SAMURAI WERE EMPLOYED by feudal lords in Japan. They were skilled in the art of combat and highly trained—the best of the best.
A ronin—meaning a “drifter” or “wanderer”—was a samurai who’d left his clan, usually when his master died. Upon leaving, he was free to use his skills to seek similar employment elsewhere or even to choose a completely different profession. A ronin then relied entirely on himself and his skills to get by.
A TIDAL WAVE OF workers quit the corporate world in recent years, starting an earlier-than-planned retirement. I can relate—because I did the same thing.
One reason these people left: Their psychological needs and values weren’t being met at work. We all want a sense that we’re accomplishing something important. We want to feel valued and respected by the company we work for, and we want a sense of autonomy and control.
What we don’t want is to work for bad bosses in a toxic environment.
IN MY LAST ARTICLE, I wrote about how Harvard and other colleges are offering programs to help growth-oriented retirees find new meaning and purpose. Having a sense of purpose improves our quality of life and provides a sense of well-being.
But most of us, including this writer, can’t afford Harvard’s program. That’s why I’m going to show you how to find your main reason for being within the comfort of your own home—using the ikigai method.
WHEN I WAS FORCED out of my banking job of 36 years, I was age 59 and had enough money to retire comfortably. But I still felt the need to work—because that’s how I’m wired. Working gives me a sense of purpose and makes me happy, but it has to be the right kind of work.
I need work that’s fulfilling and which allows me to help others. I knew myself well enough to realize that,
WHEN I FOUND myself unexpectedly packaged off by the bank, I was initially very happy. I was planning to leave anyway because the stress was getting to me. When the bank gave me a severance check at age 59, I felt like I’d won the lottery.
Life was pretty good for a while, but then I was hit by a bad case of retirement shock. I lost my mojo, and had a constant feeling of being incredibly lost and vulnerable.
I LIKE CHALLENGING myself to do hard things. I guess it’s just the way I’m wired.
Recently, I started thinking about the hardest things I’ve done. Convincing my wife to marry me was hard. She was a tough sell. But eventually I wore her down and got the deal done—one of my best deals, by the way.
Attempting Ironman Cozumel at age 68 was hard and, even though I failed, it’s one of my most cherished memories.
I INVESTED A GOOD chunk of 2022 getting ready for the Ironman triathlon on Nov. 20 in Cozumel, Mexico. A lot of people have asked me why I would even attempt an Ironman at age 68. I tell them I’m investing in my future self.
I know what I want my future to look like, and I’m focused on putting the pieces in place to get me there. My good health is a big piece of that picture.
EVERY DECEMBER, I watch two Christmas movies—movies I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember.
My favorite is A Christmas Carol, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. It’s about the mean and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, a money lender who constantly bullies his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and rejects his nephew Fred’s wishes for a merry Christmas.
Scrooge lives only for money. He has no real friends or family, and cares only about his own well-being.
CHRIS CROWLEY IS co-author of Younger Next Year, a book that opened my eyes to what’s possible in retirement. When I grow up, I want to be just like Chris.
Since turning age 75, he’s managed to find the energy to publish five books. At 86, he’s still having fun skiing downhill, going on 30-mile bike rides, leg pressing 360 pounds at the gym and giving the occasional paid speech.
His example reminds me that,
ON THE CORNER OF MY desk, there are two binders. One contains my financial plan and the other my longevity lifestyle plan. One is no good without the other. How can I know if I’ve saved enough money if I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to do in retirement and how much that lifestyle will cost me?
The financial services industry’s focus has been on financial planning, with the objective of helping people accumulate as much money as possible.
WHEN I WAS WORKING fulltime, my goal was to have enough retirement savings to replace 100% of my income. I knew I could live comfortably on that amount, while still having enough left over to do the things I didn’t have time for when I had a fulltime job. I figured that was the key to a happy retirement.
But after retiring, my thinking changed, as I began focusing on how I could live longer and better.
ACCORDING TO MY local newspaper, the average home price in my town rose 450% over the past 25 years. That made me ponder how I could use my home equity to fund my desired retirement lifestyle. I’m certainly not alone in thinking this way.
There are three ways you can access home equity. You can sell your home and downsize, you can take out a home equity line of credit or you can take out a reverse mortgage.
WHAT ARE THE MOST important financial notions? For me, the answers are “compounding” and “financial independence.”
Albert Einstein purportedly called compounding the eighth wonder of the world. Warren Buffett has said that the power of compound interest played an important role in his success. But what I’ve learned is that compounding doesn’t just apply to our finances. It can also be used to improve our health, our relationships and our mastery of whatever topic we choose.
THERE’S AN EXPERIENCE I keep thinking about. I was visiting Italy pre-pandemic, enjoying a great dinner with a lovely family. I was introduced to two nonnas—grandmothers in Italian—who were in their 80s. Although fine physically, they were both suffering from dementia.
That got me thinking about how that could have happened. I’ve read plenty of research on how retiring to a simple lifestyle, and not being challenged mentally, accelerates cognitive decline. I wondered whether that’s what happened to the two nonnas.
WE’VE BEEN BRAINWASHED by advertisers and financial firms into believing that retirees are a homogeneous group who all want the same things. They aren’t. Instead, they have differing needs, values and wants, and this divergence is getting greater because of things like increasing longevity, dwindling job security and the elimination of pensions.
Let’s consider the standard bell-shaped distribution curve—and then apply it to people’s retirement behaviors. On the far left and far right of the curve are the outliers,