Starting the New Year Healthy, Wealthy and Wiser
Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 11:36AM

Happy New Year! We start the year off with resolutions to do better, feel better, work better. All good intentions, some of which come to fruition, while others fall by the wayside. It is perhaps the best and worst day of the year. A clean slate to begin again, or setting ourselves up to fail. A blessing or a curse, who can tell. Until the ball falls in Times Square 364 days from now, it is anybody's guess.

For me, this year was not the worst but rather an ongoing struggle financially. One of my three jobs ended in August, the monthly column was dropped after 7 years and have not published a single piece since. The monthly worry was looming large as the end of the year approached. 

Physically, I was given another reprieve as a cancer survivor. The best part of the year is my end of the year checkup to make sure that all systems are go and the new year will still have me to kick around. As of December 3, this makes 23 years of survival. Although to get through each day, you remind yourself of the blessings, you still look over your shoulder until the pronouncement that you are "normal". Sounds odd to a survivor, as nothing ever feels normal again after cancer.

I am, however, the wiser for the year past. 2013 was the year of decisions. I have decided that I want to retire. It never seemed possible to me and over many a dinner, it has been discussed with friends who felt the same. A dream once possessed by our parents, touted by financial planners with their talk of 401K and IRAs. The reality was looking much different than the promise and the golden years were looking more like fools gold. 

Rather than wait for the hard realities to take shape into truth, I made a conscious decision to plan to retire. Once my head was in that game, it was interesting how the impossible changed to possible. No magic potion or spell made the stars begin to align. Instead it was a change in the wind, or course, or attitude, to stop wishing, hoping and dreaming of the some day, and start planning for the day to arrive. 

Here are few tips to make retirement seem possible.

1) Apply for early social security. In my case, it was a small amount because I chose to stay home with my kids for almost 40 years. But it was enough to make the house payment.

2) Pare down. If you don't need it, sell it, recycle, donate, hand it down. This is a great way to focus on what is important. How many things do we really need? Could someone else benefit more? Would our kids like a certain treasure that sits and collects dust? It is a process but a worthy endeavor.

3) Find time for yourself. Just you. This is an extraordinary feat in my life, but once I did it, I was amazed at how other things fell into place. Somehow we become lost in the daily routine of worry, loss, grief, struggle and stress. Taking a time out, often is the cheapest form of therapy to find our way. I chose Tai Chi. The practice has helped me to slow down my life and my thinking.

4) Learn to say no. Admittedly, I am not even close to making this a habit rather than a rare occurence. It is however, helping me to understand that the world will not go spinning off it's axis when I do cry uncle. 

5) Make a timeline. I want to retire in the next 3 years. I set specific goals and laid a course that is doable in that timeframe. Getting your ducks in a row includes managing your living arrangements (keeping up property, house, driving). You may find that living closer to town or family or being within walking distance of your favorite haunts will serve you better over the course of time. Think ahead to avoid fewer choices in the end.

6) Eat healthy. Come on, this is not that hard. It isn't about living longer. It's about living better.

7) Teach by example, rather than preach to deaf ears. We all come to wisdom by means of mistakes, regrets and hindsight. This is not easily translated to those who have barely begun the journey and perhaps not the best use of the wisdom you have acquired. Live what you have learned.

That's it. Time to decide what you want to be when you grow up. Stop waiting for the golden years. Make your years golden. 

Any tips you can share would be greatly appreciated.

Happy New Attitude! 

Image: Flickr image by 123newyear1

Article originally appeared on Eularee Smith • Writer & Educator in Eugene, Oregon (
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