As we begin our exit of the Great Recession we have all had to make sacrifices to get by. Whether it be cutting back on vacations or shopping a bit more frugally for food, tightening our belt has become the norm. In many cases, retirement savings have become a last resort to keep us liquid and though we hate to dip into those sacred accounts, sometimes there has been no other way. But at what price? Using our limited resources to keep afloat today may result in us experiencing first hand that number one retirement fear of outliving our savings.
I read an article in the Mercury News this morning about the plight of grandparents who are forced to help their children through tough times due to the economy and lost jobs and stretched mortgages. Retirement for many can unexpectedly become a continuation of raising the family that you thought you already raised. Providing daycare services for grandchildren can help children make ends meet but is that really what we want to be doing in our golden years? According to the Mercury over the past five years grandparents have provided $370 billion in financial support to their grandchildren, an average of $8661 per household. And this is at a time when many retirees have total savings accounts in the area of $100,000.
Is it fair or wise to attempt to keep afloat the families of today at the expense of the retirees of tomorrow? Or is this just a way of deferring our debt? Someone is ultimately going to have to pick up the tab.
As retirees living on a fixed income, grandparents need to realistically look at their situation and make hard choices.You can no longer add to your savings – you have to live on what you have. You want to help but how much?
- What can you realistically afford to contribute to your kids and grand kids without putting yourself in future financial jeopardy? You need to carefully consider the whole picture weighing your income and costs for the next “x” number of years and only contribute what you can afford if you hope to assure your future financial security. Overly generous behavior now is a recipe for disaster later.
- If money is “loaned” to children can you count on getting the money back at some future time? Will you be okay if you do not get reimbursed? And is the potential friction that this debt may cause in the best interest of all concerned?
- You can choose to volunteer your time to help with daycare but is that what you really want to be doing with your retirement? For many it is and for others it is a worthwhile sacrifice since you get to spend time with the little gremlins before they enter the evil teenage years! But if you do not want to do this or are willing to help out but for the short term, how do you get your message across? Remember this is your life to live so what do you want to do?
- If you choose to take care of your children family today can you expect your children to take care of you later? Do you even want to be in that difficult position?
- Can your children reduce their standard of living to better cope with their needs? Everyone has to live within their means and if times are tough you have to learn to do with less.
Sometimes saying no is the best answer for all concerned not only for today but for the future.
We all want to help wherever we can especially when it concerns family. But as retirees we need to realistically look at all of the variables. The decision is a very personal one and what works for me may not be the ticket for you. But be ware – this is not something we can afford to make a mistake regarding. A sound decision today will hopefully lead to a safer and more secure tomorrow.
Does it ever feel to you that even in retirement life there is just not enough time in the day? How often have you paused for a moment to contemplate your accomplishments for the day and found yourself at a lack for anything of merit? It’s not so much that we have a lot to do but more about looking back as another sun sets to find our to-do lists have not budged. Obviously something must be “getting done” since at least 12 hours have ticked off the clock. Tell me if this sounds at all like your world:
– Do you get caught up in a frenzy of busy activity, overlooking the beauty and wonder that is right in front of your nose as you rush through your duties?
– When you look back at your day, is it just a blur with no meaningful accomplishments?
– Do you listen without hearing when your spouse talks to you caught up in other far away thoughts?
– When a friend calls on the phone and has something important to discuss, do you find yourself hurrying the conversation so you can get back to what you were doing?
– Do you scratch off one item on your to-do list only to add three more?
All of these can add to a day that is out of control as you react rather than act. Unfortunately it is often the case that we have no one to blame but ourselves. Wasting time is too easy and as the saying goes, life is like a coin – you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. And how are senior citizens typically spending their valuable time?
According to the Labor Department, senior citizens age 65+ spend 400 hours on average on “Other Leisure” time, which includes anything that’s not TV, socializing, relaxing and reading. Where is the rest of the time going? TV sucks up about 4.4 hours each day from the average senior citizen, more than the 3.3 hour Americans of all ages watch when the weekend rolls around.
