June 23, 2018
The 3 Worst Things You Can Do in Retirement: How To Avoid Them
Of course, there are all sorts of mistakes we make as we move through the retirement phase of life. I know, I committed many of them over the past 17 years. Some are just irritating or a waste of time. Some are from lack of knowledge until we have the experience to choose wisely.
The three listed below are among the most serious things we can do to sabotage our satisfying retirement. Why? Because they can chew up large chunks of time as you wait for things to sort themselves out.
1) To insist on following a pre-retirement plan, without change.
This is a biggie. I know, I did it. Being a very organized person, I had everything plotted out when my wife and I decided it was time to shut down my business and retire. I had worked on a budget for months. I met with my adviser several times to review where I stood and what I hoped to accomplish. I had no real hobbies or interests outside of work, but figured things would work themselves out. I figured I'd just push the start button and cruise for the next twenty five years.
Well, that was a mistake. Things did sort themselves out, but not for two years. My budget was great, except I forgot to allow for health care costs and increases once I was no longer covered by my plan at work. I forgot about vacations; I'm retired, who needs to take vacations? I underestimated the damage of inflation on my investments. I worried so much my wife offered to find a job, a job she hated, but her income made us both feel a little better. After a year of that, I asked her to quit. Watching her drive off to a job she despised while I sat at home and stewed was worse.
My lack of interests meant way too much time reading, napping, and watching old movies. Not until three years after retiring did I find something that became a lifelong interest. Once that barrier was broken, other passions quickly followed.
I learned that planning is very important, a specific plan is not. Retirement is about constant adjustments, to fiances, interests, needs versus wants, relationships. The two years I forced my life into my pre-arranged plan made things much rockier than they needed to be.
2) To wait for something good to begin.
That isn't the best way to approach your new life. Unlike work where your every move might have been under the control of others, retirement is when you can call most of the shots or simply be open to an opportunity. Waiting for something to develop just means missed opportunities, missed experiences, missed discoveries.
Here is a good example from my life. Quite out of the blue I was asked to help newly released prisoners adjust to life on the outside. This was something completely outside of my realm of experience. I had never had contact with anyone who had gone through this process. Even so, I was aware that transitioning back into society can be quite difficult.
In any case, I said, yes. That decision lead to a six year involvement with a prison ministry organization. I went inside several state facilities to meet with the inmates before being released, and then was part of their life for at least six months after release. Being open to trying something totally out of my comfort zone lead to one of the most meaningful things I have done since I retired.
3) To live in fear that your retirement will disappoint you.
If that is how you approach what lies ahead, that fear of disappointment could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So much of what happens in retirement is under your control that disappointment should not paralyze you from taking steps to explore your potential.
That said, I am not Mr. Rogers, where everything is sunny in my neighborhood. I am well aware that things can go wrong. Goals you plan for aren't met. Unexpected expenses put stumbling blocks in your path. The life you thought you'd live isn't working out.
First of all, every single one of those mishaps can happen while you are employed. Being alive guarantees problems and challenges. But, retirement is the time of life when you have so much more leeway to adjust and change. Sure, disappointment may (and probably will) occur during the 20 or 30 years of your journey. But, living in fear of what may happen just sucks the joy out of your day.
If you are smart enough, dedicated enough, and disciplined enough to retire then you are quite capable of overcoming what life may throw your way. Or, if the problem is the kind that can't be overcome, then you can adjust. Have faith and keep moving forward.
What do retired people do? They strive to eliminate these mistakes.