Marketing gurus, cookbook authors and makers of some-assembly-required furniture don’t agree on much, but one technique they all use is that they tell their story more powerfully by fitting their message into a number of easy-to-follow steps.

Well, here are Dave’s “three steps to a successful retirement.” I really believe in them and plan on spending the rest of my life working my way through them — maybe they’ll be relevant or useful to you.

Sorry, my three steps don’t say anything about how much money I’ll need, how I should manage it, or how I should spend it. Like certain other important things in life, my three steps are simple, but not easy. Here goes:

Step 1: Do more of the things you enjoy

If you’re like me, by the time you reach retirement, you’ll have spent a lot of time and energy on fulfilling the expectations of others, while putting food on your table. If you’re lucky, you’ve enjoyed your work and found it personally rewarding. But for most people, a lot of focus has been on whatever their job has demanded they focus on.

Nobody’s life provides an unlimited supply of time, energy or health. As a result, now that I’m retired, I’m indulging myself more. I’m spending more time on things I like. Doing more things I enjoy. Being with people whose company I enjoy. Learning new things. Mastering something I’ve just dabbled at until now.

Step 2: Focus on what’s important

I’ve begun to spend a lot of time thinking about what’s important in life. Not just my life, but life in general. I’m learning from the great philosophers about what constitutes a good life (shamelessly piggy-backing on my daughter’s reading list from her Master of Philosophy field of study).

I’m learning more about healthy living. I’m waking up to environmental problems and what can be done about them.

Step 3: Contribute to society

People such as nurses, teachers and police officers spend their entire working lives contributing to society’s needs. Though my own career was rewarding, it wasn’t so directed towards to improving the world. Step 3 is about doing my bit to improve the world. I’ve got talents — how can I continue to use them (or start to use them) on what Step 2 is teaching me is important?

Here’s a tentative short-list of ways I might contribute:

  • Volunteer to help in two different ways
    1. Fund-raise (or take a more direct role?) to help people whose lives have been smashed by disease, natural disasters or political events.
    2. Help the crisis centre. Years ago, I answered calls at a crisis hotline and it was a remarkable experience, helping people through crises that threatened to overwhelm them.
  • Take an active role in helping to increase Canadians’ financial literacy.
  • Help clean up the environment. I’m moving to a new community this summer and plan to find a local way in which I can pitch in.

If I pause today and take stock, I recognize these things about myself:

  • I’ve retired at a relatively young age and in very good health.
  • I have good personal and social relationships.
  • I’m both self-aware and socially-aware.
  • I have a decent amount of retirement savings.

Lucky guy, eh? But Dave’s “three steps to a successful retirement” are about leveraging what I’ve got into building an even better and more meaningful life. I hope my three steps give you a framework to help you achieve your own idea of a successful retirement. Good luck!