6 retirement planning lessons from Bruce Lee

bruce lee

The legendary martial arts master, teacher, and actor has had an influence far beyond his brief life – and far beyond martial arts. Many people who have trained in martial arts or self-defense have found striking parallels between the principles of martial arts and those of other fields. In honor of the martial arts and show business pioneer, who would have turned 76 this year, here are a few things we can learn about retirement planning from Bruce Lee.

1. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” Bruce Lee was as renowned for his focus and drive as for his martial arts skills. Even while he was in the hospital recovering from an injury, he was developing new martial arts techniques in his mind and writing about them.

In retirement, focus and action are important. The sooner you start planning for retirement, the better. Reading and informing yourself are important, but you have to come up with a retirement plan and put it into action.

2. “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” Bruce Lee was dissatisfied with existing martial arts styles he had studied. So he founded his own, an eclectic and hybrid martial art called Jeet Kune Do that combined elements of different previous styles.

There are many different retirement plans and proposals out there. None of them work perfectly for everyone. You have to assess your and your family’s situation, your goals in retirement, and your income and expenses, and then devise a plan that works best for you. Financial researchers and writers can give you sound principles, but only you, possibly in consultation with a financial advisor, can combine different strategies to create a plan that works best for you.

3. “Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses. But the key to a successful retirement is staying within your budget and living your own life. Living beyond your means will quickly leave you with nothing.

4. “The possession of anything begins in the mind.” “As you think, so shall you become.” Even faced with discrimination from Hollywood and opposition from some of his own countrymen, Bruce Lee was determined to become a movie and TV star in both Hong Kong and the U.S. Success in any endeavor begins with a clear vision.

To begin planning for retirement, you need to have a clear idea of what your retired life will be like, and then planning and carrying out the steps needed to get there, regardless of obstacles.

5. “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” “Real living is living for others.” Bruce Lee spent a lot of time training others in martial arts. At a time when many Chinese martial artists felt martial arts should be kept within the race, Bruce Lee insisted on accepting Westerners as students. He also began work on a book to share his martial arts philosophies with a wide audience.

Remember that there’s much more to retirement planning than just the financial aspect. Once you have enough for a comfortable lifestyle, the question becomes, what will you do with the rest of your life and all your free time? Research shows the most satisfied and fulfilled retirees are those who spend part of each day or week serving some purpose, whether it’s running a consulting business, volunteering in their community, or simply sharing their time and experiences with younger generations.

6. “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” Bruce Lee felt contemporary martial arts styles were too rigid, and believed true martial arts should be fluid, adapting to every situation.

Retirement often doesn’t happen at a time of our choosing. Nearly half of workers retire earlier than planned, because of health, corporate restructuring, or other reasons, according to the 2015 Wells Fargo Retirement Study. Yet most were unprepared, with insufficient retirement savings. Life is unpredictable. You have to plan and be ready for contingencies.



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