July 20, 2012

The 10 Commandment Of A Satisfying Retirement

Borrowing rather liberally from a section of the Bible, I have come up with 10 "commandments" that will help you increase the odds that your retirement is a satisfying retirement. Unlike the Bible's version, none of these are necessary to keep you on God's good side, or keep you from breaking a law or two. But, at least in my view, they should form the foundation of your retirement.


Thou shall not:


Spend More than you make. There may be times in your life when this was necessary. Few of us can buy a house or car without taking on debt and a total obligation well in excess of our cash flow. College education for the kids, major medical bills...life happens. Having the ability to borrow money and temporarily go into debt is OK. What can quickly ruin your retirement, however, is spending on wants and desires in excess of what your income is. The basic rules of finance don't get suspended once you cash your last paycheck. Funding your retirement with credit cards, home equity loans, or other options that put you in a perpetual hole will not end well. 


Ignore the need for a budget. Closely related to the point above, I don't know how you can make it if you haven't kept and maintained a budget for years in advance of retirement. That need continues. In fact, when regular paychecks stop, tighter control over your income and expenses is even more vital. The old rule of thumb is you should plan on spending roughly 80% of what you spent before retirement. I suggest that "rule" no longer applies. You should develop a budget based on your resources and what you think you will spend. If those two numbers work for you, then the percentage is not terribly important. But, you must maintain a budget.


Assume others will take care of you. By others I mean the government, your old employer, your family, or winning the lottery. We have entered a new era where personal responsibility must be your primary care provider. It is likely you will receive some assistance in the form of Social Security and Medicare. If you have a pension you may receive everything you expect. Your family very well might be there for you every step of the way. But, I strongly urge you to plan as if none of that support will be there when you need it, not because I am overly cynical but because ultimately whatever happens will fundamentally affect your life, not theirs. 


Make a retirement plan and never review or change it. An overworked cliché, maybe, but still true: the only constant in life is change. That is absolutely true when you retire. There is no way you can correctly anticipate what interest rates, the stock market, real estate, or inflation will do over the next 20 or 30 years. The political process guarantees unpredictability. At the very least, once a year take a look at every assumption, every budget category, and every projection of your future income. Adjust as required.


Become bored and restless. Too many retired folks go back to work because they don't know what to do with all the free time. Others spend their days in an arm chair, watching TV or reading 8 hours a day. Still others play two rounds of golf a day, not because they love it that much, but because it fills the time. This should not happen. Time is a priceless resource. Control over how you spend it is one of the biggest pluses of retirement. Find your passion. Find something to do that jump-starts you out of bed each morning. All too soon, you will wish you didn't squander something that can't be bought, can't be stored, and can't be replaced. 


Treat a spouse or partner poorly. The entire dynamics of a relationship changes when one partner suddenly retires. To assume the person who just stopped working gets a free pass and can contribute nothing to the smooth operation of the household is not going to work. All that extra time together can be the greatest period of your relationship, or can contribute to the rapidly rising divorce rate among older Boomers. Work hard on your budget and finances...work even harder on strengthening your primary relationships.


Move right after retirement. The stress of retiring is substantial. Suddenly what your life looked like changes. Much of what gave you purpose and meaning is over. That is not the time to tear out the roots of your home life. Regardless of how much you want to move away from the rain or snow or desert, no matter how much you want to live near your grandkids....do not make that decision for at least a year. After the upheaval of not working settles down, then you are able to rationally look at what you'd be giving up and what you'd gain by moving. 


Ignore your health. I don't need to belabor this point. If you don't feel well, if you don't take care of yourself, and if you don't follow common sense steps to maintain your health, your retirement will not be all you want it to be. If you already have health issues don't stop fighting for the life you want. You have a mind and you have creativity.You are alive and you are a unique being who have things to contribute and people to love.  


Allows others to define what a satisfying retirement is (including me). This is a personal journey. Lots of people will tell you what to do or sell you a book with the 8 steps to a happy retirement. Heavens, I blog about the subject three times a week! But, the bottom line is retirement will become uniquely yours. Take all the input and suggestions you can. But, in the end, you decide what your life will look like


Become a curmudgeon. The stereotypical grumpy old man (or woman) isn't a requirement of aging. Don't become so set in your ways that you reject everything new as flawed and no match to "the good old days." No one likes to be with a grouch.


Unlike the tablets Moses gave us, these ten commandments aren't written in stone. What have I missed that should be the 11th or 12th commandment? What in your view is the most important one on my list?

25 comments:

  1. Thou shalt not become so self-absorbed with your own aches and pains that you become a pain to be around. And a second is like unto it, Thou shalt not whine.

    Thou shalt not socialize with only people your own age; thou shalt attempt to have friends of all ages.

    Thou shalt not become mentally dull; learn something-- today.

    Thou shalt not become slovenly. Tho
    Thou shalt bathe, dress, shave, and brush your teeth.

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    1. Ha....like it. Thanks for starting my day with a big smile, Florence! All good commandments.

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    2. Just call me Lady Moses!! LOL,!

