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Planning the autumn years

Posted: November 19, 2015 12:38 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2015 12:38 p.m.
We find that the easiest, simplest, least scary and best way to start planning the autumn of your life is simply to set up some folders in which to collect information and ideas. We find that the easiest, simplest, least scary and best way to start planning the autumn of your life is simply to set up some folders in which to collect information and ideas.
We find that the easiest, simplest, least scary and best way to start planning the autumn of your life is simply to set up some folders in which to collect information and ideas.
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We have said it in this column before: 65 is the new 45. Baby boomers now in their 50s or 60s likely have 20 to 40 more good years, and planning what to do with those years that no other generation has had is an important thing to think about.

In our personal experience, and with all the boomers we have worked with, we find that the easiest, simplest, least scary and best way to start is simply to set up some folders. Folders are just places you keep track of things that matter to you or that you think will someday matter. You might think of these as the traditional, manila, old-school file folders. Or you might think of them as new folders in the email or document section of your computer. You don’t have to have anything at all in them for now. Just establish and label them.

The idea is to have a folder for each of the things that are going to matter most to you over the next 20 or 30 years so that they become a place to collect ideas and to keep track of where you are going and how you are getting there.

Here are nine folders to consider starting as we start to plan the autumn of our lives.

Possibilities folder: This folder may have a section for your “bucket list,” but it will also be a place where you keep track of the options you have for this autumn of life. It is thinking about options and possibilities that makes us into more creative people. And creativity matters.

Character folder: Accomplishments can be wonderful, particularly when they involve good motives or causes, but what matters even more is what we become during the pursuit of our achievements. And as we try to give direction and advice to our children and whomever we may lead or advise, it is important to remember that, often, what we are speaks so loudly that they cannot hear what we say.

Health folder: Your health folder can be the place you collect your best insights about your own unique body and how to prime and preserve it over time. In this autumn season, we realize that it is not the doctor who is in charge of our body or who is the expert on our body — we are. This is the folder for test results, baselines, ideas for exercise and diet, and anything else that will contribute to the goal of keeping your body and mind functioning at the highest possible level for the longest possible time.

Wealth folder: You don’t have to be vastly wealthy to create and live your autumn life, but it does take adequate and well-calculated resources. Besides your current balance sheet and income statement, this folder will gradually accumulate some simple wisdom and principles that will help you be sure that you always have enough — and that will help you to know what enough is.

Faith folder: Most people report that they experience an increasing amount of faith and belief in spiritual things as they get older. This will become a folder containing questions and doubts as well as insights and positive feelings, and it will help you remember that faith in higher powers, or lack of it, is essentially a decision you make.

Family and relationship folder: Most of us spend our lives planning and scheming and working to accomplish things, and we put nowhere near as much creative energy and effort into our relationships with and the needs of those we love most. This will become a folder of ideas and ways of maximizing our most important relationships. One of the blessings of advancing age is that our values, interests and priorities slide along the scale from things to people, from accomplishments to relationships.

Grandkids folder: We can influence the generation of our grandkids more than we realize. We can communicate with them in ways that their parents can’t. Find and deposit ideas in this folder that will help you create a lifelong relationship with your grandchildren, whether you have one grandchild or 40.

Service and legacy folder: We have the power during the autumn of our lives to design, develop and deliver the legacy we want to leave and be remembered for. What would you like to change in your world or in your kids’ world? What do you have the power to make a little bit better?

Personal history folder: This file is a place to collect memories you may someday want to share with some of the people who are the most important on the Earth to you — your family and your friends.

Once these nine folders are set up, it’s surprising how often we think of or come across something to put into one of them.

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