October 16, 2022

Retirement Pitfalls To Avoid

 




I know there are more than seven things to avoid as you move toward, and then through, your satisfying retirement. But, in the interest of brevity I have picked these examples of things to avoid.

Of these seven, I committed three of them early on. Even so, twenty one years later things are progressing very nicely. None of those screw-ups was fatal to my journey.  OK, so what are the seven miscues of retirement?


1) Try to copy your parent's retirement. Except in rare cases this is not going to happen. The days of solid company pensions and gold-plated health care coverage are not coming back. Responsibility for a happy retirement lifestyle is now firmly ours to determine.

Another important difference is probably your approach to your health. Never terribly active, my mom and dad stopped any type of physical activity shortly after retirement. I firmly believe that destroyed the quality of life for my mom's last few years and quickened her death. 

2) Try to copy a friend's retirement. Retirement is as unique as you are. Wanting to live like Bill or Sally or whomever is not likely to work. It is as pointless as "keeping up with the Joneses" during your working days.

The mix of financial, emotional, relational, and health status that defines you means your retirement must be built for you. If anything positive has come from the Covid pandemic, it is the realization that most of us can be happy and satisfied on much less than we thought possible. Your best friend spends his summers in the south of France, you in Portland. Are you happy? Then, send your friend a postcard.

3) Do whatever a web site or books tells you. I have written tens of thousands words on the risks involved in depending on others to design your retirement for you. It is important that you educate yourself, using all the resources you can. But, it is just as important that you adapt all those suggestions and ideas to your needs, your interest, and your comfort zone.

4) Assume things will work out. This laissez-faire approach to something as important as the next 20 or 30 years of your life is risky. Maybe you have always landed on your feet: great job, lots of money, loving spouse and cute, well-behaved children, an in-law you like...Not so fast. Life has a habit of throwing you a curve ball just when you least expect it.

Things will work out, but probably not how you'd like them to. Proactivity is a much safer course to a retirement lifestyle you want.

5) Count on financial promises and performances to remain unchanged. When I retired in June of 2001 I had a budget that had been under development for several years. I based it on my experience and best guesses. Boy, was I wrong. Most importantly, over the next several years my investments didn't produce nearly as much as I had expected. My financial advisor made a few really bad recommendations that I accepted and lost enough money to bother me.

A bank that I had tens of thousands invested in went belly up. When do banks go under? Also, I failed to anticipate the massive, annual, increases in the cost of health care insurance for Betty and me. Who would have thought any industry could try to drive away its customers with 15% increases year after year? It took a fair amount of scrambling on our part to stem to bleeding and adjust to the new reality but we did and it has worked out well...thank goodness for Medicare!

6) Not trusting your instincts and decisions. I have become a firm believer in my innate instincts and "gut." I am continually gathering information and constantly relooking at our finances and lifestyle choices. As time went on, though, I gained more confidence in my ability to make a good decision based on what seems right to me. I have made mistakes that have cost me money and wasted time. Occasionally,  I have followed a path that turned out to be unsatisfying for me or Betty. But, overall, I now will trust an instinct rather than be stuck in a no-decision mode for an extended period.

7) Panic. Oh boy, did I fall into this trap. After retiring I had major night terrors over my decision. Even though I had done a thorough job of planning, I kept feeling I had forgotten to take something really, really important into account. As point #5 above notes, I did forget or overlook some things that cost me.

But, the panic I felt was much more general: we'd run out of money at an early age and live on the streets. My parents' estate would turn out to be built on sand and we'd have to find room for them in our house. I would never find a passion and spend my last years in an easy chair, watching game shows.

Panic is part of the first phase of almost all retirements. After such a huge lifestyle change that is normal. What is self-defeating is to let panic debilitate you and cause you to make choices based on fear or anxiety.

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Your turn. What mistakes have you made that you'd advise others to avoid? If you could go back in time what would you do differently? A satisfying retirement is a nonstop learning experience for us all.

16 comments:

  1. The first thing everyone wants to talk about are aches and pains and upcoming procedures. My Mom dealt with this in her card club. When it started up she said "we all have aches and pains, we're getting older. I don't want to hear about it. We're here to play cards, enjoy time together and have something to eat". Her dying advice to me was "dont' be angry about what you can't do, be happy about what you CAN do". Heck, she had me get her up to her walker and she walked once across her home just 48h before she died. Why? Because she could :-)

    As for retirement, I concur with everything already stated. If I could give advice to my younger self it would be to start reading retirement blogs at age 20. Problem is, I don't think I would have believed ya'll ;-)

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    1. I have experienced the "health talk" at a church small group I used to attend. Several of the ladies were older than me, and I was one of only two guys in the group. I don't if my presence affected the discussions, but it became a liitle depressing.

