Is Retirement More Difficult These Days?

Anyone who has spent serious time planning for retirement knows about the many challenges that might derail even the most meticulous financial plan. The unpredictable economy and possibility of health problems makes retirement extremely difficult to plan for. And strategies that worked for retirees a generation ago are nothing like what is needed these days.

Talking with my father I discover a different world not so very long ago. He was a physician in a small farm community in Stockton, Calif. His career spanned more than 35 years until he decided it was time to retire at age 67. When I ask him what he did to prepare he looks at me with a tolerant smile on his face as though humoring a confused child. Yes, he saved money along the way to build his nest egg and occasionally thought about what it would be like to be retired. But beyond that he did not waste his time worrying.

For him the biggest decision was when to retire. Because of the nature of his job, he was not forced to call it quits at age 65. In fact, other doctors work well into their 70’s. His decision to retire at 67 was due in large part to the incredible changes taking place in the medical world. He did not like the way things were going and felt it was time to move on. With many hobbies along with numerous interests shared with my mother, he did not Bronze of Old couple on benchworry about becoming bored. As it turns out, he had no reason to worry. My parents maintain a packed calendar of events.

Can retirement really be that easy? It probably depends on whether you have prepared financially. While 21 percent of Americans say they spent two hours or more selecting a flat screen TV, only 15 percent say they spent at least that much time selecting an IRA investment, according to a recent survey by TIAA-CREF.

After spending a significant part of the past four years fine tuning the most important pieces of the retirement puzzle, I am very much looking forward to retiring. But I also have a variety of concerns:

  • Do I have enough interests to keep reasonably busy for the next 20 years?
  • Without my job to define me, who will I be when I retire?
  • How will I stay healthy and active along the way?
  • Will my wife and I complement each other as we spend 24/7 together?
  • How will I deal with the realities of aging?
  • Will I want to work in some capacity after age 65?
  • What legacy do I hope to leave?

I do find a certain peace of mind in the knowledge that my parents did not do much planning for retirement beyond the financial side of things, and they are happy. Although they did not address all of the potential areas for concern before retiring, they have been able to deal with challenges that arose over the years. Their marriage has also lasted more than 57 years and survived many transitions, including the one into retirement.

The retirement fears we face are nothing new. The realities of aging and a diminished capacity or desire to work have always been faced by the oldest citizens. It helps to put some thought into what lies ahead, and make sure you have a little extra money and patience to help you weather the unexpected.

From my blog for US News & World.

How To Find Your Ideal Retirement Lifestyle

Many baby boomers are approaching the age when thoughts of retirement dance in their heads. The idea of leaving behind the stress and pressure of work can sound intriguing and even magical. From the moment of retirement onward you will be master of your future and keeper of your personal time card. How difficult can it be to live a life where you do what you want when you want to do it?

But the transition into retirement can be difficult. Some retirees stumble as they try to figure out how to make the most of a second act. The onslaught of free time can be overwhelming and sometimes downright scary. It’s a big responsibility to be solely responsible for your own time and quality of life. Here’s how to ease the transition into the retired life you want:

Move toward something positive versus merely escaping. One highly anticipated retirement perk is the freedom that comes from never having to work again. Even the best of jobs can grow tiresome after 30 years. And for those stuck in a bad work situation, every day can seem endlessly brutal. Retirement can be a welcome escape from a stressful career. But if your sole motivation is to escape the harsh realities of a job, you may not be setting yourself up for an ideal second act.

Imagine yourself retired one year from today, free from the worries of work and in control of your days. The job is behind you, but what is ahead? If you have no idea what will make up the next 20 to 30 years, you may find you have left behind one problem only to find yourself trapped in another.

A healthy retirement should be made up of experiences and activities you enjoy that also give you a sense of purpose. Your days should be populated with meaningful moments rather than merely stress free. The excitement and adventure that can be part of retirement should be your focus, not merely an escape from a bad situation.

Accept that there will be a transition period. Before you retire the majority of your time each week is dedicated to your job. The day after you retire, those 40 or 50 hours previously reserved for your employer become yours. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself not sure exactly what to do. Optimizing your time to make the most of your days will take some trial and error before you arrive at the right mixture of relaxing and meaningful activities. Try not to be in a rush. Remember, you are no longer on the clock. Take whatever time you need as you progress into full-time retirement. Whatever pace works for you is the right pace since you now control your time. Gradually, you should be able to find your place in your new role, but it can take time, so be patient.

Set some rules. Don’t let yourself get caught up in doing more than you want to, especially early in retirement. Take some time to feel your way along before making long-term commitments. Leave enough time in the day for yourself, whether for exercise, downtime or reflection. Don’t feel the need to populate every day on the calendar. Remember when your days at work passed in a blur? Now that you control your time, don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a similar exhausting regimen.

