So here you are, about to retire soon. You've done all the right things — saved faithfully through your 401(k), kept up your health club membership, supported your kids through college, and remained a good corporate citizen. Now that you’re about to retire, it’s time to quiet down, grow old gracefully and, above all, avoid all risk. Right?
Wrong! Although it might seem counter-intuitive, now is the time to embrace risk — in all areas of your life. But why embrace risk? And, if you choose to do so, how do you keep from destroying everything you worked so hard to build up?
A wise man once said, “a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for." Or as the arch-opportunist Machiavelli put it, “never was anything great achieved without danger.”
Learn to take prudent risks.
Risk-taking is part of our nature. According to a Psychology Today article by Marvin Zuckerman, “humans are a risk-taking species….explorativeness may be the key to the survival of the species.” You can opt for a safe retirement, and coast through your twilight years while you sit with friends and compare notes about doctors’ visits and busy kids who forget to phone home. Or you can enrich your life and take some risks.
The secret to making risk work for you in retirement is not to cast all fate to the wind. But life can prove more meaningful for those who are willing to cast some fate to the wind. Learn to take prudent risks. And watch how you fare on the other end.
Let’s take a look at three areas of life for retirees, and how prudent risk can work for them:
Your Physical Health: Risk doing exercises you’ve never done before. Learn to balance on a bosu ball or work out with an exercise ball. The trick to doing new things with your body is to employ the services of a personal trainer. A good one will guide you safely through mistakes.
Your career: Okay, so you have some income coming in. And soon you’ll be collecting Social Security. But everyone can use some extra money. You can start an online business at a negligible expense, and set up a WordPress site for as little as $5.00 per month. You’ll need to invest time in the early stages of your business; but once you get rolling, a well-planned online business can function on automatic pilot. If you’re stumped about how to choose a product or service for your business, there are some excellent books to guide you. Direct marketing guru Mary Ellen Tribby has put together a very useful and comprehensive work on the subject entitled Reinventing the Entrepreneur.
Your social life: Study a foreign language at a local college. The risk here is that you’ll make mistakes in front of other people, and come off like a lost soul visiting a strange country. But you’ll make a lot of friends in the process. And this sure beats sitting around with people you already know to discuss the results of your recent physical. You can learn to talk in French, Russian, or Icelandic about visits to your doctor. Hint: for those who want to hedge the risk of making mistakes in front of others, you can start language lessons with software from Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur before the first day of class.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re aware that you have more than three aspects to your life. We’ll be discussing others in a future column. Retirement offers some treasures and the thrill of discovery for those willing to take a few risks.