As our country starts reopening, it’s become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be one of those generational “before and after” moments. Just like travel and public security were never the same after 9/11, COVID-19 is going to change how we gather in public, how we assess and prepare for new viruses, how our children and grandchildren learn, and how companies of all sizes do business.
As I’ve written before, I do think that some of these changes could be positive in the long run. And on a personal level, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably inspired many of us to think about how we lived before social distancing and what we want our lives to be like going forward. That introspection could have a profound effect on how folks nearing retirement approach what is already a significant life transition.
Here are four lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that could help you rethink your future and make positive change in your life.
1. Embrace simplicity.
It’s strange how social distancing has made our lives harder in some respects and easier in others. Folks who have learned to work from home effectively probably aren’t missing the grind of their daily commutes. We all miss going to restaurants, movies, concerts, and live sports. But because we have less options right now, we’re spending more quality time with our families. We’re cooking and eating good meals together instead of microwaving leftovers before running to the next thing on our calendars. We’re talking long walks. We’re calling our loved ones. We’re reading, thinking, reflecting. We’re having family movie nights, family game nights, family conversations—often done virtually.
Many seniors struggle with retirement because they too feel like they’re suddenly stuck at home with nothing to do. Replacing your old work routine with a new schedule that lets you pursue your passions is part of making a successful retirement transition. But so is enjoying the simple pleasures of living at a slower pace. Once you’re back on the golf course and taking pottery classes, don’t forget how much you enjoyed that morning cup of coffee on the porch with your spouse.
2. Try new things.
We’ve all had to step outside of our comfort zones to stay productive, connected, and entertained during the pandemic. I’m glad to see that so many seniors have been up to the challenge! We’ve had virtual meetings with retired clients who told us they’d never used teleconferencing before the pandemic. Now they’ve gained a valuable new skill for staying in touch with family and friends and having important conversations with their fiduciary advisor, legal professionals, and even some doctors. Other seniors are swiping past all that grumbling on social media to take online classes in things like drawing, music, languages, or yoga.
If social distancing has roused some curiosity or rekindled an old interest, keep following that spark once we’re past the pandemic. Exploring your passions and learning more about the world will accelerate your personal growth and make your retirement more rewarding.
3. Make meaningful connections.
Another unique social distancing paradox is how close we feel to our friends and family while also feeling so far apart. We’ve learned to use video chat to make up for family parties and meals with friends as best we can. But what’s going to happen once social distancing restrictions start to ease? Are we going to get so wrapped up in our old routines that, ironically, we start connecting with our loved ones less than we were during lockdown, especially those who live far away?
And what about our communities? Are we still going to make that extra effort to support local businesses? Are we going to keep giving back to people and causes that need our help? Are we going to remain mindful that “we’re all in this together,” or are we going to let small differences get in the way of making meaningful progress?
I hope social distancing has given folks a new perspective on just how important these connections really are. The people you share your life with and the communities you support will, in turn, support and improve your life, especially in retirement.
4. Confront challenges head on.
Think back to the end of March. As COVID-19 began spreading and our country began to lock down, we all had the same thought at one time or another:
I can’t stay home all day every day. I can’t keep my family entertained. I can’t teach my kids math. I can’t wear a mask to the grocery store. I can’t figure out how to use Zoom. I can’t cancel the vacation I’ve been planning for a year. I can’t run my business from my kitchen table. I can’t find a new routine so my spouse and I don’t drive each other nuts. I can’t keep it together when the news is this bad.
And now … you have!
Life during COVID-19 will continue to be stressful, especially for health care professionals and folks who are in mourning. But little by little, day by day, we’ve all learned how to manage that uncertainty and control the things in our lives we can control. We’ve met the challenge of COVID-19 in countless ways, big and small, from making homemade face coverings to re-budgeting our household spending. The number of things that we can’t do continue to go down. The number of things that we can do continue to go up.
If the pandemic has inspired you to make some major life changes, we want your financial plan to grow right along with you. Let’s have a virtual chat about how you’re coping with COVID-19 and what your best possible life may look like once we’re on the other side of the pandemic.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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