You may also need to set boundaries with your children and grandchildren. Just because you are retired does not instantly make you the de facto babysitting service. You want to enjoy the experience, not feel taken advantage of. Some ground rules early on can prevent hurt feelings down the road and make for a more enjoyable interaction for all involved. If you enjoy volunteering your time to care for others, good for you. But don’t make the mistake of overcommitting yourself before you have a chance to become familiar with your new lifestyle. You want to enjoy the experience of helping others, not feel stressed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time. It is up to you to manage your time while keeping your best interests in mind.

Remember retirement is only the beginning. Your retirement should not be viewed as the end of a career and life as you have known it. You are about to enter a new stage where you have control over how you spend your time. Finally you can pursue the things you find most interesting. Retirement is a beginning, not an end.

As I enter my retirement days, I am able to explore my love of writing. I have the ability to focus more on living a healthy lifestyle because I have time to exercise and create nutritious meals. I am able to continue learning, especially with the many online courses available. And since I study to expand my knowledge rather than pass a test or earn a degree, I choose what I like, proceed at a pace I am comfortable with and the whole experience is much more enjoyable. I have more time to spend with those most important to me. My wife and I have a chance to become reacquainted and revisit the people we were when we first met. With the right attitude and a little effort, retirement can be the beginning of wonderful things to be.

Reward yourself. It is not easy to make it all the way to retirement. The path along the way is filled with sacrifices and effort. When you finally cross over into your retired life, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. You have earned the right to spend your time as you see fit, so do it. Try not to feel guilty if others are not yet able to join the ranks of the retired. You have paid your dues, and now it is time to reward yourself.

From my blog on US News & World

7 Signs You Have Successfully Retired

Back on August 5, 2011, I wrote my first weekly blog for US News & World On Retirement. It is hard to believe it has been three years already but I am starting to get used to the lightning fast progression of the months and years.

My personal journey into retirement has been a steady progression as I have learned valuable information from industry pundits and first hand insight from readers of my blogs. Fearful predictions of dire trends have opened my eyes to some harsh realities that may play out over coming years. On the other hand optimistic energized comments from those already retired and loving it give me hope.

I feel that I am better prepared for retirement today than I was three years ago. But I am continuing to discover there is a lot to it and nothing is guaranteed.

Here is that first post from August 5, 2011. The journey continues – may we enjoy each step of the way.

Dave

________________________

There is no shortage of worries as we move into retirement. We all want to get there, but are unsure exactly how retirement life will ultimately look. Despite our best planning, scrimping, and hoping, we remain concerned about outliving our savings, maintaining good health, and even being bored in retirement.

[See The 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Spots.]

However, there are plenty of people who have taken the plunge who are thoroughly enjoying retired life. They are finally able to do what they want to when they want to do it. Here are seven ways to tell if you are successfully retired:

1. Toss your alarm clock. You don’t worry about the snooze button because you no longer have to live in the oppressive shadow of your alarm clock. Each day starts when Thumbs Upyou decide it is time to get underway. Sleeping in is not a luxury, but a daily occurrence if that is your preference.

2. Financial freedom. You do not stress over monthly bank and investment statements. Whether you subscribe to the 4 percent withdrawal per year strategy or another spending program, you have done your part to financially prepare for retirement.

[See 9 Secrets of Retirement Happiness.]

3. Personal calendar. Your calendar is filled with things you actually want to do. You no longer have to attend company events, work trips across the continent, or mixers where you do not feel like mixing. You decide how busy you want to be and who you want to be busy with.

4. Travel timing. When you travel, you do so during the week rather than on busy weekends. This allows you to take advantage of special deals on hotels and flights that only exist on non-weekends. Another perk of off-peak travel is that the traffic is tolerable and personal attention is the norm rather than the exception.

5. Fewer lists. Your to-do list that grew for years prior to retiring is now pretty much to-done.

6. A slower pace. You learn to accept limitations that creep into daily life ranging from sore knees to failing eyesight to diminishing stamina. Things could sometimes be better, but they could definitely be worse.

7. A new chapter. You face each day as a new adventure and a never-to-be-had-again opportunity to live. And you do not take it for granted. Whether you want to pursue hobbies, projects, trips, books, or quiet time, it is worth doing.

[See 7 Signs You’re Not Ready for Retirement.]

Crossing over the threshold into retirement is a time of great uncertainty. If you are able to arrive in the right state of mind and accept the good with the bad, you will have a better chance to experience some of these golden retirement moments first hand. Look around for successful retirees and find your place amongst the crowd. There is always room for one more.