July 18, 2011

Retirement FAQs

On Web sites FAQs are Frequently Asked Questions. They are the inquires that occur often enough to be predictable. The questions are followed by short, to-the-point answers that sometimes actually answers the questions. Here are my versions of FAQs for retirement advice.

How much money do I need to retire? Enough to live comfortably and handle most emergencies. You will probably end up needing more than you think. If you live in Scottsdale, La Jolla, or West Palm Beach, a lot more. Don't believe all the "rules" about how much you have to save or how little you can withdraw each year and not risk running out of money. Life is a constant adjustment to situations. No one can predict what the future will be like or how you will want to live. Stay flexible.

Won't I become bored? Maybe. But, don't you become bored now? Boredom is easily solved. Find something interesting to occupy your mind and time. Retirement is all about trying on a new you. If you become bored it is because you aren't looking hard enough for alternatives.

How do I fill all that time? You will be amazed at how quickly all that time fills up. Your real problem will be finding enough time to do all you want to do. Learning to manage the only resource you have that can never be replaced is a skill that will, in large part, determine how satisfying your retirement becomes. What to do after retirement? Your choices are limited only by you.

My spouse doesn't want me around the house all day..what do I do? Go somewhere else for a while. Take long walks, go to the library, volunteer a few times a week. Do things around the house that make him or her want you around. Part of the time do what your spouse wants to do. Part of the time do what you want to do. The rest of the time do things together.

Can I spend all day in sweats? Sure. But, a word of advice...don't. There is no need to dress up as if you are still going to work. However, lounging around all day in a bathrobe or an old sweatshirt will affect your energy and desire to make something of the day. Develop a morning routine that includes dressing well enough to leave the house, even if you don't plan to. It really does make a difference.

Can I unretire? Absolutely. That is one of the best parts of retirement, there are no firm rules. In fact you can retire, unretire, and retire again as many times as you want. Maybe you'll find that financially you could use the extra income. Maybe you like interacting with different people each day and miss the stimulation of an office or factory floor. A part time job may be perfect for you. What if you've always wanted to have your own business or turn a hobby into income? No problem. Retirement is as much about attitude and freedom as it is about your state of employment.

What will happen to my health and health insurance? If I had the answer to that I wouldn't be writing FAQs.

Did I miss an FAQ you want answered?  Comment away!

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  1. Good morning Bob.
    As I also mentioned in a recent post where you live definitely affects how much it costs in retirement. We in the hinterland can buy a very nice home for a fraction of what it costs in other areas of the country. While I do have to plow snow once in a while we don't have to worry about wide spread fires even though we live in a very forested area.
    But there are other expenses that can add up. We are currently touring Quebec Canada and they have a 13.5% sales tax here. That quickly adds up when you are buying daily beds and meals. But I guess even that is ameliorated by the fact that they have universal health care here so they don't have the $700/month expenses that my wife and I do.
    The only slight disagreement I might have with what you say, if you even want to call it a disagreement, is that you should seek something that is exciting to you to occupy your time. Finding something interesting might keep boredom at buy but finding something exciting blow it out of the water.
    Have a good day. We are off to see La Citadelle.

  2. RJ,

    I've been following your trip across Canada on your blog. I envy the experience!

    I understand your reservation about the word interesting and it not being strong enough. Maybe something you "are passionate about" would be better.

  3. I won't have any problem retiring. Now, my husband. That will be a problem.

  4. Hi Julie,

    I can tell you, from personal experience, guys normally have a tougher time retiring than women. We have much more of our self identity wrapped up in "what we do." In retirement, it becomes "Who you are." That can be an unsettling question.

  5. Bored? Sweats? Too much empty time? I'm still waiting for that! Well, that's not entirely true. I do spend a lot more time in my PJs and robe, but I'm not lounging around. I sometimes get up and do several things before my shower, so I find myself like Hugh Hefner going about my business in my robe!

