Review – How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor
By Ernie J. Zelinski

Zelinski encourages readers to embrace the notion that a happy, fulfilling life doesn’t require a job. In fact, your job might just be getting in the way. To illustrate his points, he includes a healthy selection of correspondence from readers who have followed his advice, ditched their 9-to-5 jobs, and found creative ways to live out their dreams.

My take
How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free radiates optimism and a carefree, can-do attitude, pushing the reader to consider if they’re living their retirement to the fullest. Retirement literature is brimming with financial advice and ideas about how to keep productive after leaving behind the daily rigors of the office. Zelinski has a different idea: reconsider how you define productivity and self-worth, and re-evaluate what kind of lifestyle you think is possible. Making a change for the better could simply be a matter of shifting your priorities. For instance, do you care more about leaving behind a substantial inheritance, or making sure you enjoy life to the fullest?

There is definitely some fluff here, mainly in the form of long-winded brainstorming lists of all the crazy things you could do if you didn’t have a job. But Zelinski does offer valuable content for people who are wondering what’s possible, or feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of moving ahead without any kind of employment.

Zelinski is so enthusiastic about the glory of full-time retirement that he doesn’t spend much time exploring the idea that some retirees may still want to work, or may have to work because of limited financial resources. To people who would have to live on a very small stipend if they retired, Zelinski suggests they make a few changes to enjoy life with less wealth. He does mention the possibility of part-time employment in retirement, but he spends far more time extolling the virtues of making the most of what you have.
Throughout How to Retire Happy, Zelinksi relies heavily on anecdotal evidence to support to his retirement philosophy, and doesn’t cite many specific studies (while he mentions “research,” he doesn’t always name his sources).

Zelinski’s writing style is jaunty and uplifting, studded with cartoon illustrations and inspirational quotes. How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free is an empowering read for those who feel they want to live a different life, but need assurance that drastic changes can be for the better.

Content Notes
Chapter 1: Thank Heaven for Retirement – Discusses the importance of an active retirement, and planning for both the financial and emotional aspects of retirement. Cites travel opportunities and enjoying good health for as long as possible as reasons for early retirement.

Chapter 2: Retirement: A Time to Become Much More than You Have Ever Been – Emphasizes the importance of soul-searching and discusses the pressures of endless freedom. Offers advice for creatively re-shaping your identity beyond employment.

Chapter 3: So Many Worlds, So Much to Do – To Be Bored Is to Retire from Life – Acknowledges that many retirees find themselves longing for work, suggests that dissatisfaction during retirement may stem from using time unwisely. Introduces the “Get-a-Life Tree” exercise to encourage readers to examine what activities they find most fulfilling.

Chapter 4: Take Special Care of Yourself- Because No One Else Will – Reviews the importance of good health during retirement, and offers tips for maintaining a healthy weight. Also emphasizes the importance of challenging the brain to stay mentally active.

Chapter 5: Learning is for Life: Commit Yourself to Being a Lifelong Learner and Your Life Will Never Be Without Purpose – Encourages readers to continually seek opportunities to become more educated.

Chapter 6: Your Wealth Is Where Your Friends Are: Above All Friends Make Life Complete – How to make friends, how to keep friends, and advice for evaluating your current friendships. Discusses the importance of having strong, meaningful friendships during retirement. Also gives dating and relationship advice for retirees.

Chapter 7: Travel For Fun Adventure and More: Take Yourself Out of Your Element and Inspire Yourself with New Insights – Encourages the reader to see the world, especially if they’ve never devoted much time or money to travel. Gives advice for using the internet to make travel cheaper and more fun. Talks about the wide variety of travel options available to retirees.

Chapter 8: Relocate to Where Retirement Living is Best – Covers what to look for in a retirement location, as well as reasons why a retiree might want to move. Includes suggestions for websites to help with relocation research.

Chapter 9: Happiness Doesn’t Care How You Get There – Asks questions to establish whether the retiree is getting the most out of retirement. Celebrates retirement as one of the best times in life. Emphasizes that money can’t buy happiness. Encourages the reader to set and accomplish goals.