This book Freedom, Time, Happiness (FTH for short) is the companion book to Life Two. FTH is the book I originally planned, and started putting on my website http://donezra.com, but my readers gave me the impression some of it was deeper than they needed or wanted. That’s why I developed the Walking Tour for Life Two, an extract of the essential parts of FTH with exercises added to each Walk. Think of FTH as the hop-on-hop-off bus tour (the Hoho Bus Tour, as I now think of it!) whenever you feel inclined to explore the land of Life Two more fully. In fact, after most of the Walks in Life Two I identify complementary stages on the Hoho Bus Tour, stages that are related to the territory covered by that Walk and expand your perspective.
Permit me to tell you about the FTH guided tour from a few angles: the goal; the route; how I’ve organized the tour; stories and a website; and a little bit about you, the tourist, and me, your tour guide.
What I call “life after full-time work” or Life Two, most people call “retirement.” But let’s be honest, the word itself is so negative that it deserves to be retired.
It’s far from the end of life! It’s the start of a new life. Everything else is a prologue to the stage of life after full-time work. It’s our freedom, our time of enjoyment, our time of greatest happiness.
Most people’s instinctive reaction to thinking about it is something like: “It’s so complicated! Too many choices. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” I aim to change that. I’m going to give you a framework in which to make your own decisions, a context that will put things in perspective and give you a feeling of control.
Specifically, here’s how I hope you’ll feel at the end of the tour: “Now I know how to think about issues connected with this phase of life. I have more knowledge than before, it’s knowledge that’s relevant, and it has helped to shape my opinions and attitudes. I understand the issues. I know what questions to ask, and so I’m more likely to get useful answers. I realize that it’s not really as complicated as it’s made out to be. And because of all of that, I feel in control. I’m setting my own path to a happy, comfortable time of life.”
I’m living this life myself. It’s not just personal experience, but also lots of research that I have gathered together and divided into small pieces. I’ve created several lessons from that wisdom, each on one small aspect of life after full-time work, so that you can concentrate on one issue at a time and not be overwhelmed.
To provide the framework, my lessons are revealed through four routes on this tour of life in that territory. The routes focus on:
- Route 1: Happiness and psychology (because that’s the goal and how to get there) – these are numbered after the letter H;
- Route 2: Investment (because that’s what powers our vehicle) – these are numbered after the letter I;
- Route 3: Longevity (because we should have an idea of how long that life will be) – these are numbered after the letter L;
- Route 4: Finance (putting it all together) – these are numbered after the letter F.
As a prologue to the tour, I have some background ideas that set out why it’s worth bothering about and why you don’t ever need to become an expert on any aspect of it. They’re numbered after the letter P.
There are two ways to take the tour
The tour is divided into many small stages. And each stage has a lesson, a specific destination which I identify so that you’ll know where you’ve arrived at the end of the stage. This is the point of the stage, the answer when you ask yourself, after the stage, “So what? Why should I care? What difference does this make?” As a summary, the destinations are all listed near the end of the book.
There are two ways to take the tour.
One way is as a full tour of the land of Life Two. For this purpose, use FTH as a hop-on-hop-off tour. By that I mean that you can start anywhere that interests you. You don’t have to finish every stage on a particular route just because you started on that route. You don’t have to take the stages in the order presented. You can go back and cover a stage numerous times before you ever visit a different stage. And if you want, you can travel along one route alone. For example, you can take the stages on happiness and psychology without taking any of the stages on the other routes. You plan your own tour.
When a stage relies on the territory covered in another stage, or is in some way connected with another stage, I mention that fact explicitly, so you can find connecting signposts wherever they’re relevant. That too helps you to hop on anywhere you fancy, without the fear of missing something fundamental. All you need to do, to understand a stage you haven’t covered, is go to the list of destinations and see, in a few sentences, where that stage led to. And then continue the tour from the stage you’re on.
So this isn’t like a novel, to be read from cover to cover without putting it down. Put this down frequently. Understand one stage at a time.
That’s one way. But I’m guessing that many of you will want a different approach. “Look, you know all about this stuff. Just direct me to the things that are fundamental and simple – I’ll trust your judgment. The rest can wait until I have more time.” OK, for you I’ve designed the Walking Tour. It’s what I consider the essentials. I’ve also added some teach-yourself-by-doing exercises, because the best way to get ideas in your head is for you to apply them to your own situation. That has the added benefit of creating your own plan, as you go along.
There are 24 stages and exercises in the Walking Tour. You’ll find them worthwhile. If you do one stage a week, along with any accompanying exercise, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll have made in six months.
But for that, you’ll have to get the Life Two book. What I do, in FTH, is show you exactly where the Walks in Life Two fit.
Inevitably there are limits to what I can cover on the tour. If you’re someone who wants to go further, at the end of each route I identify peaks on that route that are too high for our bus to get to. (Except on the happiness route: there’s nothing there beyond the average reader.) Put them together and you have a sort of Enthusiasts Trail. I gather those peaks in a separate section after the four regular routes. They’re numbered after the letter T.
Stories and a website
I tried out this framework and the lessons with friends, and they found it very helpful. When I sent the first draft of the book to a friend in the publishing business, he said he thought the research, the organization and the lessons are great. But then he asked: “Where are the stories?”
