Retire Right: 8 Scientifically Proven Traits You Need for a Happy, Fulfilling Retirement


The first scientifically backed guide to a happy, fulfilling retirement.

Over the years, Dr. Fritz Fraunfelder and Dr. Jim Gilbaugh have seen thousands of their patients respond differently to the challenges of retirement: some rose to new heights; others hit new lows. The doctors began to wonder: How do some people maintain their vitality, interests, and zest for life in retirement while others became distant, even depressed? Is there a magic formula for retiring well? To find ...

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Retire Right: 8 Scientifically Proven Traits You Need for a Happy, Fulfilling Retirement

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The first scientifically backed guide to a happy, fulfilling retirement.

Over the years, Dr. Fritz Fraunfelder and Dr. Jim Gilbaugh have seen thousands of their patients respond differently to the challenges of retirement: some rose to new heights; others hit new lows. The doctors began to wonder: How do some people maintain their vitality, interests, and zest for life in retirement while others became distant, even depressed? Is there a magic formula for retiring well? To find the answer, they designed a comprehensive study involving more than one thousand patients. The results were surprising but clear. Financial planning is not as important to a fulfilling retirement as many may think-the psychological experience is just as crucial. The happiest retirees shared eight key traits; all of them were able to:

• plan ahead

• maintain a positive attitude

• accept change

• lean on their support network

• have a sense of purpose

• keep a healthy lifestyle

• engage in leisure activities

• enjoy some expression of spirituality
Retire Right evaluates the reader and provides guidelines for how to develop each key characteristic. The good news? These essential skills can be strengthened, even acquired from scratch, whether the reader is just starting to plan for retirement, is in the early years, or is a seasoned retiree. The first scientifically backed bulletproof prescription, this book is the most concrete guide to a happy retirement.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583333464
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/14/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 557,993
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick T. Fraunfelder, M.D. is a physician specializing in ophthalmology with more than 30 years of clinical experience. Dr. Fraunfelder has authored many articles in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He lectures across the country and internationally and lives in Portland, Oregon.
James H. Gilbaugh Jr., M.D. is a urologist, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and the author of Men’s Private Parts. He has appeared on CBS This Morning, CNBC, and ABC News, and he lives in Portland, Oregon.
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Read an Excerpt


As doctors with subspecialties in geriatrics, we have seen many patientson the brink of, just starting, or deeply into their retirement years.Their widely varied responses to this time and its challenges are remarkable.Some rise to new heights, whereas others seem ready to heave a heavysigh, sag into a rocking chair, and settle in for good. For instance, one patient,Joanne, a recently retired real estate agent, told us her post–work liferemained the same as it was while she was selling property. The only realdifference was the gift of time that retirement had given her. She was nowable to indulge in a midmorning haircut or spa treatment, linger overlunch, spend extra time browsing in the library or bookstore, or take hergrandchildren or just herself to an afternoon matinee, all activities that shepreviously had time only for in the evening or on weekends. She consideredthis luxury truly golden.

When we compared Joanne’s outlook to that of another patient, Brian, aman who had enjoyed a successful advertising career, we saw a dramaticdifference. He could find little to enjoy about his retirement and went sofar as to say that he had lost much of the pleasure of living! Even leisureactivities that, as a working person, he had enjoyed participating in with hiswife now held little interest for him, including dinner parties, cribbagecompetitions, or simply discussing current events with his spouse. Some ofhis withdrawal, Brian admitted, came from his increasing forgetfulness,which both scared and embarrassed him. But what bothered him most of allwas spending so much time by himself—a situation he had rarely foundhimself in when he worked. Still, he lacked the will and the gumption toget out and get on with his life. He felt lost and without direction.

What makes one person embrace the second half of life, while anotherseems only capable of withdrawing from it? Why did some of our patientsmanage to maintain the vitality that had marked their working years whileothers failed to make the transition? We wanted to find some informationabout happy retirees that would assist our patients who were finding retirementa rough go. Exploring bookstores, libraries, and the Internet, we wererelentless in our search for retirement advice. Most books we found focusedon financial planning, and those that didn’t were anecdotal—filled withstandard recommendations to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. Goodsuggestions but too general and unscientific for our needs.

The search continued in our own practices: we began to look at our patientsto identify with clinical certainty the skills, habits, and characteristicsassociated with people who experienced what we observed to be productive,well-adjusted, or “successful” retirements, which we define as richly endowedwith good health, loving relationships, outside interests, and, most important,the resilience and wisdom to graciously accept the inevitable, whichis loss—of family, friends, loved ones, health, memory, and, ultimately, life.

We wanted to collect accurate data, so we created and conducted a professionallydesigned survey. More than fifteen hundred of our patients wereasked to anonymously fill out what we had come to call The RetirementDocs’ Survey. It was the first time that a survey such as this had centered onretired people and their insights. The questionnaire consisted of multiplechoice and essay questions, which took anywhere from an hour to an hourand a half to complete. The return rate was an unheard-of 72 percent. Ourrespondents replied candidly and often at length—their essays running thegamut from succinctly matter-of-fact to lengthy and deeply emotional,from warmly positive to grimly negative.

As you can imagine, we had amassed a tremendous amount of originalresearch and strong data. We used well-established, controlled research andanalysis methods to study the results, including assistance from a local university’sgerontology statistics department. After our first look at what wehad gathered, we realized that retirement success is not related to gender,marital status, children, hobbies, or grandchildren. Highly successful retireescome from all walks of life, from stay-at-home moms to corporateleaders, from astronauts to cab drivers, from people forced to retire becauseof office politics or poor health to those who couldn’t walk away from thenine-to-five treadmill.

From the initial sorting, the statisticians identified four distinct phases ofretirement, and nearly eighty traits that successful retirees shared. Thosefindings were then further distilled, which led us to identify eight specifictraits that had the greatest statistical significance and were shared by all ofthe top 20 percent respondents in the Retirement Docs’ Survey.The four phases and the eight traits of highly successful retirees are thebackbone of Retirement Rx. Helping you identify and use the traits you alreadypossess and showing you how to develop those you may lack is thepurpose of this book. It’s the kind of “retirement investment” that pays dividendssocially, intellectually, and physically.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Hurry Up, Your Life Is Waiting

Part 1 Putting the Rest of Your Life in Perspective

1 A New Kind of Retirement 7

2 The Retirement Docs' Quiz 23

Part 2 A Highly Successful Retirement and How to Make It Your Own

3 Trait One: Sowing Seeds-The Planner's Advantage 33

4 Trait Two: Accentuate the Positive-It's All About Attitude 49

5 Trait Three: Go with the Flow-Accept Change 67

6 Trait Four: A Little Help from Your Friends (and Family)-The Strong Support Group 77

7 Trait Five: Kick Back-Enjoy Leisure Time 101

8 Trait Six: Here's to Your Health 113

9 Trait Seven: Passion and Purpose 137

10 Trait Eight: Let the Spirit Move You-Spirituality and Religion 149

Part 3 The Exit Consultation

11 Into the Future 163

Conclusion 167

Sources 169

Retirement Resources 181

Statistics 185

Index 187

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