Not only does TV dull your mind but as a sedentary event you get zero exercise (unless you are a fan of the Wii). And you can bet you are not honing your social skills as you sit zombie-like staring into the few minutes of content that are tantalizingly interspersed between hours of endless advertisements.
Just say NO!
Where can we spend “quality” time? The ‘ol clock is ticking away…
- Give a call to your mom, dad, son, daughter, friend or acquaintance just to say hello. Out of the blue with no special occasion your thoughtfulness may just make their day. It is impossible to stay in touch with everything that goes on in the lives of those around us. But just showing an interest can go a long way.
- Get away for the weekend or weekday since retired folks have that luxury. You can find great deals on sites like Travelzoo or in Via Magazine from AAA. A little planning ahead and you can spend for two nights what you normally pay for just one. And if there is no TV, so much the better! I find that having something on the calendar every other month or at least once a quarter keeps the excitement up as you anticipate the next adventure.
- Donate your time – my step daughter has spent the past nine months in Haiti working with Grass Roots United to help local residents recover from the massive earthquake. You don’t have to go quite so extreme but there are local shelters and organizations that could use your help in an instant. Bob at Satisfying Retirement works with ex-convicts to help them adjust to life after prison. Bill at Adventure Retirement traveled to Peru for a year in search of volunteering opportunities. Retirees have the time, there are MANY worthwhile causes, if volunteering works for you everyone wins.
- Share your expertise with the next generation – we all had careers in the “early years” and provided that the industry has not changed drastically our knowledge can still help others to avoid pitfalls we learned by experience.
- Don’t waste any more time – do what you really like to do. What is it that you do or have done in your life that REALLY gives you pleasure? Is there something that when you think about it brings an involuntary smile to your face? With my recent return to the working world (I found the perfect start up company with great people and am really enjoying doing it again) I find myself with less time to blog. But every now and then an idea comes to mind and with a smile on my face I endeavor to put it to words. I really enjoy it when I find precisely the right way to express a feeling I have and share it with my readers. Are you a writer? A painter? A hiker? A biker? Is photography your gig? Restoring old cars? Gardening? It is up to you and there are no rules!
24 hours in a day – 60 minutes in an hour – 60 seconds in a minute.
Don’t waste another…
Guest blog for http://lovebeingretired.com
It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our own lives and our own business. Everybody does it from time to time, but eventually we all come back to the reality that there are other people that are important. Or, at least, we should. In retirement, it is so easy for us to think only about our needs and our desires, and we deserve it for all that we’ve done in our lives. Add to that the children constantly ‘checking in’ on us and it can easily become second nature to abandon the relationships that we’ve held all of our lives because we cannot be bothered by being checked on or simply because we don’t want to feel like a burden.
Without relationships in your life, it will be difficult for you to maintain a healthy level of mental and physical well being. So many active adults have families with busy lives, which causes them to go by the wayside when things get busy. You see people less and less, get fewer phone calls, and somehow you learn to accept that this is just the way that it will be. Don’t let yourself believe this, at all. This is not how it has to be, and certainly not how it should be. You need to reach out to your family, your friends, and the people around you. You need to ask for help, attention, and ask for those relationships that are being put second to be put first.
There is nothing wrong with having independence and space, but you need to also make sure that you have strong relationships with your family and friends. During retirement, those relationships are often what set people apart. The ones with more relationships or better ones will have happier, healthier days in retirement while those who have fewer relationships or strained relationships will likely face more illness, depression, and loneliness as the years go on. Work on your relationships. Make sure that you stay in touch with your family and make yourself an active part of their lives. Make them an active part of yours. You’ll all be better for it in the end.
Contributed by Mary Albert, a blogger for a senior health web site that provides advice for the 55+ age group as well as medical alert reviews