    My daughter asked me last night if I was bored. Nope, I'm never bored. It's true. I always have something to do.

    One troubling thing I have noticed, though, is that I have the TV on more than before. Not all the time, but sometimes I turn it on while I'm exercising or quilting or doing paperwork. I'm only half watching it. I was just thinking last night that I'm going to put away the remote and unplug the TV, so that I will at least have to pause and think about it before I turn it on. Or I might pick out a few shows that I like to watch each week and just have the TV on for those.

    As for health insurance, don't even get me started. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent getting myself and my two daughters who are still dependents insured. We ended up on three different policies. Good grief.

    Very helpful FAQs. Thank you!

  6. GM Galen,

    These questions aren't the ones I would ask, but they do pop up often enough that someone is wondering?

    I got rid of cable but have found myself spending just as much time with Netflix (even with the impending price hike!). I must figure out a system to keep myself from watching a movie and a documentary every night.

    Health issues? As RJ noted above, places like Canada have universal health care. Too bad the place is so darn cold for too much of the year!

  7. I am seeing many people approach retirement by simply dropping from a full time employment situation down to part time. In some cases it is enough to keep things moving forward.

  8. YOR,

    You are absolutely correct. The idea that retirement means no more work is no longer a given. In fact, I've added a section on the right hand sidebar called "Reworking after Retirement" that contains lots of links on this subject.

  9. I like your FAQs. How about: Should we move? That's a conversation we had just last night when we had dinner with friends. Of course the answer depends on a lot of things, like children & grandchildren, finances & cost of living, climate preferences, etc. It's an interesting topic, and makes me wonder if talking about retirement is more interesting than retirement itself ...

  10. Sightings (at 60),

    Moving is a biggie. Several months ago I exchanged e-mails with a fellow who moved from the south to New England to be close to family. In very short order he realized he had made a big mistake by leaving all his friends and familiarity behind. Within 6 months he moved back home and reports being very happy.

    I addressed the issue of moving in a blog post last year. If you missed it, cut and paste this link: http://bit.ly/k331IA

    Moving is a topic I should revisit. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Bob,
    To add to your FAQ's why not open up an Ask Bob post and let your readers help you out. They probably have questions you would never think of.

  12. Ralph,

    I'm sure they would! I've asked for input a few times over the past year as a way to be sure I stay on target, but it is time to do it again.

    Thanks, Ralph.

  13. Good Questions.
    This is a first generation that has moved constantly for work. Our children are also moving. I think when you write that column about moving to be close to children you might keep in mind that there is an entire group that doesn't have deep roots in an area- and the children are their roots....Actually, as my mother grows elderly- we- the children- are her roots- her friends cannot care for her like we do.
    As far as living in a low cost area. Some of the things we did not look at close enough:
    availability to good health care can be very limited,
    property taxes are about double what they were in Arizona,
    inheritance taxes are much higher,
    not being in a common property state causes problems in probate for the surviving spouse.

  14. JBO,

    Your point about children being roots for parents is an excellent one. My parents moved to Arizona over 20 years ago to be close to us, even though their friends all lived back East. We were their anchors. It took some time, but this became home.

    Good point about living cost, too. High prices in one area might be balanced by lower costs in others. My house costs more than in other parts of the county. But property taxes are reasonable, state taxes aren't bad, and health care is readily available.

  15. Bob,

    I think you've given us a ton of great answers. My 86-year-old dad has an office in his condo ans a computer, fax, sprinter, scanner and phone. He dresses every morning in gray or dark blue pants, white, long-sleeved shirt in the winter, short-sleeved in the winter, dress socks and black Florsheim shoes. He doesn't wear a tie, but he has a routine. Soduko for two hours, filing, e-mails etc. He then shops at the market outside Paris and goes for a one-hour walk. It's important to look good in France no matter how old you are. I love that he takes pride in himself, and so does his wife. She's a young woman 73.