“Huh?” I said. “What stories?”
He explained: “People relate to stories. They’ll understand the lessons much better if they’re associated with stories.”
Oh. That’s wisdom. He’s right.
So I arranged a number of interviews with relatives and friends and colleagues and associates of the firm I spent most of my career with. They were enormously helpful. The interviewees were honest and open about issues they understood, issues they didn’t understand, issues that scared them, and what they and their families and friends were thinking about. They were so forthcoming that I can’t use much of what they told me, because it’s too personal to publish.
In some cases their stories form the basis for my lessons. In other cases I’ve assembled elements of their stories to create fictional composite characters whom I pretend to interview before a stage starts, because those stories illustrate the issues so well.
My friend also suggested that I create a website and post blogs about the content of the tour, for the public to react to. “You’ll find out what people like or dislike, what they understand or don’t understand. And I guarantee you’ll end up rewriting it. We could publish it now, but it’ll be much better after.”
Again, wisdom. So I created http://donezra.com and have found it very rewarding, not only to get reactions and new insights from readers, but even more heartwarming, to realize from some of their comments, and from personal emails they sent me that aren’t on the website, that I have had some favorable impact on their lives.
About you and me
I don’t know you and your circumstances, so I can’t give you advice. I can suggest how to think about issues – in other words, I can provide education. That’s what will show you where you are, relative to the land of life after full-time work. And, in effect, you’ll have a compass. It’s up to you to decide on your direction, goals and speed. But that’s a big advance on the way maps used to be in centuries past, with “here be dragons” covering the unknown territory – the way, frankly, many people think about retirement today.
Though I don’t know you, I think I can guess three things about you.
First, you would love to have the time and money to indulge yourself. You may enjoy many aspects of your life today, but if you could be self-indulgent, you’d change at least some of it. Well, that’s what the ideal way to spend this phase of life is all about! It’s about personal freedom. It’s a wonderful goal.
Second, you’re curious. You know there are things that are outside your everyday life, but you want to learn about them, partly from the pleasure of new learning, and partly because some of these things might turn out to be important to you. And when you learn, sometimes the new knowledge changes the way you think about the world, and you grow as a person. You’re not only open-minded, you’re eagerly open-minded.
And third, you’re not scared of numbers. You may even love numbers, but that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying that numbers don’t intimidate you. When you see a bunch of numbers, it’s instinctive to you that some are bigger than others, that some are close together and others far apart. Numbers are a way to describe some things. They’re a language, just like words. Big, small, close, far – that’s all the number sense you need.
If these characteristics are part of your make-up, then you’re the kind of person I hoped would join the tour.
Oh, you want to know something about me? Sure, I’m happy to tell you. Like you, I too have those three characteristics. That will hardly surprise you. So let me add three other characteristics that you almost certainly don’t know.
The first is really defined by my professional career. I qualified as an actuary at the age of 24, and conducted my career as an investment consultant to pension funds. I lived and worked (and had professional qualifications) in three countries (the UK, Canada and the US), and also consulted extensively in other countries with funded pension systems. I have served on the executive boards of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the US Employee Benefit Research Institute, where I chaired the Research Committee. I’ve served on editorial advisory boards of major professional journals. I received from EBRI their 2004 Lillywhite Award “for extraordinary lifetime contributions to Americans’ economic security.” I was an appointed delegate to the US National Summit on Retirement Savings in both 2002 and 2006, and an at-large delegate from New York State to the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging in 2005.
In short, I’ve been around at the highest levels.
The second is defined by my life today. I’m living in the land of Life Two, and have been doing so for many years. Some of the lessons are from my own life. I knew some of my ideas would probably be well received when I included them in a talk I gave to clients at the annual conference of my employer a year after I graduated from full-time work. I called the talk “Graduation.” I explained the psychological and financial thoughts I was experiencing in my interim phase of life. At the rehearsal my former colleagues said “Don’t change a word,” and at the conference I was astonished to receive a standing ovation from the clients (my first ever!). As senior executives, they knew that the next phase of life was one they would all encounter sooner or later, and that made the talk personally relevant. I’m certain there was a lot of affection on display for the guy they had worked with for many years, but still, I’m told that the talk was the basis of many dinner-table discussions that evening.
My point is that, as the Americans say, I have skin in the game. This isn’t all theory. This is tested.
The third characteristic is that I love teaching. Professionally I reached the summit of management, and then, to everyone’s surprise, asked if I could change my role to one of learning and teaching rather than helping to run the company, because it was far more interesting to me. I designed education courses for our clients and used them in multiple countries, and have spoken at professional conferences around the world. After interviewing me for a specific piece, the London-based Financial Times suggested that I should write an occasional column (“The art of investment”) for their Saturday FT Money supplement, and I explored some of these ideas there.
Finding a way to make a complex subject understandable is my greatest joy. Of course my children, who know me better than anyone, delight in pointing out that I have an equal ability to make simple things appear complicated! They’re right, and both characteristics arise from the same cause – I need to understand every step of everything.
Now that I’ve finally given up all paid professional work, research and writing remain my joys.
There you have it – that’s what drives your tour guide. I hope I can take you to greater happiness.