurricane for serving as a psychological two-by-four, but it still gives you pause. As the last piece of this series, I offer you the best of what a downturn can give you–the chance to reflect on what you really need in your life–and what you don’t.

When times are good and life is humming along, we flow with it. The focus of any given moment is on what’s happening or needs to be happening, on what we have planned. But when things start to slow down–or stop–because what you thought was going to happen can’t, the first thing to look at is whether you really needed to have it happen in the first place.

Some of us are learning what it’s like to not be working because of this downturn. So what do you miss? The paycheck? That seems like a no-brainer, but maybe not. There are two ways to deal with a sharp reduction in income. Find a way to replace it or find a way to live on significantly less. Each has its benefits. Only you know which is the more authentic strategy for you.

Some of us might need to assess plans we made for fun, either as vacation or as a retirement lifestyle. How authentic were those plans in the first place? More critically, have you grown beyond them in what you’ve learned about yourself since you made them? Are you assuming you have to follow through on them because you’ve told other people? How important is that in the grand scheme of your life?

The tool that’s absolutely essential to doing a good job of this is understanding what you value. When a downturn–or something more dramatic, like a heart attack–gives you the chance to reconsider the direction of your life, your values form the bedrock from which a solid stand is possible.

So what do you believe? What’s important to YOU?

This isn’t about getting a certain kind of car or even about getting a certain candidate elected. Go beyond the immediate in how you look at this. Also go beyond what’s fashionable. (Right now, that’s “going green.” A laudable value and worth including, but not the sum total of what makes you unique as a human.)

The consequences of living from your values are highly beneficial. Knowing what’s important to you makes it easier to find work that suits you. (Work is not always for pay. We may be talking about a volunteer effort or creative endeavor with this.) Knowing your values helps you avoid being directed by the mass media. (Just because cute little dogs are currently the rage doesn’t mean you need one.) Knowing your values is the first step to acting on them. And acting on them is what makes life meaningful.

In retirement, knowing your values is critical. Values provide direction and when you leave work, the only direction that’s defined is “out.” Once you’re past the door, it’s up to you to figure out what to do with your time, your energy, and your money. Perhaps you’ll want to sit around for a while or take some time to clean the garage and redecorate the living room. You can do that. In fact they have a name for it now–a “transitional sabbatical.” But eventually, you will need something to do that makes one day different from the next. Something that makes you feel connected and relevant. That something will be a direct reflection of your values.

So what is important to you? How do you even start to figure that out? Ask yourself these questions and be patient with the silence that comes at first. Sit without an answer for a few minutes–or days or weeks.

  • What you would attend to if you had just one week to live?
  • Who would you talk to if you could make just one phone call before life ended?
  • How many things are you doing now because they were someone else’s idea of important? What would happen if you stopped doing them? Is having that not happen important to you?
  • If you had to do what you plan to do next for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It’s important to know what’s important. It’s also hard to do when life is moving forward at full speed. Use the slow down to be sure you have the right stuff at the middle of your life. It’s the best benefit of all in living through a sluggish economy.

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One Response to “How to Use the Economic Downturn to Improve Your Retirement — Part 10, Confirm What’s Important”

  1. How to Use the Economic Downturn to Improve Your Retirement — Part … : thegameoflove Says:

    […] Original post by Bold Retirement […]