  16. Sonia,

    That is great. Your father sounds like a fascinating guy and lives in a rather pretty and exciting part of the world. The love of a younger woman can do wonders!

    I wish my 87 year old dad did more than sit in his easy chair to read and nap. He will start up again with two choirs when things pick back up in the fall. But, he has never been interested in computers and the Internet or anything that I'd classify as mind-stimulating. I don't know how his lifestyle can be satisfying but he resists all efforts to get him to try something new. Except for reading, the only thing that beaks up his week is a visit from my wife and me for lunch.

    Oh well. He seems content and it isn't my job to try and change him at this late date!

  17. I think the idea of not sitting around being bored or getting stuck in ruts should be cultivated from the time we are young. I've never been bored because I always enjoyed doing things on my own, like reading a book or magazine, taking a walk, knitting, doing beadwork or writing. I never worry about how I'll fill my time and I have so many things I can do for enjoyment.

    I worry about my sister, who is 10 years younger than me. She isn't anywhere near retirement, but she has absolutely no hobbies or anything that she loves doing. She doesn't exercise, even to take a walk for pleasure.

    To me, that's no way to live. I've been encouraging my husband, who is going to retire in about 18 months to start cultivating hobbies, like playing golf again so he doesn't get bored when he retires.

  18. Hi Joan,

    I wonder if some folks have problems staying busy, active, and involved because of our culture. Virtually all of our entertainment is passive: watching TV, watching sporting events, reading, or playing electronic games. Many only interact with others virtually by texting or e-mailing.

    It reminds me of the movie, WALL*E, in which humans have gotten so inactive they spend their lives in recliners with food delivered to them so they never have to stop watching giant TV screens.

    You are right to worry about your sister. Without work what will she become? And, by all means, take it from a guy who had no hobbies before retirement...strongly encourage your hubby to start now to find after work interests.

  19. Not sure if it is a FAQ, but this seems to be something that some people may ask at various times when the difference between quantity and quality of life is considered.

    Possible FAQ: When is it okay not to seek a medical diagnosis of a possibly debilitating or life changing condition, such as alcoholism, alzheimer's, or other degenerative disease?

    Very glad that you did not ask a commenter to answer their own FAQ


  20. QwkDrw,

    That is a tough one. It raises the questions of quality versus quantity of life and prolonging a life for a period of time but possibly bankrupting those left behind. And who makes that choice?

    I can answer for me, and me alone: quality over quantity. At a certain point, if I am being kept alive by tubes and machines with no real hope of recovering and my quality of life is non-existent, I have a directive that tells my family to end it.

    I have faith in the afterlife and would rather begin that experience than be a lump on a bed and a drain on my loved ones.

    Anyone else care to jump into this one?

  21. Nothing to this retirement gig. Most days, I'm busy figuring out how to do things I used to pay other people to do. In my spare time, I'm figuring out how to do something...practically anything at all!...either for less money, or, preferably, for free.

    Most of these tasks elude me. Note that the operative phrase at all times here is "figure out."

  22. Hi Nance,

    I sometimes wonder how I managed to squeeze work into my schedule. I certainly couldn't do it now. There is much too much to "figure out" and accomplish.

    It is a real challenge to get something done for less, for free, or inventing a whole new way of attacking a problem.

    Note: Nance writes a blog that I recently discovered and enjoy tremendously: Mature Landscaping. You will see it listed on the right sidebar. She doesn't pull any punches.

  23. Re:the end of life issue-it is very important to discuss this with your family and to make sure that the person you pick will be able to carry out your wishes. I have had to make this decision twice. It is always a difficult thing to let someone you love go,but since we had discussed this situation,I knew what I had to do.

  24. Donna,

    Thanks for your input. It is a touchy subject

    Luckily, my mom had a Do Not Resuscitate directive in place. She was able to decide she had gone on long enough and voluntarily decided to enter Hospice care last fall. She died in December.

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