You already know that the benefits of mindfulness – less stress, reduced emotional reactivity, better memory, and more focus – can help when it comes to making decisions about what to buy on a day-to-day basis. In a way, retirement is sort of a cross between a purchase and an investment, so the principles of mindfulness can be brought to bear on it, just like on any other purchase or investment.
Think about this: when the stock market starts to get volatile, as it has been over the past several months, a lot of folks start to get panicky and want to pull their money out. But an emotional reaction to a market event is the worst thing you can have – because knee-jerk reactions are a short term response to a long-term game. It’s sort of like seeing that your team is down in the first quarter in the second game of the season, and deciding – based on that quarter alone – that they’ll never get to the championship, they probably won’t even win this game, so you better start supporting another team fast.
Would you abandon your team like that? Probably not.
So while it’s always a good idea to make sure your investment strategy is properly aligned with your tolerance for risk, it’s generally not a good idea to change your investment lineup every time something happens in the market. Mindfulness of that fact – an awareness of the larger, long-term picture – can make a big difference when you’re watching the stock market with a sick feeling in your gut. And if you feel like your gut is all you have to go on because you don’t know a lot about investing, you can always work with your financial professional to determine what’s best for you based on your unique needs, wants, lifestyle, and tolerance for risk.
When it comes to retirement, mindfulness at its best is a combination of awareness of the present and awareness of the future. You’re probably not thinking about your retirement plan 24/7, so it’s extra important to be truly present when you do. Whenever you review your investments, don’t just look at how they’re doing now – review their historical performance over the long term. Although past performance is not a guarantee of future returns, an investment’s performance can give you a good idea of its history.
And if you’re not reviewing your retirement investments – mindfulness can help motivate you to get started with that too. Take a deep breath and really observe the moment you’re in. Your house, your car, your family, your health; wherever you are, whatever it is about your lifestyle that you cherish – be mindful of it and grateful for it in the moment.
Now be mindful of the future: what of those things would you be willing to give up, if a lack of retirement savings meant that you could no longer pay for the house, the car, the plane tickets to see family, or the medical bills that come with aging? The whole idea of having retirement savings is to be able to maintain the lifestyle you enjoy now, while you’re working, even into the years where you’re no longer a part of the workforce.
In the end, what it really comes down to is this:
- Investment in your retirement is an investment in yourself and the life you want to keep.
- How’s that for something to be mindful of?