One of my dear clients came in for her review earlier this week. We started the meeting off as we usually do, addressing any questions the client may have.

The question she asked kind of caught me off guard. She said, “Marc, what can you tell me about how people you work with are spending their golden years?"

Well of course I’d heard the term “golden years” before, but I had never spent much time thinking about what it actually meant. I asked, “what do you mean when you say golden years?”

“You know”, she replied, “that period of time where you have enough money to live comfortably and are still healthy enough to do whatever you want. That really can’t be more than five or 10 years.”

After I understood what she meant, it got me thinking. I think there are three components to a truly happy retirement, and the choices people make during the years when all three of these components align can truly make some years feel “golden."

The first component is financial. Now when I say financial it doesn’t just mean how much money is in the portfolio. Financial decision making is complicated, and when these complicated decisions come into a healthy alignment life can become very enjoyable. Some families will have saved for many years to build an investment portfolio that provides absolute freedom and security, but other families may be satisfied living a more modest lifestyle, taking pride in their frugality. Still others may have benefited from a having a pension income, and others still by working to an older age, finding fulfillment in providing value to others through employment or small business.   

In my experience it doesn’t necessarily matter which method of financial security is adopted, and many families use a combination of strategies to fund a retirement, but when the method of obtaining an adequate and comfortable income is commensurate with the desired effort to obtain the income then finances can become balanced.  

The second component is health. What I’ve observed in the health realm is its not entirely about being free of medical concerns, or being totally fit. True health involves an understanding of limitations, an appreciation of relationships and maintaining the ability to physically do what one wants to do, whatever that may be. In this regard, the definition of health can vary widely from person to person, but one of the strongest factors in being healthy is a simple acceptance of one’s physical and emotional state of being.

The third component is the control of time. To do what one wants to do, when one wants to do it, for as short or long as is desired. Perhaps no other factor defines retirement as much as control over one’s own time. This doesn’t necessarily always mean no job, it certainly doesn’t mean no obligations, but what it does mean there is enough time between jobs and obligations to find fulfillment in pursuits of one’s own choosing on a regular basis.

When these three components become aligned, I’ve observed that life really can seem to become golden. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing many friends and clients navigate these golden years, and each person’s journey is unique. Not every individual will reach this period in life, but the good news is I’ve observed that when the golden years truly are reached, they very often last much longer than five or 10 years. Happy Thanksgiving.

Marc Ruiz is a regular columnist for the Times of Munster, Indiana. He is a wealth adviser with Oak Partners and a registered representative of Sll investments, member FINRA/SIPC. Email him at marc.ruiz@oakpartners.com.