January 10, 2019

Retirement Advice: Do You Have Urgent Needs?

Have you noticed how many websites or blogs use some sort of sensational headline to grab your attention? Sort of like the one above? With hundreds of millions of them on the Internet, sometimes word play is required to break through the clutter.

I will offer a calmer, somewhat counter-intuitive answer to the question posed by the headline: What are retirement's urgent needs? My answer is: none. That's right, there are no retirement urgent needs. 

That is the whole point of building a satisfying retirement. When you get to the point where retirement is a viable option there should be no urgent needs. Now, that obviously doesn't mean you won't encounter problems and needed adjustments to your goals or lifestyle. But, to claim there are five or seven or whatever number of things you must do or your retirement will crash and burn, is simply untrue.

Let me explain my rational. In order to consider retirement I am going to assume the following:

  • You have looked closely at your investments and sources of income, savings, and a projected budget. You have reduced any debts to the lowest amount you can. You have at least 6 months of emergency cash available if you should need it. You believe you can make it all work. 
  • You have done the best you can to plan for health care costs. That includes health insurance, thinking about long-term care plans, and some of the emergency fund money for a major medical expense. You are holding up your end of the equation with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet.
  • You have talked through the effect of your retirement on your key relationships. If married, you and your spouse have discussed the effect of you being home 24/7. If single, you have talked with your friends or other family members to advise them of your plans and enlist their (non- financial) help if needed.
  • You know what you are retiring to. That means you have some interest or passions (or several) that will keep you active and engaged. While it is almost guaranteed that those interests and passions will change over time, you are not entering retirement with no idea how you will fill your day with productive and interesting activities.

If you can check off these four areas, then your retirement has no urgent needs. Retirement is simply the transition to the next stage of your life. It isn't the end of anything. It is not a destination. It is just a step forward into something different, just a fascinating part of your journey.

If you have urgent needs, then you aren't ready for a satisfying retirement. If you have any choice in the matter, then don't retire when these needs are still in play.

Life is a collection of needs, wants, problems, solutions, adventures, disappointments, and successes. That doesn't stop when you retire, but there is no reason to add urgency to the list.


  1. From Whitepages.com, I see that you are 69 and Betty is 64 in Chandler, AZ. I'm 70 and Vicki is 59 here in Burbank CA. Thanks so much for all your articles as we navigate this unusual retirement adventure after working for 50 years. It has its challenges but I love reading your stories which helps us know we're not alone on this path.

    1. I am glad you are finding value in these articles, Bruce. After 17 years, I have learned a lot about what makes a satisfying retirement, and what doesn't. But, frankly, I learn just as much from reader comments and ideas.

  2. I felt a much greater sense of urgency when I first retired, but I think that was mostly anxiety about whether we would do ok financially, what we would do all day in the same space, etc. One I relaxed into the situation (well covered in your bullet points above), I found that retirement had very few urgent needs if any.

    We saw The Mule yesterday, and had an ensuing discussion about Clint Eastwood, his predicament in that film, and that led to discussing how happy people were or were not in retirement. I've learned a lot about other people's retirements reading this blog, and there are many ways to have a satisfying retirement. As Lincoln said, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."

    1. The Lincoln quote is right on the money. That urgency you felt is very natural and normal...getting past that doesn't always happen.

  3. Great checklist. We checked money and health care. The first year was about doing three and four. It took us an entire year to unwind from work before we could even talk or plan for the future.
    Biggest benefit to our retirement? Lowering of stress. My eyes got better, his blood pressure went down, all of our back pains went away, and we became best friends once again.

    1. Our 42 year marriage was the biggest beneficiary of our retirement. It is hard to keep things in proper balance when one spouse is traveling 150 days a year and too burned out when home to do much more than collapse or complain.

      Everything has been ever so much better since we have been able to devote time and attention to each hour, listen, and to dedicate ourselves to making the most important part of our life stronger.