October 21, 2018

Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go: Is This A Smart Retirement Life Plan?




I have written before about the three stages of retirement: excitement and euphoria, then panic and fear, followed by settling in and enjoying the freedom.

But, Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go is a bit different. Instead of thinking about time management or finding a passion, these three phrases do an excellent job of describing an approach to a satisfying retirement journey from an activity standpoint. 

We are aware of the changes in our energy level, physical stamina, and overall health as we age.  Obsessing about this reality is a waste of time. What we can do is manage our approach to living to match what is likely to occur.


During the Go-Go stage we have the energy, physical and mental stability, and desire to do things. We have determined that our financial situation will allow us to splurge for the time being. For many this means travel. This is the time for that extended road trip, tour the country in an RV, take a walking tour across Ireland, board a cruise for a trip across the Pacific, visit the Holy Land...whatever is part of your dream list. We are at the peak of our retirement health and monetary stability. 

For others, Go-Go might mean going back to school to get the degree you have always wanted. Hours of studying, rushing from classroom to classroom, balancing a home life and a school life is not for the faint of heart.

For the athletically inclined The Go-Go phase means ski trips, long distance bike rides, taking part in swim meets, joining the tennis club and perfecting your backswing. It means a real dedication to workouts at the gym or extended walking commitments.


At some point, and it differs for all of us, we move into the Slow-Go period of retirement. With a diminished energy level, maybe less physical  stamina, or a need to pull back on spending, the focus becomes a bit closer to home. This is when we think about remodeling or improving our home, or even downsizing so there is less maintenance to worry about. 

Slow-Go doesn't have to mean no travel, just trips that tax us a little less. Maybe a packaged tour takes the place of independent trips. A long weekend in a favorite place instead of a 2 week driving tour sounds more appealing.

Instead of going back to college full time, Slow-Go is the time for enrichment classes at the local community college. It is the phase when hobbies become more important. With more time at home, we develop our woodworking, quilting, writing, or auto repair skills. Starting a home-based business built around one of these hobbies often occurs. 

The third stage, No-Go, is when our interests, desire, stamina, and health are more likely to limit what we can safely and comfortably do. Importantly, I want to emphasize that No-Go does not mean being parked in from of a TV 6 hours a day, or glued to your easy chair. It doesn't mean cocooning inside your four walls. 

Rather, this is the perfect time to work on projects and interests close to home. Online courses in subjects you've always wanted to explore, a reading plan centered on a deeper study of a favorite author, period of history or subject, and games designed to keep your mind stimulated are excellent options. A day trip organized by your local senior center might be fun and get you out of the house. Spending more time with your extended family members or friends can be a good fit. 



No-Go may involve a tightened budget as health costs increase. But, with less travel, expensive vacations, and major house remodels, your financial direction can more easily be adjusted.

These three activity and energy stages are a natural part of the aging process. Each of us moves from stage to stage on our own unique timetable. That difference is important to respect in ourselves and others. This awareness is extra-important if a spouse or partner is not in the same phase as you.

Again, I want to emphasize that these stages do not affect your ability to have a fully satisfying retirement. Like all of life, we are happiest when our abilities, interests, and goals are in alignment.

18 comments:

  1. I myself skipped the first two phases of retirement and went straight to "settling in and enjoying the freedom." I'm not sure I was EVER a Go-Go type of person; but I hope to extend the Slow-Go for many more years.

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    1. No one developed the writing and business skills you had without at least a touch of Go-Go" carried into early retirement! If I were honest, I think I am transitioning into the Slow-Go phase, too. Extended vacations or living in a Yurt in Mongolia are not on my to-do list.

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  2. The "Go-Go" years immediately after retire from your job are when you are healthiest and still have the energy to do pretty much what you want. This is when you should do the things you always wanted to do that the demands of work kept you from doing. Take that month long trip to Europe, climb Kilimanjaro, or ride a motorcycle across the country -- whatever it is you feel you've always wanted to do but didn't have the time. You will never again be this healthy or have more energy than you do now.

    In the first few years of retirement you may find that spending is higher than you expected and this can cause a lot of worry that you'll "run out of money" but this is your time, enjoy it. Sooner or later you'll slow down, I would guess that's in about 10 years for most people give or take.

    Most of the financial rules for withdrawing your retirement savings I read about assume level inflation adjusted spending throughout your retired life but this isn't the way it is for most of us. As you point out Bob, we do slow down as we get older and less taxing (and less expensive) activities closer to home become the norm. I have seen this with my parents and grandparents as they aged, my wife's family were the same. By the time you reach the "No-Go" years puttering around the house and occasional visits with friends and family are often a day well spent.

    I once read in a financial article that in retirement money is the scarcest resource. I think the author had this wrong. When you are of retirement age time is the scarcest resource. You can always get more money -- go back to work, downsize your house, whatever -- but you can never get more time. Use it wisely.


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    1. Time is the only priceless resource we have. There is no reboot or do-over if it is squandered.

