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.

15 comments:

  1. Bob, some great advice here. As a corollary, I'd say another problem is that many people make no plan at all -- they just think retirement will take care of itself and they end up like you did for a while, spending too much time reading, napping and watching old movies . . . not that there's anything wrong with any of that! But as you say, here's your chance to do something for yourself, something you like to do and think is important, regardless what anyone else (like a parent or boss) thinks. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we should all take advantage of it!

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    1. Freedom cuts both ways, doesn't it. It is easier to drift and find time simply sliding by. It is easier to assume things will sort themselves out. It takes some effort to find and exploit opportunities and treat time as the ultimate resource.

      Retirement is what you make it.

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  2. I especially like #2. Since I retired I became a certified mediator. I'd wanted to take a class in the first year of my retirement, but had no idea I'd continue on, or that would be such a joy for me. And I would NEVER have guessed I'd make four trips to Greece to volunteer at a refugee camp. The experience has been life changing. Being open to new possibilities has been a great gift.

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    1. Your trips to Greece are a powerful example of what can happen when we open ourselves up to something new. It has been fascinating to read your blog as you have shared how deeply these trips and experiences have affected you.

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    2. Very nice, You provide more clarity about retirement financial plans trips and experience that affects all of us.It provides information about the potential future events and their consequences. Thanks to share this blog.

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  3. My friend cannot bend knees or hips. He eats, sleeps, and sits in his recliner. He retired in January. I bought him a puzzle book but he does not work the crossword puzzles. I worry about him because he does not read much, move much, and has no plans at all. He drives 75 miles once a week to visit me and we go to free lunches at churches three of those weeks. I suggest a drive to the lake in town or we go see where things have happened--like the destruction of a local landmark. Neither of us can actually walk around.

    He has never had any hobbies or interests outside of church or Dr. Who Club. I always have had many interests, but none interest him--sewing and such.

    He is only 64, educated, and never married. I worry.

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    1. I'd be worried, too. 64 is too young to appear to have given up. Depression is a serious problem for retired folks who don't have interests, close relationships, and suffer from serious physical limitations. He needs to see a counselor but I doubt he'd agree.

      Does he have a computer or show any interest in technology? For someone who has mobility problems spending time on the Internet can open up a whole new world.

      If he is interested in what is happening at his church, that would be one place I would contact. Maybe a pastor or someone who specializes in engaging with older folks can visit him and try to get him more involved with activities there.

      You are obviously a good friend and doing what you can.

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    2. I was worried about my father being alone at 88 but he is involved with the senior group at church - suggest that your fried join any outings they have, usually low or no cost. I also bought dad a 10 inch laptop (neither too big or little) I showed him how to use the "Hey Google" feature, he can say what he wants to see. He likes RV's and Auctions so I book marked a few sites. Easy, no fuss and he enjoys it.

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    3. I am 79 and I worked up until a year ago. I worked too long out of necessity and it ruined what was left of my health. I have feet, knee and back problems and find it too difficult to do much of anything. My infrequent outings take several days to get over, so therefore I do not go out much. I work on the computer several hours a day and watch a lot of TV and read some. This works well for me and am rarely depressed. I become depressed when I remember that I am the only one of my generation still living so do not dwell on it. Just like a budget it is different for everyone and you may be worrying about your friend more than necessary.

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  4. The concept or practice of waiting can work both ways. Sometimes I get impatient and I want to jump into something before I have enough clarity to know if that is a good plan for me. Waiting becomes a needed part of the discernment process. Other times, as you say, we can sit around passively waiting for life to bring us what we want instead of taking responsibility to seize opportunities.

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    1. Good point. Waiting can cut both ways. I must admit I tend to rush forward even when waiting for more clarity would be better.

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  5. I retired 2.5 yrs ago and husband 2 yrs ago. We had no real plans but knew we wanted to travel and spend winters in Fl.. All was well till this Feb while we were in Fl we found out husband has cancer now all of our retirement is in question. Silly us we thought money might be what we would be concerned with but now it is health.

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    1. I am so sorry about the cancer situation. I am sure all the blog readers will wish you and hubby the very best.

      Something like a serious disease can certainly change our mindset. It reminds us what is ultimately most important.

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  6. Bob, in hindsight, one can see choices that could have been made differently. Yet, they seemed like perfectly sensible choices at the time, and perhaps even seemed to be the only right way to go. People grow and change through their experiences, and you are generous to share what you have learned. However, I can think of far worse decisions a person could make: blowing the retirement nest egg on dodgy investments, overspending on big consumer items in early retirement (e.g., boat, expensive renovations), delaying retirement too long until ill health overtakes you, failing to save for retirement and having to continue to work into old age, isolating yourself at home because it seems easier that meeting new people/trying new things, breaking up with your long term spouse and the negative financial, emotional and social consequences that come with that. See, I am great at thinking up disastrous scenarios!!

    Jude

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    1. Well, there is an uplifting list! Seriously, most of what you list does fall into one of the three general categories above, but specific examples can help remind us of how far off the rails we can go.

      One of the fastest growing issues is divorce among those 65+. In fact, seniors lead the way in divorces, based on a percentage basis. And as you correctly note, the consequences can wreck even the best of plans and lives.

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