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.

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.

Enjoy the Freedom of Retirement

A typical life story for most of us might go something like this: Our first 25 years are spent growing up, experiencing an introduction to the realities of what it means to become an adult and getting educated as we prepare as best we can to enter the “real world.” The next 30-40 years are spent working for a living, paying the bills and raising a family.  And hopefully the final years – our second act – will be spent retired from the stresses and challenges that we have somehow managed to survive to this point.

Not an easy road by any means yet something we all must travel. Looking back on the years gone by I am sometimes amazed at the resilience and persistence exhibited by we mere mortals. In efforts to make ends meet and prepare for our future we are often forced to endure thankless and sometimes abusive work environments for years on end. Stress becomes our new best friend as we attempt to pay never ending day-to-day bills while somehow also providing for big ticket expenses like education, braces, cars, and the occasional wedding. We are forced to delay the pursuit of our own interests and passions because there is just not enough time in the day. It just plain ain’t easy!

But should we be so fortunate as to safely and sanely arrive at the doorstep of retirement, perhaps this is our time to live a little. Maybe with a large chunk of our responsibilities taken care of there will be a little time left in the day to enjoy the freedom we so rightly deserve.

If I close my eyes and think about what the retired me will be able to do (or not do as the case may be), the future looks bright. I am optimistic and excited and more than ready to jump into that second act and live it for all it is worth.

Here is a short list of some ways I plan to enjoy the freedom of my retirement:

(1) Knock out my to-do list – I have been adding to this list for many years in the hopes I may someday have the free time to attack it. Based on where the list is today, I figure to be busy for about a year assuming I do not add to it along the way. I can’t wait!

(2) Set my own pace - since there is nothing that I must do or any hard and fast timelines, I plan to proceed at a pace that suites me. I figure some days I may be less energetic than others. If that is the case, I can and will take it slower. I am the decider.

(3) Try new things – I am anxious to dig into my various hobbies and interests but now that I have time I hope to experiment with new things as well. I want to take a journey outside of my comfort zone while I am still young enough to do so. A little excitement and a little variety are in the cards for me.

(4) Spend more time with friends and family – the most important people in my life have sometimes been pushed to the bottom of my priority list due the nature of life. I plan to renew and rebuild those relationships I value most.

(5) Writing – I love to express myself in blogs and books. I can see each day starting with some time in front of the computer where I put thoughts to paper (or actually MS Word). And of course if I lack inspiration on a particular day no problem – I will try again tomorrow. No pressure…

(6) Try my hand at cooking – I love good food and am always looking for the next killer recipe. Now I have time to experiment and discover even more.

(7) Do nothing and feel guilt free – I know that the habits built over a 30 year career will take some time to break. One I plan on addressing short order is riding myself of that nagging feeling of guilt should I not put every minute to productive use. If I decide to sit in the yard with coffee in hand for the better part of the morning, so be it. Reading, napping, and daydreaming will have all the time they need in my retired life.

Obviously this is just a subset of what can be a truly impressive list. And your list may vary. Whatever your interests or passions retirement can provide the freedom to pursue each as you see fit. It has been a long road and you have earned the right to do what you want. Enjoy.