What is your ikigai?

image-20170207-8356-wqn8i6You’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself, “What is my What?” That’s perfectly okay, and totally understandable. I stumbled across this word doing some research for this blog, and it fascinated me. The word is derived all the way to the beautiful sandy islands of Okinawa, in the East China Sea. According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study, men and women in Okinawa live an average of seven years longer than Americans and have one of the longest disability-free life expectancies in the world.

What have they discovered that we Americans haven’t? Among other things, Okinawans eat off of smaller plates, stop eating when they’re 80% full, and have a beautiful setup wherein they’re put into social groups as babies to slowly grow old together. But they also have an outlook on life that is very different from those in the West. While we think of retirement as the golden age of golf greens and cottage docks, guess what they call retirement in Okinawa?

They don’t. They don’t even have a word for it. Literally nothing in their language describes the concept of stopping work completely. Instead, one of the healthiest societies in the world has the word ikigai (pronounced like “icky guy”), which roughly translates to “the reason you wake up in the morning.” It’s the thing that drives you most.

Volunteerism-780x658That’s what I really wanted to focus on in this blog. Retirement is so much more than just getting your finances in order, making sure you have health care costs are covered and getting a plan together to make sure you have enough money to last throughout retirement. All of these things are important, don’t get me wrong, but if you don’t have a “life plan” in place as well, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

A good advisor can help you manage your money. A great advisor can help you try to make money. A knowledgeable advisor that takes the time to get to know you, beyond your money, is a true asset and friend. It is this quality that I think sets us apart from any other wealth management group, we listen. We really do want to get to know your vision of how you see the future years.


Having the “pre-retirement” talk is one of the things we focus on here at Cannon Wealth Management Services. Typically, younger people don’t think of planning for their retirement early on. They don’t feel as if it is a topic to discuss with their advisor until they are closing in on it.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Money alone does not guarantee that you will experience a happy retirement. If you don’t have anything that brings you joy and satisfaction in life in those later years, the retirement plan as a whole is flawed. Discussing your future retirement dreams with you advisor early on can help tremendously. Plus it can provide you with a road map to where you want to go in life.

Your job is what you will spend a huge amount of your existence invested in. Once that daily routine stops, the identity attached to it often stops as well. That can lead to a feeling of being displaced and not knowing how to fill the void of what used to be managed time. It often can cause spousal strife as well. How-Couples-Should-Make-Retirement-Decisions-Together-462310607Think about it, as you reach retirement, you have probably been married for almost three decades.

To not drive each other crazy, couples need a mutually acceptable game plan for the future. They need to think about and discuss how they want to spend their time, including how much time they want to spend together. Much like the “pre-retirement” talk with your financial advisor, these talks with your spouse should begin between both of you long before retirement.

Both of you need to be realistic.  After you have done some traveling and finished a few projects around the house that you may have been postponing, you need to decide how you are going to fill up your days for the rest of your life.  Without a job, you need to find your own ways to stay busy or you will become bored and expect your spouse to fill your days for you. Making sure you are proactive about filling that vacated space, once devoted to work, with other things that makes you happy will prevent the depression that may come from empty days of wondering “what now?”

Portrait of senior African American couple

To put it another way: We don’t actually want to retire and do nothing. We just want to do something we love. And I’m not talking about endless days of back nines, fishing, and sailing into the sunset. While we might want some time to do those things, you’d be surprised to learn how quickly the bloom can come off of that type of rosy retirement.

I believe that we’d all be better served by taking the concept of ikigai and distilling it into the 4 S’s:

Social: Friends, peers, and coworkers who brighten our days and fulfill our social needs.

Structure: The alarm clock ringing because you have a reason to get up in the morning, and the resulting satisfaction you get from earned time off.

Stimulation: Keeping our minds challenged by learning something new each day.

Story: Being part of something bigger than ourselves by joining a group whose high-level purpose is something you couldn’t accomplish on your own.

artistGo out and volunteer, teach a class, take a class, travel or take on a part-time job doing something you love to do, but may have never had time to do in the past. What matters most is making sure that you and your advisor spend ample time getting to know you hopes and aspirations for retirement outside of just being financially ready.

It really always comes back to one of our advisor’s favorite sayings, “When you do the right things, for the right reasons, it always works out for the best.” If you have any questions about when your should start planning your retirement, or if you want to know how to get started, please give us a call. We will be happy to help you develop a plan for today, that will put you on a path for tomorrow. But remember if you feel lost, follow your heart, find your ikigai, and remember the 4 S’s. ~ Kimberly aka PennyWise