While you may have checked off items on your Bucket List, what will be on your deathbed List of Regrets? Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse, spent several years caring for people in the last days of their lives. On their deathbed many patients opened up to her about their life and regrets. She wrote an article titled, “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying” which was read by over 3 million people in the first year.
She followed up with a book by the same name. Amazon describes it this way:
“…By applying the lessons of those nearing their death to her own life, she developed an understanding that it is possible for people, if they make the right choices, to die with peace of mind.”
The book is a very moving, emotional, challenging and enjoyable. The top five regrets of the dying:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
I put the five regrets into two groups.
Numbers, 1,3 & 5 dealt with emotional issues and courage. There were some very sad stories about people living in abusive relationships or living a life to please others as opposed to marching to their own drummer.
Regrets 2 & 4 deal with how you use your time. I taught the subject of time management, which is really life management. There are eight issues, which are generally important to most people.
I would ask my class to determine their personal goal for each of the elements. Remember the “To Do” list concept? You list all you want to accomplish, focus on each item, scratching them off as you go. In a matter of minutes they realized there were not enough hours in a day to achieve all you wanted in each element. No matter how hard you try, the bottom half of the “To Do” list haunts you.
The life lesson was, “It’s not the work that one does that expires one’s resources and energy, but rather the frustration with the work that remains to be done!”
What’s the goal?
The ultimate goal is to eliminate the constant frustration, stress, guilt and regret. While being productive may help some accomplish more, the real issue is to understand reality, reduce your frustrations and guilt. Be happy with what you are able to accomplish, not unhappy, feeling guilty and full of regret about what you could not do because other things took higher priority at the time.
A good example is over-stressed working mothers. No matter what they get done, many are continually frustrated because they feel they are neglecting other things and people important to them. There are not enough hours in a day for mom to do everything she would like to do – dump the guilt!
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
The author said, “This came from every male patient that I nursed.” (Emphasis mine) That hit pretty close to home. I’m like many of my male friends who are still working well past their normal retirement age. Many of us justify our situation by telling others we are happy and love our work. On my deathbed, will working so hard be my regret?
If you worry about running out of money before you die, you are in the majority. An Allianz Life survey highlighted a couple of issues:
- More than 90 percent of Baby Boomers feel the United States is facing a retirement crisis, yet most have a limited understanding of how much money they’ll need
- 61 percent of Boomers fear outliving their money in retirement more than death
Doesn’t the survey conclude that 61% of the Boomers are worried about a deathbed regret of becoming economically dependent on others, particularly their family?
Choices and bad luck
The author mentions, “make the right choices to die with peace of mind”. If it were only that easy! While some may be working because of bad choices made earlier in their life, others find themselves working because of bad choices of others.
How many retirees are working because they had significant pension cuts as their company went bankrupt? How many seniors are working today because the government decided to bail out the banks at the expense of seniors and savers? Many who worked hard and played by the rules may still end up struggling because of just plain bad luck.
Retiring comfortably is having enough money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, without having to constantly worry about money. Having enough money to comfortably support yourself for the duration allows you more free time. If you are so fortunate, good for you!
Enjoy the time for family, friends, and the other elements that you consider important. Don’t ignore the emotional elements the author mentions (items 1,3 & 5). The author spells out how they are not only important to you, but also very important to those around you.
She told a sad story about a dying father being attended to by his son who was a very unhappy man. He lived his life trying to please his father, yet never got the feedback or expression of love he yearned for. In the final days his father opened up and told him how much he loved him and was proud of him. That revelation had a major impact on his son, their marriage and his relationship with his children. How sad it was that the son was in his 50’s before he realized he was making his father proud all along.
The emotional elements are controllable. It may take some courage to open up a bit, but they can be dealt with now. Why wait until you are on your deathbed, or have a loved one die and wish you had told them how you feel?
What about those who still work hard?
Much like the working mother outlined earlier, things become a matter of choices over how and where you spend your time. The goal is to determine a balance that works for you and keep the guilt to a minimum.
- Face reality head on. Work with a financial planner to determine your financial needs. Don’t be in the 90% who have no clue. Is your concern about finances realistic or an emotional fear?Many retirees can no longer live off the interest and must tap into their nest egg to help pay the bills. The financial projections may show you have enough money to last a few decades beyond a reasonable mortality age. You may still fear running out of money; however keep things in perspective. If you reach age 125 and go broke, the hell with it!
Express your feelings openly with your loved ones. Once your fears are out in the open, you will probably find your loved ones will not only understand, but also work around your schedule.
- Enjoy your free time. This is a never-ending challenge, particularly with today’s cell phones and electronic communications. Schedule your free time just as you would an important meeting. If you have quality family time scheduled, enjoy it. It’s the most important thing on your list right now.
- Eliminate the negative. My good friend Kirk B. beat cancer when he was in his 30’s. He’s developed a much different perspective about life, well ahead of his peers.When he has time for friends he wants to be around positive, upbeat people who enjoy life. At first he found it difficult to spend less time with former friends and associates who he described as “walking downers.” There are some who thrive on always complaining and telling you their problems. No matter how much you try to help, it is always the same thing – they have to fix their mess, you can’t! You have limited time available; focus on the things and people you enjoy.
- No guilt or frustration. If you prioritized what must be done and can’t get to the bottom of your wish list, no big deal. Why get frustrated over something you cannot control? There are only so many hours in a day. The goal of time management is to eliminate much of the frustration with the work that remains to be done.
In my article, “If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?” I referenced 85-year-old Nadine Stars, “If I had my life to live over again.” The last item on her list was she would eat more ice cream.
I hope that is my only deathbed regret; I want to die with a smile on my face. I tried it her way. I had to quit because a bowl of ice cream a day makes my clothes shrink.
Bringing things back to a more positive note, I’ve recently released my new Social Security guide and am making it available for free to my readers. You can claim your copy HERE. This new guide is filled with unbiased information on how to make important decisions affecting your Social Security payments. And unlike so many others out there, I’m not trying to sell you anything or steer you in a certain direction. I’m just sharing the education I got when doing in-depth research and speaking with the experts when trying to figure out my own Social Security situation before retiring. Click here for your free copy.