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  2. I have been frugal since our financial train wreck that was 1987-1992. Overextended doesn't describe our situation after tax law changes. I do indeed squeeze every quarter still. That said, I have no issue taking a great vacation and staying in nice hotels with a comfy rental car. I had no issue this week putting $40 in an envelope for a neighbor Mom who couldn't afford her daughter's almond milk/cereal because payday is a week away. (I love our FB Buy-Nothing group who freely ask/give). Cheers to being frugal AND to spending freely!!!!

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    1. Elle: the post first published this morning was from 8 years ago and the wrong version. So, I have posted the correct one and moved your two comments to here. I know you were responding to a comment that no longer exists: my fault, not yours!

      Thank you, as always for participating.

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    2. BTW, Elle, when I retired at age 52 there where no retirement blogs that didn't focus just on finances. During our younger years we didn't have much information to help us.

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  3. Even after 10 years I STILL feel a little odd that I don’t have as much of a travel itch as “most” ‘retirees. I do like to get away.Covid put a real crimp in a couple of trips we had planned (join the club,right??) but overall I don’t have a huge travel bucket list and I tend to like to go to the same places (beaches mostly) over and over. That said I have found that your own unique mix of relaxation entertainment time together time apart time with friends time alone and stimulating activities, leads to a lot more pleasure than trying to fit a “‘prescription.” AND, the mix has changed, for me, anyway,.from year to year ! I overdid it with volunteering a couple of years, now I don’t do any! (But that may change again soon..)

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    1. Tbere are times when I feel as if I should delete the first several years of blog posts. My experieneces and opinions have changed enough that some of those posts from 2010-2013 are no longer reflective of my beliefs.

      Like you, travel has slipped much farther down my list of things I want to do. Time does change us.

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  4. My terrors about retirement are reflected in the title of my blog, "Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting", which I started in 2010. Really, there's no sure way to predict what's going to happen, healthwise or financially.

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    1. I understand, but I am pretty sure you do not have "bag lady" in your future, except as a creative outlet!

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  5. We have found it helps to try and nurture and maintain friendships with a wide circle of age groups thereby attempting to stay current and understand how younger people (non retirees) currently see the world. This is particularly helpful for retirees without children or grandchildren. It’s never easy to step outside the family / neighbourhood circle and make new friends but we have found it to be rewarding.

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    1. I salute your efforts to connect with various age groups. Seniors can begin to calcify without interactions with younger people...who rarely want to talk about their health!

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  6. Where do you go to meet younger people?

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    1. That is an excellent question. Volunteering is the first thing that comes to mind, like a food bank or a group that cleans up the environment.

      There is also offering to tutor or mentor a younger person. If you are a church-goer there are usually small groups with mixed ages.

      A book club at your library, or a group of people who are supporters of one of the political parties usually has those of different ages.

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    2. Thanks, this provides a great start for me!

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  7. As a retired RN for the past 8 years (has it really been that long)?, my husband +I traveled when we were in our 20s, 30s,40s + early 50s. I took the advice of an older lady, when I worked in a nursing home, who told me "You go travel with your husband now. Don' t wait till you are old + sick." Best advice yet..We had the energy to party, to exercise, take a helicopter ride to a private island near St Thomas (without cellphones..something I wouldn't chance now), go to a nudist colony (very interesting) in Jamaica, and do all kinds of fun stuff! We don't travel now but live 2 miles from Newport, RI, where there is something going on all the time. We live 4 miles from a popular beach + frequent there in the summertime. When I first retired, of course I wondered about The Money, but like you said, Bob, you can live on alot less than you think you can! I enjoyed your post.

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    1. Readers: follow this reader's advice and do what you want while you can ( maybe not the nudist colony!). We traveled a lot when we were first married and with the kids when they were young.

      While we do have a river cruise from Paris scheduled next year, both my wife and I are winding down our travel urges. We are quite satisfied to indulge in our hobbies and local trips. Life is a series of cycles and our cycle now is a bit more rooted.

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