In Prescription for a Happy Retirement, Dr. James Bash explores why so many people have difficulty once they retire, often feeling sad and disappointed that retirement wasn’t the fun time they expected. His message boils down to: Don’t let this happen to you. And then he gives advice on how to prepare for retirement so it can be a meaningful, fun, and enriching experience like it should be.
As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Bash had plenty of opportunities to communicate with retired people who were his patients and to get their advice and perspectives on being retired. He has also been retired for several years now himself, and he quickly learned that unless he had a plan for his retirement, he would suffer from boredom and melancholy.
Too many people do not plan for their retirement, so they are not prepared for it, and often they end up retiring earlier than expected due to unforeseen circumstances, which leaves them floundering with not knowing how to adapt. In Prescription for a Happy Retirement, Dr. Bash shows that people must prepare both financially and mentally for this period in their lives, deciding how they want to spend their time and finding activities to occupy their minds and hands to keep them healthy and happy.
Although I am personally many years away from retirement, one point Dr. Bash makes that strongly resonated with me is the difficulty some people have in giving up their work. Too often we allow our identities to be determined by what we do, so once we let go of our jobs, we can feel depressed by a lack of activity and also like we lost our status because we are no longer in the role we were identified with for so many years.
As Dr. Bash states, “For these reasons, giving up the duties you’ve had in the working world is hard for most people. Having people respect and pay for your time is very gratifying. We certainly don’t want to give up this kind of power and authority. But our self-esteem can be too closely tied to this ephemeral power, and we can mistakenly expect it to last forever.” Ultimately, we have to let that status identification go.
One point Dr. Bash makes to help with this transition is to look at how our work has caused us to make other concessions in our personal lives. It’s kept us from our families, friends, and doing the many activities we might have liked to do. Staying active is definitely one of the keys to a happy retirement. However, Dr. Bash, while encouraging us to find activities and hobbies for spending our time, also warns us not to get too involved in organizations so that we begin to work at being involved and letting those activities take up all our time.
One of the strongest points Dr. Bash makes in these pages is the need to learn to be happy with who you are. Too often, we get so caught up in working and raising our families that we don’t take time to connect with ourselves. For that reason, Dr. Bash devotes several chapters to learning how to do work on yourself.
There’s a chapter titled “Build Your Identity and Self-Esteem on Solid Ground,” one on how “Your Mind Creates Reality,” and another on “Understand the Difference between Needs and Wants.” I found these chapters insightful and valuable, especially the last one. Sometimes all we have to do is realize something that we want we don’t really need, and once we let go of that belief that a want is a need, we can start to focus on what we do have.
Other chapters include discussions on how to cultivate your physical health and how to prepare financially for retirement. Most books on preparing for retirement will spend all their time on how to save money and invest it and then how to use your retirement funds to finance your retirement. This advice is great and necessary, and Dr. Bash doesn’t overlook it, but he also knows that a financial advisor can’t teach you how to be happy. There’s much more to retirement than saving money. Fortunately, the advice and the practices Dr. Bash shares can help to increase your happiness quotient.
Each chapter ends with a series of Questions for Reflection to help readers apply what they have just read to their personal lives. For example, “What was your relationship with your job? Were you overinvested in it?” and “Can you identify any strong beliefs that would hamper a happy retirement?” By responding to these questions, readers can mentally prepare themselves for retirement as well as create a plan or vision of what retirement will be like so they won’t be caught unprepared.
Prescription for a Happy Retirement is the perfect gift for anyone retired or about to retire, and it’s a vital book for everyone to read because planning for retirement should start years before it happens, and we all hope to retire someday. Get started planning for the best years of your life now. The doctor is in, so take his prescription and prepare to get happy.
For more information about Dr. James Bash and Prescription for a Happy Retirement, visit the author’s website.