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    2. Having battled through a recent health scare I'd add that it is not just time, but Time + Health that is scarce. If you are retired and feel good - get out there and do stuff! You won't feel great forever :) You may have a lot of time left, but only so much healthy energy time.

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  3. Great post and a great reminder that our retirement lives will follow these three phases. Too many people maybe so focused on not spending their dollars early on when they can enjoy them the most for fear of depleting their account for their later years. And I agree that the retirement calculators assume level spending increased yearly for inflation which, as you have stated, will not occur. This is not to say blow your savings early on but just be aware it will probably go down as time passes so don’t sweat it so much early on. I have read that retirement spending actually follows a smile curve. Higher early on then lower as folks wind down and often higher again due to medical costs. So enjoy the Go Go phase.

    Another point to consider as retirees consider their Go Go phase is that it may not be the 10+ years they hope. All too often health concerns can occur and severely limit your ability to do those things you wanted to do. How sad to put things off and then not be physically able to do them. Carpe diem. Time really is precious.

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    1. To your point I have read that while overall life expectancies have been steadily rising, the stretch of life when we are healthy and free of disabilities has hardly changed. A 60-year-old woman today has a good chance of living to the age of 90, yet the disability-free life expectancy is still roughly 70.

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    2. I recalled that one of my uncles used to say: "Remember, you are dead for a long time". All too true.

      He was of Scottish background so I assume it's a variation of the old Scottish Proverb: "Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead." Either way the message is clear.

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  4. Since we lived go- go while we were in our 40's, we are happy with Slow Go for a LONG time. Sometimes I think I would like to join the OccasionalNomads, but then I head out into my garden and feel very content. Our slow go entails a great deal of travel - mostly to see family.My husband is putting away his crabbing boat for another year- after hoping for just one weekend that we both would be here AND the weather was good. I travel to see mom three times a year, up to New York to take the grands to a play and over to Maryland into DC with another set of grands. Add in a trip to Israel or Europe....not too slow of a go.
    Watching our family history, seems we will have slow go for another 10-15 years (80/85).
    No go? Hoping the kids will be settled by then and we can figure out where that No Go will be spent.....

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    1. As Jeff and David note above it is hard to predict the length of each of these phases. I think Betty and I actually were in a Slow-Go phase for the first 6 or 7 years of retirement. Then, the RV purchase in 2012 and traveling to see friends kicked things up a notch. After 17 years we are bouncing back and forth between Go-Go and Slow-Go.

      The important point is not to worry about the label but to match your interests and energy level, while keeping an eye on the financial situation.

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  5. Hi Bob! You know I had to read your SMART recommendations and think there is a great deal of wisdom in the Go-go, Slow-go, and no-go approach. While my husband and I are only semi-retired, I think it still applies. The only thing I would change or recommend is that people NOT wait until slow-go to reconsider downsizing (or rightsizing as I call it). The reason is that my husband and I did that in our 50's and what it allows us to do is not only get all of our properties in a free and clear position, but also reduce on the time and energy that it takes to maintain and manage bigger homes and lifestyle. So when we are in the go-go stage we actually will have a lot more money to enjoy all the options, but when we are in the other stages we will be much more financially secure. Just another way to think about it. ~Kathy

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    1. A wise move, Kathy. The simpler one's life is, in both financial and possession terms, the easier it becomes to take a dream trip or go back to college, orv whatever qualifies as a Go-Go activity.

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  6. This post relates to retirement, but in a way, it also relates to the whole arc of our lives. It reminds me a bit of Richard Rohr's book that you and I both enjoyed -- Falling Upward -- about the second half of life.

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    1. I have read (and purchased) virtually everything Richard Rohr had written.Thank you so much for your recommendation. And, yes, I see the connection.

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  7. I found this very interesting and a good way to recognize what season you are in. I believe I started my retirement in the No-Go stage due to health restrictions and I'm moving toward the Slow-Go as I improve. I like that you pointed out that the No-Go doesn't mean you just stop. I love the song, Put One Foot in Front of the Other, from the animated Christmas movie - Santa Claus is Coming to Town. If you just put one foot in front of the other, pretty soon you'll be walking out the door. We just have to keep going.

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    1. ...or, a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.

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  8. I am 62 and my husband is 69. Over the last couple of years, I have noticed that Rob is slowing down. He is less interested in travelling, and likes to have time for an afternoon nap. While I have also slowed down from my frenetic pace during my working life, a discrepancy between our energy levels is becoming apparent. I would guess that this might happen for a lot of couples, given the societal tendency for men to marry women younger than them. However, I don’t think I have ever read a discussion of this on a retirement blog — e.g., the implications for retirement planning or impacts on relationships. A topic that you might tackle in the future?

    Jude

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    1. Yes, that might be something to explore.

      Betty and I are pretty evenly matched in energy. She is 5 years younger than I am, but has had a lot of medical challenges so she finds she runs out of steam by mid afternoon. Luckily, we seem to be in the same stage (somewhere between Go-Go and Slow-Go).

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