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  2. That's good Flo. In response to not becoming grumpy or treating your spouse poorly I'd like to suggest a book. I am taking a class at church on The 5 Love Languages by Gary (?) Chapman. I read it years ago when it first came out. Now I find I understand it better and it is for sure helping me understand and show love to the better half more effectively. Getting used to being around each other 24/7 is not easy. Raising kids, working, a living day to day can become so automatic. Sometimes you have to get to know each other again.

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    1. You have the author's name correct, Sue. Gary has two books in that series, one written especially for men.

      For many newly retired couples it is almost like starting over, but with fewer of the distractions and pressures the first time around.

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  3. Great post, and all good ideas. Except I'm not so sure about the last one. If B and I didn't laugh along with each other about how silly twitter is, how enslaved the young ones are to their I-products; and how much better dead-tree books are than digitalized books . . . why, we'd have nothing to talk about!

    So is it okay to be a curmudgeon, as long as we do it ironically?

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    1. Ironically and in private.

      Also, no wearing plaid pants and a striped shirt or black socks with sandals....ever.

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    2. Does that mean no sandals with ANY socks ... EVER? Just occasionally give me jeans and sandals with white crew socks.

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    3. White socks are always OK...except with black shoes!

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  4. Great list Bob. I think you have hit most things.
    Sue, that is the book my daughter gives each of her engaged friends! She claims that she and her husband reread it yearly (they have been married five years). I think I will go out and buy one for us. Thanks for the great idea!

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  5. How about:

    " Thou shalt not let Fear (of change, of aging, of uncertainty, of people who are different from you, of new experiences, etc.) dominate and diminish your days." ?

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  6. Hi Steve. I haven't heard from you for a while. How are things going? By the way I'm about to start guitar lessons in a few days...easier than a banjo but still fun.

    Fear of change is a great addition. Too often that keeps us locked in place or turns us in a grumpy old person.

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  7. Very good! I think each of us has our own 10 commandments...now if we would just live by them.

    b

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  8. Ach, would that I could check off every one of your items, but sadly, no. #2, budget, is the crux of the matter. One cannot go from no budget to tight control over every dollar in an instant. And I just can't make Quicken work for me. I used Quickbooks at work, and I can't find or do anything I'm used to doing in Quicken. However, most of my normal expenses are paid by credit card (yes, paid off in full monthly) or by online banking bill pay, so are easy to track. Trickiest part for me is impulse purchases. Now that I'm attempting to avoid them all together, its amazing how often the impulse arises. Maybe this will get easier with more experience.

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  9. Could you use Quickbooks at home? I have used Quicken for years, but also used the business version for my own business. If you are more familiar with it the $130 or so would seem worth it.

    Good for you paying off the credit cards every month. That is so important over the longterm. I'm sure most credit card companies aren't happy with me: I can count on one hand the number of months I have ever carried a balance.

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  10. Thou shalt not plan every minute of each day nor shall thou leave every minute entirely open. Unto all things there is balance.

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    1. Moderation and balance = the 11th & 12th commendments.

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  11. Note: QwkDrw tried to add this comment yesterday but Google was being uppity. Here were his comments. (Bob).

    From the perspective here, you seem to have a good start for your not-written-in-stone tablets. Actually, having the top of the list populated with items related to planning for living probably reflects an accurate priority to set a solid foundation. Don’t have any to add or subtract right now. Others of ability surely will.

    It is interesting that all teachings in this post are well structured to follow, “Thou shall NOT ….” Just a question here (and opportunity for ministry): Is that the same in God’s “10 Commandments” (via stone tablets)

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    1. Actually eight of the ten begin "You shall not." The other two are simply stated as rules: Honor your father and mother and Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.

      If you believe Mel Brooks in his movie about this event, there were 15 commandments but Moses dropped one of the tablets.

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  12. Good advice. I especially like #4. Life is fluid, even in retirement.
    b

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  13. Very good list, Bob, and these really apply whether or not you are in retirement. I think #7 is key, and it doesn't apply to just moving. As I learned in a recovery program, you should not make any major decisions for about a year after a big change in your life, whether it be retirement, a death of a spouse, or giving up an addiction.

    And I like Florence's suggestion to make friends with people of all ages. My 83-year-old mother recommends hanging out with people of different ages, especially those younger than you. She says it keeps her young too (although she is in denial about how old she really is LOL).

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  14. Thou shalt be active every day or thou wilt drive both thyself and thy spouse crazy before the end of the day!

    That one may be more specific to my particular basket of energy, but lordy does my day go better when I abide by it!

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  15. One more suggestion (learned the hard way as many are) ---- along with not moving, or making other major life changes in the first year of retirement, thou shalt NOT take on new pets (especially puppies) immediately after retiring.

    I also relate to the other comment about not having a budget (yes, that was a nightmare much of the time) & living on monthly paychecks, with a new requirement to have a savings account (nope, never had one of those before either...thought it was about time, in my '60's to have one)

    I enjoyed the other suggestions/comments. This is a wonderful post......I re-read it often (but have been busy enough that I am just now getting around to commenting on it)

    pam

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    1. Well, we got a new puppy shortly after retiring and it didn't work well but that was more because of the dog and our poor training technique. After waiting 5 years we got Bailey in March and it has been a tremendous boon to our life.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts!

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